How to Keep Your Employees in 2017

Five association professionals offer tips on attracting and retaining top talent.

Not to be a Scrooge, but here’s some potentially distressing news: Three-out-of-10 employees will likely leave your association within the next two years.

That’s what global advisory Willis Towers Watson found in two major studies this year.

“Given today’s shifting workplace and how technology is disrupting jobs and labor markets, the need for employers to successfully attract and retain the best employees has never been greater,” said Laura Sejen, managing director of talent and rewards at Willis Towers Watson, in a press release.

But how do you do it? I asked some association professionals for their ideas, and here’s what they had to say.

Mission-minded recruits. At the American Association for the Advancement of Science, HR professionals work hard to ensure that their candidates and new hires understand and are enthusiastic about AAAS’ mission and values—and can tie their position and talents back to both. “Human resources attracts wonderful dedicated talented individuals to AAAS by creative and innovate outreach, candidate engagement, taking a very personal approach to talent acquisition, and working in a true partnership with management to help find the best candidate for the position and AAAS,” said HR Director Patricia Sias.

Then, once they begin their employment, Sias said AAAS makes sure its HR team is approachable and offers a competitive benefits package. “Human resources has a transparent working environment and are committed to encouraging feedback from our staff, engaging our staff, and providing comprehensive and competitive salaries and benefits,” she said.

Positive culture. After numerous focus groups and internal research this year, the American Nurses Association has implemented a culture shift. “We wanted employees [and job candidates] to feel valued and excited to be a part of our organization, one that empowers everyone to contribute to desired outcomes,” said ANA’s VP of HR Denise Clark.

To that end, ANA created new values for the organization, which include excellence, joy, creativity, respect, trust, collaboration, and empowerment. And from these values, the association created five areas of focus:

  • foster collaboration
  • create a positive work environment
  • promote employee development
  • ensure autonomy and accountability
  • achieve operational excellence

Moving forward, ANA’s staff will also be evaluated on these values. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We have these values,’” Clark says. “But it’s another thing to put them on the performance appraisals.”

Although the culture shift is new, Clark and others at ANA are encouraged by the changes they’re already seeing in collaboration and positivity.

Competitive salaries. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, recruitment and retention of staff depends on a number of elements, but salary is one of the most important. “The most obvious strength we have is the consistent feedback that we receive praising our competitive compensation and generous benefits opportunities,” said Bettina Deynes, VP of HR at SHRM.

But workplace perks go beyond pay and benefits at SHRM. It also offers dozens of annual employee appreciation and recognition events, a strengthened succession-planning process that has produced a significant increase in advancement potential, a clear and effective performance-management system that actively supports employee success, and a comprehensive and compelling diversity and inclusion program that is designed to produce measurable results.

“For recruiting purposes, we make every effort to communicate these advantages to prospective employees,” she says. “For retention, we work hard at practicing them constantly.”

Career development. The American Chemical Society makes professional development a priority. “Over the past few years ACS has invested in the onward career development of its staff,” says Scott J. Oliphant, director of human resources. “This includes setting the expectation that managers will develop their teams and supporting those endeavors but, ultimately, you have to empower everyone in the workforce to take control of his or her own career development.”

To encourage this, ACS has planned and created tools that allow people to understand what is required for success in any given job or at any level in the organization. “Couple that with training programs or experiential learning opportunities, and you’ve got a pretty powerful story to tell new recruits,” he says.

Remote opportunities. The American Immigration Lawyers Association instituted a change in its remote-working policy because some top-performing employees asked for it. Theresa Waters, AILA’s senior director of HR and administration, says that these employees weren’t unhappy in the workplace or looking for a career change. Rather, they had experienced a life change—aging parents, marriage, relocation of a spouse—that necessitated a move.

“As an organization, we didn’t want to lose talent that we had nurtured and groomed,” Waters said. “And [the staff members] were equally committed to the organization and members that we serve.”

So, instead of losing them, they allowed these individuals to move away but still keep their jobs. “There was a commitment from both the staff members and the organization to make this work alternative successful,” she said. “For us, this meant moving beyond fear, being open to a new, broader way of thinking, removing personal biases, and leading with the intention of making such arrangement a success for all.”

Just some thoughts to mull over as you’re putting your HR-related New Year’s resolutions together.

How does your association think about talent acquisition and retention? Please leave us your comments below.




Emily Bratcher

By Emily Bratcher

Emily Bratcher is a Contributing Editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!