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Keeping your employees marketable

Ensuring workers can find work elsewhere actually helps with branding, engagement and retention
retention, training
One of the best ways to retain and engage employees is to give them the confidence and reassurance that their skills are transferrable and in demand elsewhere. Shutterstock

By Brian Kreissl

Writing last week’s post gave me an idea for this week’s discussion. One of the themes I explored in my piece on tuition reimbursement programs last week was the need to help employees remain marketable.

That applies not only with tuition reimbursement programs, but also in relation to learning and development in general, employer branding, job titles, special projects and helping employees build their reputations in their industries and professions.

I personally believe one of the best ways to retain and engage employees is to give them the confidence and reassurance that their skills are transferrable and in demand elsewhere.

This is somewhat paradoxical because the last thing most employers want is to have valued employees leave and go elsewhere. Companies are understandably concerned about the cost of turnover and are naturally reluctant to spend a great deal of money training and developing employees and helping them pad their resumés — only to have them leave the organization or be poached by headhunters.

Employee retention is an important issue, but it shouldn’t be the only concern. For example, there is little point trying to retain an employee when she would prefer to be elsewhere — particularly if that individual is highly disengaged or focused on another field or industry.

As the song by Trooper goes, “We’re here for a good time, not a long time.” The truth of the matter is, very few people stay with their employers for the long-term these days anyway.

But even if an employee merely decides to stick around for another year and is more productive and engaged while he remains with the company, there is a strong likelihood the company will win in the end with a more engaged employee, an enhanced employer brand and a stronger alumni network.

People know they could be downsized at any time, and they want to ensure they are marketable elsewhere should the need to find another job arise. They may even decide to leave the organization voluntarily but return at a future date as a “boomerang employee.”

Employer branding

From an employer branding perspective, having a positive employer brand helps with talent acquisition. People want to work for companies that are going to look good on their resumés and will help them in their careers — even if they don’t plan on working there until they retire.

Candidates flock to high-profile and professional organizations, as well as those that are known to have quality leadership and solid learning and development opportunities. This helps employees by providing them peace of mind that they could find another job elsewhere afterwards.

Employers sometimes even highlight the quality of their alumni in their employer branding as well as their advertising to potential clients. For example, accounting firms tend to do this by promoting their alumni for business development purposes and even selling services to their alumni.

The importance of job titles

I have discussed job titles in the past and their importance to people’s identity and self-worth. As mentioned previously, I am not a fan of “cute” job titles that don’t accurately reflect what people do or cause confusion among other employers, business contacts or the general public.

Because applicant tracking systems and recruiters are so focused on job titles these days, I believe people with unusual or misleading job titles often have a hard time finding a job elsewhere. This is a really poor employee retention strategy, and I personally believe such titles are unlikely to attract, retain or engage employees — even in a “hip” or “cool” organization or industry.

Giving employees a low profile

I have seen situations where employers and managers were reluctant to allow employees to establish a name for themselves in their industry or profession. Not giving credit for the work they do or requiring work to be completed anonymously or under the manager’s name is a strategy that’s likely to backfire.

People see through things like not allowing employees to submit work to clients using their own personal e-mail address, publishing content externally without any attribution for the people who created it and failing to give recognition for a job well done. If employees aren’t being given adequate recognition they are likely to vote with their feet.

It may seem counterintuitive, but if people don’t feel marketable in their current roles they are more likely to leave and acquire the necessary experience elsewhere.

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Brian Kreissl

Brian Kreissl is the product development manager for Thomson Reuters Legal Canada's human resources, OH&S, payroll and records retention products and solutions.
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