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Jan 25, 2018

It’s certainly fair to say that employee retention has always been among the more worrying concerns of HR professionals. Keeping good, trained, onboarded talent instead of constantly recruiting and ramping up new workers is an easily supported strategy, as it makes so much financial and business sense. Reducing turnover may now be an even more intense focus than in years past, however, as it becomes more and more an “employee’s market.” More jobs equals more choice, and employers are feeling immense pressure to hang on to their best people.

The thing is, when I’ve talked to employees over my career, I’ve learned that their stated goal is not to job-hop; it’s simply to grow. Employees are often more than happy to stay so long as they’re afforded ample opportunity to advance their skills (or develop new ones), take on more responsibility and learn new things. That said, opportunities don’t typically abound for most roles. Most jobs involve a largely unchanging set of tasks and responsibilities for months (or years), and the options for growth-seekers are to either get themselves promoted or find a new job — with a new team, new projects and lots of new stuff to learn.

So what if we gave these ambitious employees what they’re looking for? If retention is a concern, and we know workers don’t necessarily want to leave, why not intentionally and meaningfully support career development? The short answer might be “because it’s hard.” Yet it doesn’t have to be.

Every day, we hear about AI and machine learning making seemingly impossible things not only  possible, but optimal. This has happened in talent management, too — and that includes helping employers support their employees in ways they always knew were valuable but never felt were realistic.

Here’s what it looks like.

Know your employees’ strengths and goals

It’s understandable that knowing each of your employees and their career objectives at an individual level seems, while ideal, too much to manage. That’s where a solution with built-in, data-based assessments might come in. Smart talent management software will facilitate identifying every employee’s capabilities and goals; then, more importantly, make sense of them. Meaning: It will interpret these data points, and offer intelligent, personalized career-development recommendations accordingly. For example, such a system takes into account performance reviews, employee surveys, managers’ ad hoc assessments and open company projects, among other things, and then connects the dots to arrive at deeper insights.

See “How Cisco Is Getting to Know Each of Its 70,000 Employees

It’s fairly lightweight for you, yet but hugely helpful to employees. Call it “machine learning meets coaching.”

Connect them to opportunities for growth

From stretch projects to leadership opportunities to training programs, this sort of intelligent talent management solution will produce a roadmap of sorts for employees, pointing out skill gaps and spelling out precisely how — in terms of experience and knowledge needed — to get where they’re trying to go in their careers. It will even suggest other internal teams and projects to join that align with their interests.

For example: A month-long project for good writers to work closely with an engineer who may also have latent Photoshop and graphic design skills, yet who hasn’t been able to exercise them in her current role (but wants to).

Speaking of internal opportunities, this is the doubly beneficial part about an AI-based talent management solution: All of that development will be happening as the employee is still your employee. You’ll be providing them with the growth resources they desire, and not just retaining them, but strengthening them — while also bolstering your overall workforce.

Retention will always be a concern for talent professionals, but smart talent management solutions empower HR teams to do and offer far more to keep great employees. It’s a nice example of how, rather than AI in the workplace being a source of anxiety, it can be something to enthusiastically embrace. It can provide the kind of individualized employee support we’ve always wished we could give.

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