Employee Comms

How can Internal Communications Increase Employee Retention?


 — May 21st, 2015

How can Internal Communications Increase Employee Retention?

Brownout: The second ‘war for talent’

Brownout, a term also used to describe part of the life cycle of a star, has recently been blamed for the premature, unwanted departures of the high-performing CFO’s of Google, Uber and Apple. Michael Kibler* suggests that many high-performing executives are operating in a silent state of continual overwhelm, and the predictable consequence is disengagement.

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention — It's all About the Communications Experience

Kibler’s research with executives says they worry about:

  • Feeling drained from continuous, 24/7 obligations.
  • Physical deterioration due to years of sub-optimal sleep and self-care.
  • Tenuous relationships with immediate family members.
  • Distant relationships with old friends.
  • The atrophy of personal interests.
  • A diminishing ability to concentrate in non-business conversations.

The ‘war for talent’* was a term coined to reflect an increasingly competitive landscape for recruiting and retaining talented employees and a mindset that emphasized the importance of talent to the success of organizations.

In the immediate aftermath of the financial crisis, this war seemed to be over and companies reduced their focus on employee retention. However, the latest evidence suggests that the focus on retention has been creeping up ever since. The retention of key talent, high potential employees or critical roles is once again a strategic priority for most companies.

Retaining employees has become an increasing challenge over the last few years. In the CIPD’s Talent Planning survey, just one-fifth of respondents reported they had no retention difficulties in the previous year. The proportion of organizations reporting that retaining senior managers/directors was difficult has increased compared with previous years.

What’s the solution? How can IC help?

According to the CIPD*, the most common actions to address retention include:

  1. Improving the induction process,
  2. Improving line managers’ people skills
  3. Increasing learning and development opportunities

Communicators must play a central role in each of these. Here are three things communicators can do to retain employees:

Improve confidence and trust in leadership

For employees to remain with an organization, they must have confidence in the ability of their top leaders to motivate and guide them in today’s dynamic business environment. Yet organizations underestimate the role of senior leaders in helping to retain employees. An employee’s relationship with their supervisor has always been critical to retention.

Tip for IC: Share this data with leaders and provide communication plans for the “first 100 days” of any new leader.

Create a differentiated employee value proposition

The EVP is the “give and the get” between the organization and the employee. It is particularly important during attraction and induction. Towers Watson* reported that organizations with a differentiated EVP are five times more likely to report their employees are highly engaged. However, only 43% of their respondents said that HR and IC have a long term plan in place to support the deployment of their EVP.

Tip for IC: Partner with HR to decide what differentiates your EVP from your rivals and develop a plan to support its deployment

Create conversations about personal as well as professional development

Michael Kibler was engaged by a Big 4 professional services firm to provide a year-long holistic executive development program focused on work excellence, health, and family success to 473 senior leaders. During these conversations, more than 60 high performers confidentially identified themselves as either actively planning to leave the firm or considering a departure in the year ahead. But following their participation only two departed within the next five years. Several of the 62 went on to attain even more elevated positions at the firm.

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention — It's all About the Communications Experience

I’ve recently been working with the executive team of a medium sized healthcare company. At a board away day, we asked them each to share stories about how their school life had shaped their careers. They were surprizingly open with each other and discovered some surprizes about each other. The trust and energy levels rose. The same openness and honesty was carried into their senior leadership conference a month later.

Tip for IC: Create networks to link people with common personal interests.


  1. Michael E Kibler is the founder and CEO of Corporate Balance Concepts, Inc. and the creator of the Pinnacle Program – a holistic coaching and development program designed for sustainable high performance.
  2. The war for talent was a term coined by Steven Hankin of McKinsey & Company in 1997, and a book by Ed Michaels, Helen Handfield-Jones, and Beth Axelrod, in 2001
  3. CIPD Annual Survey Report 2013
  4. Towers Watson 2013 Change Communication ROI study
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