How Can Organisations Be Creative in Retaining Their Talent

6 mins

The cost of losing talent can be great. According to the 2023 Cendex Xpert HR Labour tu...

The cost of losing talent can be great. According to the 2023 Cendex Xpert HR Labour turnover report, replacing just one employee can take up to 28 weeks and cost over £25k in lost productivity. Surveys also conducted by Xpert HR earlier in 2023 suggested 83% of Chief HR Officers admitted that they face significant talent retention challenges. 

The predominant reason for turnover was stress and burnout (20%). However, a lack of career advancement and development opportunities was only just behind this figure with 19% citing this as the key reason that individuals were moving on from their organisations. This seems to be closely linked to the access to learning and development opportunities, with companies providing greater access to development facing a lower average turnover rate than those who don’t (19% compared to 13%). 

Other reasons behind loss of talent were lack of work life balance and wanting a pay increase. 

None of this is perhaps greatly surprising. We know that “Flexible working arrangements, mentoring programmes and regular pay and benefits reviews, alongside a commitment from the company to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and good environmental social governance at work is increasingly important to attract and retain talent.”  (Shazia Ejaz, Director of Campaigns, REC). 

Yet I know based on extensive conversations with organisations plus our own research into career strategy that there are often challenges that an organisation faces when trying to evolve more creative approaches to career and development opportunities for its employees. 

Common challenges shared with us include:-

  • Lack of engagement of senior Leaders in the topic of career development. 
  • Lack of Manager and Employee skills to have impactful career conversations. 
  • Processes structured predominantly around performance and not enough on development and aspiration.  
  • Legacy remuneration and grading structures that reward linear promotions and not lateral skills development. 
  • Opaque cultures which don’t lend themselves to sharing career development stories and role modelling successes. 
  • A lack of transparency on the organisation’s position on career development and who takes responsibility for what under this umbrella.  
  • Lack of clarity on how to use an organisation’s development resources 


So how can organisations start to think more creatively about retaining great people through offering better career and development opportunities? 

It is easy to always start by saying build the business case. Without the recognition and engagement from senior leaders on the inextricable link between career development and talent retention, you do risk undermining some well-meaning initiatives. For example, providing employees with career development workshops only for them to find that there is limited access to learning and development, or to be blocked by a Line Manager who has no interest in discussing their career aspirations, is counter-productive. 

So I would suggest to start looking holistically at career development whilst recognising you can’t tackle everything at once! Show not tell, is powerful when engaging leaders! 


Create a template of Career Development responsibilities.

Start by mapping out what the organisation is responsible for versus the individual and manager. And then consider the shared and overlapping responsibility. For instance, it may be the organisation’s responsibility to provide access to tools and resources; the individual’s responsibility to make development plans and take initiative; the Manager’s to coach employees and to be aware of the organisation’s career development pathways. Shared responsibilities may be about linking employee needs to organisational goals. 


Consider upskilling Leaders and Managers to have career conversations. 

For Leaders or employees to engage, they need to experience an impactful career conversation for themselves. Consider career conversations skills development as part of the core curriculum. The earlier you can engage the next generation of Leader in this topic, the more sustainable this becomes as they positively impact upon their teams and role model effective career conversations. 


Equip individuals to take responsibility for driving their career development plans. 

This could also include providing the resources and skills for them to have pro-active and open conversations with their Managers about career aspirations. Helping them to identify and own their strengths prepares them for these conversations. Signpost resources and information as simply and clearly as possible. 


Share success stories of career development.

There is nothing more heartening and motivating for an employee than to be able to tap into stories of how others have developed their careers within the organisation. Consider setting up formal and informal ways of doing this – via mentoring perhaps or our research shares examples of creative ideas such as a ‘human career library’ where you can effectively borrow someone to share their career story with you. Careers Weeks can also be used as touchpoints during the year to highlight and showcase different career pathways and journeys. 


Diversify the ways in which career conversations take place in the organisation. 

Sometimes it will simply not be possible for an individual to have a truly honest and impactful career conversation with their own Manager. Consider the various touchpoints that you can offer for a career conversation; this could be through Mentors or Career Mentors (who have had some additional training in having career conversations); an internal coaching network or through some peer-to-peer buddy systems. 


Think about how you can measure lateral developmental moves. 

Sometimes individuals are put off pursuing creative lateral developmental mechanisms such as job rotations, work shadowing and secondments because there is simply no reward mechanism that recognises the investment of their time in doing so. Worst case scenario, they are worried it takes them of course as only linear progression is going to be recognised. Thinking about how this type of development can be recorded in HR systems and fed into performance and appraisal so as not to penalise individuals but on the contrary celebrate skills development. Thinking carefully about how you measure the success of such lateral moves both short term and long term will give you a much better picture of their impact on your retention strategies. 


Include employees in ideas for talent retention. 

Perhaps this should come first! Your employees will have ideas that will work well in your own unique environment. Focus groups with employee representatives linked to engagement surveys can work really well in terms of testing and piloting new initiatives. Don’t be afraid to include them in an iterative process. Career Champions are essential and these individuals could be key in terms of helping to roll out successful career development initiatives that impact positively on talent retention. 


If you would like to have access to our Career Strategy Insights report which might stimulate further ideas for creative talent retention, please email me at


Cendex Xpert HR 2023 Labour turnover report


Kate Mansfield, is a Career Coach and Programme Director at Career Counselling Services. Follow or connect with her on LinkedIn or email

Career Counselling Services offer career consultancy, career coaching and training in career coaching to organisations, including career conversations skills development programmes for Line Managers. Additionally, they run an open Accredited Career Coach Training programme on a regular basis and Career Coaching Tools Taster Days. Our next Tools Day is on 6th March. Please click for more information and booking.