News Article

February 23, 2024

Bonus Features

Retention strategies ahead of a busy bonus season

Gather round everyone, circle around the virtual campfire for a story about an era long since forgotten. Picture this if you will: a period before the advent of internet streaming, the proliferation of digital technology, and internet of things. An age when movies weren’t consumed via Netflix or Hulu, but on discs, more specifically known as a Digital Video Disk or, DVD for short. Alas, for the reader who recognizes the quintessential beep-bonk-beep-keerrr-humm of the dial-up modem, this abbreviation surely evokes a nostalgia that resonates within. For the uninitiated, DVDs not only contained the featured film but also extra content, often referred to as Bonus Features. Bonus Features could be many things such as deleted scenes, director commentary, and actor interviews. While the film was the main course, the Bonus Features were the dessert, a complimentary accompaniment that, while not necessary, completed the viewer’s cinematic experience. These extras contained the essence of what brings the entire tapestry together, the ethos of the work itself.

Now, we know you’ve not visited this blog for a lesson on the history and development of home entertainment media formats in the twentieth century; but bear with us a moment for we are in fact in Bonus season. The start of the new calendar year, mixed in amongst resolutions and refreshed outlooks, brings the proverbial fruit of the past working year in the form of compensation reviews. For employees, it’s a time fraught with anticipation often layered with the question of whether their efforts of the prior year will yield monetary reward and recognition. For the company, particularly at the current moment, it can be just as complex and meaningful for the trajectory of the organization. 2024 carries with it anticipated economic stabilization during a presidential election year along with cautious perceptions that a recession has been averted, at least for the interim. These factors, combined with expectations that many organizations expect to grow, highlight the importance of talent retention during this bonus season. “Based on our sources and market indicators, we’re seeing the potential for the insurance industry to experience as much movement in the first two quarters of 2024 as we did in all of 2023,” says Matt Nickens, Senior Partner at Coleman Search Group.

What is the relevance of a compensation review in this landscape? One aspect is that executive leadership may not fully appreciate the status quo, perhaps having experienced full staffing and low turnover, therefore settling into a false sense of stability. For a top talent employee, the situation can be anything but stable, as the discussion with their manager could make-or-break their decision to stay with the organization or decide to leave for greener professional pastures. Aside from the expected conversation about dollars and cents, the review can also be a broader opportunity for the company to reinforce the relationship with their best employees. As detailed in the Emeritus article titled, “14 Employee Retention Strategies for Your Company in 2023”, there are an abundance of strategies that organizations can utilize in this vein. For the sake of brevity, we’ll highlight what we feel are a few key approaches here.

For example, the compensation review can be a forum for managers to discuss succession planning with their top talent: where do they see the employee in the coming year, in five years, and beyond. Not only can the manager check-in with the employee on their level of contentment with their current role, but the roles can also be reversed; employees can be given the opportunity to appraise how the manager is serving their professional development.  Leadership may also benefit from broadening these check-ins from once a year at compensation review to 30/60/90-day marks. If such frequency is commonplace for new hires, why should it be uncommon for the seasoned employee?  “I think many of today’s leaders are now getting pulled in so many directions that it’s easy to forget your own leadership duties and responsibilities to your team. ‘One-on-ones’ shouldn’t be HR mandated to occur. Some of the strongest leaders I know perform one-on-ones quarterly at a minimum, whether it’s during a lunch break, after hours, or early morning. They don’t have to be formal and it doesn’t have to go into a file in HR. Rather, they can be casual, transparent, and should be equally informative for the manager and the employee,” adds Matt Nickens.

Overall, demonstrating increased transparency as to performance, continued dialogue involving succession planning, and leadership’s openness to evaluation can be valuable strategies for organizations keen on avoiding an exodus of their top talent in 2024. That said, the reality is that sometimes the best of retention strategies are still not enough to keep an employee from leaving. As Chauncey Crail writes in Forbes: “Knowing when it’s time to say goodbye and handling employee offboarding effectively and well is just as important for overall employee retention as any of these other strategies. Remaining employees should know they will be well taken care of whenever they do move on themselves.”

Talent retention is critical to any healthy organization looking to consistently grow and develop. Companies keen on avoiding being caught off-guard by unexpected departures of key personnel would be wise to embrace a diverse array of retention strategies. Simple approaches like sharing succession planning, more frequent check-ins, and an openness to constructive feedback could prove pivotal in keeping the focus on company growth plans instead of backfilling positions left open by departing employees. Adapting and implementing new ways to retain top talent will keep companies on the cutting edge rather than going the extinct way of the DVD, although we’ll always have the Bonus Features.



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