How to Retain Top Talent in 2021

By Laurie Cure

Our world and the way we work has changed more in the past year than it has in the last decade.

While that sentiment is not a news flash, what continues to be a surprise for many CEO’s is how dramatically the last year has impacted the sense of security, tolerance for risk and clarity of their purpose for our employees.

We are in the midst of a “Great Resignationthat has brought awareness for employees across all industries. They have learned that instability exists and, more importantly, that they have resilience to survive it. They realized time is a valuable asset and people are seeking jobs and work arrangements that provide higher incomes for the time they invest, better benefits and more flexibility in their work arrangements.

Employment trends for 2021 include the desire for employees to prioritize balance, seek safety and health, operate and embrace the vast advantages of being “remote”, and actively pursue opportunities for learning and growth.

The number of job openings currently sits at 10.1 million with over 1 million less workers to fill these positions. Yet, the fact that 52% of employees are actively looking for new jobs (and some reports show that statistic is as high as 95%) tells us that employees want work that supports their happiness and makes them feel valued. They desire work-life balance, recognition, stronger company cultures and better team dynamics. For leaders, the discovery is how dramatically the last year has impacted their workforce and their employees' needs.

It's a tall order for CEO’s who are trying to balance profitability, sustainability, customer satisfaction, productivity and continued uncertainty. What is a CEO to do?

With all that has changed the past year, many of our traditional mindsets continue to try and pull us back to a way of operating that no longer serves our people or our organizations. As we proceed to create cultures and environments that support a changing work, it is important to remember that you are most at risk of losing your strongest employees.

Here are some topline tips to navigate this evolving world of leadership and employee relations.

1. Let it happen

Turnover is not always a bad thing, and while the current labor market is presenting CEO’s with unprecedented challenges, it remains ever more important to ensure the team members you have in place are engaged and passionate. Happy employees are more productive, give better customer service and make better teammates.

While not a popular recommendation, there are advantages to allowing team members who desire something better to find it. As leaders, while it might be tempting to put in place special provisions to keep those valuable employees, it often ends up having unintended consequences both for the leader and the greater organization.

CEO’s who truly value their people will always do the best they can for the greater workforce and be supportive of those employees who need to make a different choice for their future.

On the other hand, you have the advantage of bringing on fresh new team members who are looking to your organization as the next best fit. As a CEO, be strategic when you have turnover and use it as an opportunity to explore new and changing business needs.

2. Be strategic and watch for the early warning signs

Allowing half your workforce to resign is not the answer for CEO’s, so despite the recommendation above, organizations must begin to reassess how they operate and what cultures they are building to support the future of work. Being strategic about your workforce efforts (culture, benefits, employment policies) is critical to ensure you are establishing a work environment that meets the needs of your workforce.

There are also early warning signs that your leaders need to watch and be aware of. Major life changes, employees who have been turned down for missed promotions, lack of commitment to long term projects, reduced communication and absenteeism are all signs of potential departure.

CEO’s should partner with their leaders and human resources team to put structures in place to identify these signs and ensure leadership is aware and can actively manage and get ahead of these situations. It can also be helpful to conduct talent management reviews so you can proactively identify talent that you do not want to lose and engage in the right conversations with these individuals early on.

3. Reconsider remote work strategies as you build the future of work

Whether we like it or not, remote work is here to stay. With COVID-19 back on the rise and employees expressing a deep desire for remote work options, one survey 65% of workers desire full-time remote situations.

This is more than just working from home. Employees have been given insight into a world that allows them to integrate the value they experience with work and the “life” aspects that sometimes evade them. They have found time and space in a new ways that supports greater availability, flexibility and balance.

For CEO’s, this means reconciling the future of work with organizational practices, policies and work expectations. CEO’s continue to be concerned about what this means for their culture and how they maintain connections, collaborations and relationships in this new environment. But these very questions require them to think in ways, releasing old paradigms to find innovative solutions.

4. Consider employee engagement from the lens of team satisfaction

There is an old saying that people don't leave the company, they leave their manager. At one point, all the employee engagement research pointed to the leader, but what new research is also showing is that employees want to experience a sense of belonging, collaboration and value that comes from a greater relationship with their peers and colleagues.

While they still need a manager who cares about them, leaders need to place a higher degree of emphasis on ensuring strong team dynamics. A recent survey shows that employees who are seeking other opportunities are doing so to find a better culture, align their values and have stronger relationships with their peers.

CEO’s know the value of teams for developing better solutions, managing complexity and achieving higher goals more effectively, but what research now confirms is that employee engagement and retention is reliant upon their leaders ability to develop high-performance teams.

5. Don't lose sight of employee burnout

Employees are still beyond tired. Burnout results from the quantity of work and intensifies when people do not have control over their circumstances, do not feel valued or lack a sense of community. All these factors are present in our current reality. As a CEO, consider organizational strategies that offset these variables.

For example, allowing employees a greater voice in decision making can ensure they are exerting a greater sense of control in their workplace. It can also be important to add benefits that help to manage stressors in the home environment. More organizations are looking to broaden their benefit options as a way of supporting employee’s needs (and ensuring greater retention).

It’s a new world of work and building sustainable cultures will be the critical success factor for the future. Leaders who are adaptable and pay attention to theses changing trends in employee satisfaction will retain better talent and strengthen their business for what’s ahead.


Guest post courtesy of Dr.. Laurie Cure, Ph.D., MBA and CEO of Innovative Connections, a leadership consulting firm

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This is a post from a CBNation writer. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue 16 Media.

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