Businesses should look to Britain’s Got Talent for inspiration

Business owners should look to Britain’s Got Talent for inspiration, says Lesley Meechan, director of Learning and Development at one of Britain’s largest business support organisations, GO Group.

The best staff are often the first to jump ship during a recession; choosing to search for a new post that is more secure, better paid or with more prospects. Not too dissimilar to the adventures of some of the best loved contestants on ITVs Britain’s Got Talent.

Take Susan Boyle for instance. She came, she sang and left to go on to bigger and better things – ending up on Oprah’s sofa is a step up from Blackburn, some might say. But will she stay loyal to the talent competition that made her? Will Simon Cowell retain his surprise singing sensation? Only time will tell.

But there’s a lesson here for not only Simon Cowell, who’s going to want to make a buck or two from the lovely “SuBo”, as Boyle is now referred to, but also a lesson for business owners, big and small, across Britain who have talented staff of their own.

For many SMEs, losing ‘high potential’ staff can have a devastating effect on the way their business runs – especially if the staff switch their allegiance to a competitor.

So in these tough times, what can businesses do to retain their top staff in order to survive? Well, Susan Boyle was granted a stylish make-over, received media training and guidance from a team of experts and has been given countless opportunities to put her new skills in to practice.

Many companies however, believe that the way forward is to cut costs, which applies to some areas of business, but can be fatal in others.

Take learning and development for example, cutting back on your staff development budget during tough economic times is an easy way to save money, granted. But is it a false economy?

Research by the Federation of Small Businesses indicates that businesses that reduce or stop learning and development are 2.5 times more likely to fail during a downturn than those who invest.

No matter what you believe, the downturn will not discourage ambitious and able employees from seeking to further their careers elsewhere. If your best staff choose to leave, they will take skills, experience and even the confidence of the remaining staff with them. So what is the solution?

It is more important than ever that businesses instil confidence and optimism in their workforce. Ensuring staff that they have a bright future is the first step to retaining them (confidence = Oprah, which = success, remember).

The recession means that many organisations will not grow this year, and that staff may have to remain in position, without promotion or pay rise, for longer than anyone expected. So re-energising your staff is the key. Confirm your commitment to them, making it clear that they have a future with the company.

Remember, the recession won’t last forever. What would you do when this is all over and your best staff are working for your competitor. Think how Simon Cowell would feel if Susan Boyle switched her allegiance to BBC’s Tonight’s The Night.

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