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4 Step Program on How to Engage and Retain Key Service Employees

Updated: Feb 8, 2022

Team praising co-workers accomplishments

One of the monumental challenges for many companies is employee engagement and employee retention, especially of key talent. According to a Gallup report across 112,312 businesses, only 36% of employees are engaged at the workplace, 51% are not engaged, and the remaining 13% have “miserable work experiences”. 51% is a significant number of not engaged employees! Another Gallup report shows that companies with a highly engaged workforce “realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability.”

It is not solely about compensation. Talented employees want to be appreciated, engaged, challenged, and have a sense of purpose and direction. They look for leadership and inspiration. Talented employees want to feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves. They want career growth, guidance and perhaps even mentoring or coaching. And yes, they want to be fairly compensated too! Here is a 4-step program on how to engage, retain and recruit key talent, ensuring that you have the right people in the right place at the right time to deliver the right results to your bottom line.

The 4 steps are:

1. Career Path

2. Training

3. Succession Planning

4. Recruitment

1. Career Path

A common commencement speech platitude is, “follow your dreams”. Good advice if you know what your dreams are. For a lot of people this is not the case. Lewis Carroll wrote, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. Many want to know where their career is taking them and what opportunities lie ahead. Companies can provide a path that is both good for the employee and good for the company.

Step 1 to engaging and retaining key talent is to create a career path for members of your organization to follow. Most of the time creating a career path is not about inventing, but instead about connecting the dots. For example, a career path for a call center agent could be to become an inside sales associate. A career path for an inside sales associate could be to become an outside sales representative. The career path for an outside sales representative could be to sales management.

A career path does not need to be linear either. The career path for a service technical support associate could be to become an engineering technical assistant or a field service technician. You get the idea. The key is to create a career path roadmap that you share with your team, so they are aware of the possibilities and know that you support them. It demonstrates that you are willing to invest in their future and that you care. Next is training.

2. Training

Training is the core of this 4-step process. It takes a well thought out, carefully considered and planned curriculum for a training program to be effective. Training can be as simple as auditing someone on the job or as structured as classroom or online learning with quizzes and a certification exam. It depends on the career path that the employee has chosen.

For example, if a technical support associate decides they want more personal interaction and hands-on work with their customers, they may decide to become a field service technician. They will need to learn specific skill-sets that may include electrical and mechanical skills to do the job competently. This might require formal training and a certification exam.

If a call center representative decides they want to be an inside sales associate, auditing the inside sales associate on the job and learning supporting tools such as CRM may be enough. The end game is to have training programs in place that enable an employee to advance to their desired career path position, ready to do the job on day one. This is good for the individual moving into their next career opportunity, good for the department, good for the company, good for morale and good for the customers! Ideally there is someone trained and ready to back-fill openings that a career path program creates.

Company-wide benefits are significant. Less money and time spent on outside recruiting. Less stress on departments whose teams are obligated to take up the responsibilities of someone who suddenly gives their notice. This includes after hiring when it can take time for the replacement to learn the job and to be productive. In addition to retaining key talent, you retain accumulated knowledge that can only come with years of experience at your company.


"The key is to create a career path roadmap that you share with your team, so they are aware of the possibilities and know that you support them."


3. Succession Planning

Succession planning recognizes that some jobs are the lifeblood of an organization and are too critical to be left vacant. Succession planning creates an effective process for recognizing, developing, and retaining top talent, minimizing vacancies in these key roles.

The primary tenet of succession planning is having a robust talent management plan in place to identify and recruit bench talent to train, mentor and groom for the next key job opening in your business. This should be a part of your company’s overall business strategy. Is your organization structured and optimized to deliver the business results required by your company’s annual and strategic plan? Do you have the correct resources with the right knowledge, skills, and experience in place to do this?

Identifying which roles in your company are critical to the success of your business plan and ensuring that there is a well-defined and communicated career path and training program into and out of those roles is vital. To develop an effective succession plan, a talent management plan and a comprehensive training curriculum needs to be in place first with at least a three year horizon. Having a comprehensive talent management and succession plan will help your company to identify, engage, promote and retain the talent that you need to successfully deliver the right results to your business plan.

4. Recruitment

When a key player moves on to new responsibilities, sometimes even with the best planning, there is no one in the wings waiting to step in. When this happens having a solid recruiting plan is the way to go. This is the fourth step in the program to ensure that the right person, with the right skill-set is available at the right time, to fill an open position and keep your company on track to achieving its business plan.

It is always preferable to start the recruitment process before the incumbent leaves their job. Ideally the new hire should receive on the job training from the incumbent (provided the incumbent is not leaving because of performance issues), augmented by other hard and soft skills training. This is not always possible, so deftly moving through the recruitment process is recommended. Recruitment should not be allowed to stall. This can have a negative effect on those involved in the recruitment process, including the candidates and on department moral since they will be picking up the work of the incumbent after they leave.

Career path, training, succession planning and recruitment all work together to ensure that you have the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time to deliver the right results to your bottom line!

If you are interested in learning more about how to engage and retain your customer service talent, please contact Bass Harbor Group for a free consult by clicking on this link.


Patrick Sandefur profile picture

Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.

Read more from Patrick Sandefur by clicking on recent posts below.


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