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How CEO’s can be more effective in attracting & retaining senior staff


Guest articles > How CEO’s can be more effective in attracting & retaining senior staff


by: Kelly Magowan


There is no denying that many CEO’s and boards are struggling with today’s new employment landscape. New technology, changing demographics and social behaviours have forced businesses to reconsider their approach to talent attraction and retention.

The key issues around why people stay in a business are the same as those that CEO’s and boards need to focus on to attract top people. Six Figures recently conducted a survey of over 100 high salary earners (those earning $100K+) to find out what their key drivers were when it came to changing jobs or career. 

From the results the top three drivers were;

1. Leadership

2. Career Progression Opportunities

3. Salary


A big issue that impacts on the decision of whether your top senior people stay is the calibre of leadership. The level of leadership that a business displays and the opportunities for senior and executive staff being kept engaged and challenged as they learn from those above them, and around them, is crucial to retaining your best people.

Research shows that one of the top reasons why people leave an employer is due to poor management or, if you are sitting at the executive level, poor leadership. Unfortunately, many organisations fail to address the issues of poor management or leadership, as it is one of the most challenging areas to address. Those organisations that do it well are those that have regular 360 degree feedback, reviews, and management training & development. In these situations taking action is better than inaction; even though inaction tends to be the more common and damaging approach.

For high performers it is hard to achieve great things without great leadership and a team of staff that are switched on, motivated and engaged. Jim Collins in “Good to Great’ talks about getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus; the right people are not only the brightest they are the most enthusiastic, committed and passionate people. Businesses that have a great leadership development model where employees are continually being measured, rewarded and challenged are those that are more inclined to be retaining the best for longer.

Career Progression

Opportunities for mentoring, moving into new roles across divisions, moving up, business coaching, overseas secondments and so on all help to keep staff engaged. It is unreasonable to hire a talented executive and expect them to hang around if their own personal developmental needs are not being met.

This group is by nature very focussed on being challenged. They also want to work for an organisation and leader who invests in their development, just as they invest their time and energy into seeing the organisation succeed. Providing your executives with a growing workload, however, does not provide them with real challenges that deliver a sense of achievement for them to stay with the organisation.

As a retention strategy, more organisations are now seeing the value in engaging career coaches or business coaches to work with their executives to both assist them in gaining value out of their current role and or planning their next career moves; be that with the company or external to the company. Succession planning is another area that businesses are increasingly seeing the value in implementing as a retention strategy that also forms part of the overall business plan and strategy.

As a part of our research into understanding this market segment of high salary earners, 75% said that they would take a salary cut to be able to do a job they are capable of doing that is different to what they have done in their past working career. Career progression does not necessarily have to be up; it can be lateral and is around providing your executives with stimulating work opportunities.


Salary is of course another decision that comes into play when a senior staff member or executive is looking to move on; however, it is the third on the list.

A recent Hudson report on ‘Candidate Buying Behaviour’  is a good reference tool. The report is not specifically focussed on the high salary earner, as those surveyed ranged in age from 20 to 50 years, and half earned less than $50K. The overall findings showed that, for 63% of those surveyed, salary was the key trigger when it came to seeking new employment. The top three drivers were;

1. Salary

2. Career development

3. Work life balance

So whilst salary is the primary driver across the general market place this does not ring true at the senior and executive level. If CEO’s and boards are aware of the decision-making rationale for staying, and knowing that at the top level salary plays only a part (i.e. is not the overriding factor), then the opportunity to retain staff becomes far easier proposition.

Businesses are only just starting to realise that different market segments require a different approach. By and large businesses have traditionally been great at dealing with this for graduate recruitment however this has not extended to other market segments of job seekers. This is something new we are starting to see be acknowledged and addressed by CEO’s and Boards and no doubt over time businesses will start to see the benefits of this more targeted approach, from a higher calibre workforce to a smaller recruitment budget.

Kelly has been specialising in the arena of Human Resource Management, Recruitment and Career Counselling for close to 12 years. Initially focusing on commercial recruitment, and later moving into corporate Human Resources working with the likes of Ernst & Young and General Electric. In these roles Kelly was exposed to best practice HR and developed a true passion for Human Resources Management.

In 2008 Kelly launched Six Figures the premium job site for $100K+ jobs, a site created to provide job seekers with a trusted online source to find six figure opportunities across all industries and professions. The site offers businesses a new targeted channel to connect with six figure job seekers, utilizing current technology to feature job opportunities and information about the business in a way that appeals to today's high salary earners.

Kelly’s experience working across HR, Recruitment & Career Coaching has provided her with a solid understanding of what the job market looks like, what employers look for and the common experiences and challenges they face.

Contact Details

Kelly Magowan Six Figures Director Web: Email: Phone: 1300 780 177


Contributor: Kelly Magowan

Published here on: 30-Nov-08

Classification: Management, HR


MSWord: CEO_Attracting&RetainingStaff.doc

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