The Tricky Territory of Employee Retention: Philippe Coutinho Edition

You wouldn’t want to be Philippe Coutinho right now. The Brazilian footballer went through a long struggle with his former club Liverpool to force his way out to F.C. Barcelona, the club he now plays for in the La Liga Santander. He wanted to leave Liverpool because of a desire to win the Champions League, and he believed that it could only happen with Barcelona. But things did turn out the way he expected they would. Barcelona got knocked out of the league in extremely disappointing fashion by the eventual winners, Coutinho’s former employers, Liverpool. While this failure to retain one of their best players did not cost Liverpool much and ended up benefiting them with the revenue that it generated, it is not always the case with most football clubs. Many smaller teams struggle to retain their talented players, who want to move on to greener pastures in search of glory. How can teams avoid this? Is it even possible to avoid this or is a natural process? Are the smaller teams doomed to stay stuck in this cycle of being mere talent exporters? That doesn’t sound ideal and it isn’t. Talent retention has several facets, and these deserve understanding.

Coutinho leaving Liverpool has some lessons in Employee Retention!
We know you’re not Liverpool but we’re sure you wouldn’t want to lose your Coutinho, whoever that might be in your organisation! Image Source

If an organisation waits till an exit interview to find out why a valuable employee decided to move on, they miss out on a golden opportunity — not just to keep a productive member of the team but to identify and fix the problem areas before other team members follow suit. Instead, communicating with employees regularly and making a genuine effort to establish a positive feedback mechanism is important for employee retention in today’s highly competitive market. No matter the size or level your business is currently at, having employees leave is simply detrimental and acts as a very expensive roadblock. As the Wall Street Journal notes, a high employee turnover rate can cost “twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement.” Apart from the obvious financial repercussions, a high turnover rate can lower the company’s knowledge base and has a negative impact on employee morale and performance.
So what can be done about it? Here are our two cents about the same.

Offer the Right Perks

Benefits and perks play a major role in keeping employees satisfied, engaged and healthy. But benefits can go far beyond healthcare and paid sick leaves.  Flexibility in work schedules, the opportunity to work remotely and generous paid leave (and honouring employees’ decision to take a leave when they see fit within the realms of reasonable policies go a long way in helping employees feel valued at their workplace. Providing benefits in the form of on the job training and further education is also an effective retention strategy. A commitment to training is seen by employees as an investment in the value that they provide to the company and is a powerful incentive, and efforts made to aid personal and professional development lets employees know that their holistic improvement is important to the organisation, whether immediately relevant to their role or not. Other perks can include offering gym memberships, paid leaves around holidays, or even a recreational space where employees can relax and refresh. After all, sticking with an injured player and helping through their recovery guarantees genuine loyalty towards the club.

Identify Candidates Who Are Likely to Stay

How can you choose candidates that are more likely to stay? There are some key indicators. For how long did they stay at their previous job? Have they shown receptivity towards working with the team? Are they compatible with the company’s culture? A club shouldn’t invest resources in a player who is not inclined to stay. Instead, talking to the player who might not really want to leave but is getting attractive offers is a smarter choice, as they are likely to stay provided the club is able to effectively figure out the minimum viable and reasonable incentive. In a corporate setting, this could include a pay raise, change in designation, more flexible hours, higher set of responsibilities, relocation etc.

Recognize Their Accomplishments

It is of extreme importance that the accomplishments of employees are recognised. This can be a simple thank you or handwritten well-done note. However, you decide to reward your employees, praising workers for achieving performance goals is one of the most effective ways to make them feel appreciated, which is one of the best ways to make them stay for the long haul. Even Cristiano Ronaldo left Real Madrid because he did not feel appreciated enough by the club president.

Ronaldo in his Real Madrid days
Real Madrid to Ronaldo: Now you’re just somebody that I used to know. Somebodyyyy. Image Source

Of course, sometimes turnover might just be inevitable. Companies should be prepared to sometimes lose out on star employees, especially if they have the opportunity to move to their dream job. You cannot stop a Coutinho from moving to Barcelona, especially if it’s been their dream since forever. At the same time, for every Coutinho there is a Lionel Messi, the player who has unwaveringly stood with his boyhood club ever since he started playing.

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