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The Great Retention of 2023

What will be the most pressing demands in the executive hiring space in 2023?

Following the digital advances of the last few years coupled with the impact of staff attrition, the challenge of recognising and retaining key talent will be critical in 2023. The Great Retention could be the new resounding theme for this year.

How can companies adapt and effectively manage employee expectations whilst still growing and adapting in a volatile and fluid environment?

This will be the year that companies must get hyper-focused on how they create a culture that identifies and promotes talent.

Implementing new and wide-ranging strategies will encourage a bridging of the bias gap as well as helping to provide evidence to support key areas for people development.

Ensuring top talent stays engaged in their role and around the bigger vision for their organisation will remain a priority. But it is only achievable if companies are committed to an environment that supports their people’s growth. The truly successful companies I am observing are those walking the talk around culture. Diversity has been a huge focus for companies as has purposeful leadership and I see these are two of many components that make culture a critical consideration for joining a business.

I’m often asked whether culture trumps money when people consider a job. The reality is it’s not that binary and money is of course a key driver. But I’ve witnessed executives walking away from very lucrative jobs due to a toxic culture they find unacceptable. So the tolerance level for such environments has reduced considerably as people have arguably put professional lives into greater context.

As a guest last year for the Leadership Effectiveness Podcast from sister company NewlandRock, I was asked my thoughts on what was at the heart of the digital talent agenda, which may shed valuable light on the drivers for this ‘Great Retention’.  Here are a few of my key points:

It has become clear that some organisations have adapted more quickly and effectively to digital advances. This has left some companies and individuals feeling as if they were falling behind the curve. Individuals felt the need to keep skills current and retain their marketability, as well as being part of a company with a true digital centricity at its core.

Holding positions with genuine decision-making authority and influence was also cited as one of the catalysts for changing job. The lure of smaller scale-ups offering a wider remit was an inviting prospect for those caught up in bureaucratic organisations.

The need for balance is a subject much debated during the last few years and companies certainly needed to re-think and re-evaluate their value proposition to enable better work/life prioritisation to retain people. Are companies slipping back into old habits and overlooking some of their commitments made during the pandemic? The main driver for the pushback towards more office-based versus virtual working is productivity but I have seen no empirical data to validate the argument one way or the other so this arguably boils down to intuition with the underlying sentiment from select CEOs being that creativity is hampered in virtual environments.

Companies must be more proactive in the way they look at their talent management strategies to lock in their most valued people in 2023. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What is the market worth of your best people?

  • How are you leveraging the full range of their skills and capability?

  • What’s their path for progression?

  • What do they want to do?

  • What do you want out of them as an employer?

Companies need to be getting on the front foot and investing in talent management functions (or in smaller companies at least making it part of the HR function in some way) to retain the very best people. Identifying the right people to invest in and being clear on what that means in terms of the characteristics, skills and attributes they are looking for, and not automatically thinking that somebody who is a high performer is going to have the potential for more.

  • Where are you at in your maturity of decision-making?

  • What do you actually need this senior talent to do?

I think it’s a really important conversation that clients need to have. The alignment of those who are involved in the recruitment process is not just a talent management process. It is a senior leadership process we should all be aligned around: what does success look like? What’s the job remit? And when the actual recruitment process is taking place, is it joined up and do we really know what specific profile we’re searching for?

In a recent article by NewlandRock, the increase in demand for soft skills in the c-suite was discussed. With workforces remaining to some degree either remote or hybrid, the need for effective soft skills at the top level to ensure productivity, engagement & growth opportunities are going to remain at the forefront.

From a hiring point of view, being able to assess candidates’ fit for these skills will become ever more important.

“How will leaders who meet these new standards be identified?  The increased focus on softer skills and an agile style of leadership will need to be evidenced via a selection of tools at the recruiter’s disposal. More and more we are looking at using artificial intelligence and candidate self-assessment tools alongside expert behavioural science assessment interviews, designed to evoke a more natural response. Being flexible and able to expand beyond the standard recruitment processes and leverage a wider range of tools and techniques will become ever more important.”

Here are my top five retention tips for 2023

1. Career Growth – Having a clear and transparent growth and development plan tops the list for whether someone will commit to staying with you in the long term. What assessment and succession planning strategies do you employ to support the retention of your top talent? Do your team have clarity on their career path and purpose? Do they know what it means to do a good job? What do they need to do to be successful and are they being given the tools and support to achieve that?

2. Assess your work environment – how can you ensure you are providing a positive, inclusive and open-door environment where employees feel supported and heard? Do your leaders have the soft skills to support that kind of environment?

3. Wellbeing and Stress – What strategies and professional wellbeing support networks or services do you include as part of your package? What levels of flexibility are realistically available to employees to be able to create a better work/life balance?

4. Values & Mission – how clearly do you communicate your core values and mission to your teams? The post-pandemic workforce of 2023 is more focused than ever on belonging to companies that provide fulfilling and meaningful opportunities.

5. Offer Competitive Salaries – Do you know what your people are worth? From a base pay perspective are your key talent well protected against the marketplace? How far away from market rate or fair pay are you for your key employees?
If you would like support with developing your retention and onboarding strategies for 2023 then please get in touch with BartonRock. For more insights into executive search trends and advice see my website.

Guy Day specialises in executive search for digitally transforming companies in consumer and retail.

For more help and advice contact me directly

About BartonRock: We are the executive search partner for companies where data-driven digital leadership is intrinsic to growth.

We manage the careers of leaders whose know-how and commercial acumen within digital steers the strategic direction and future survival of companies.

Our assignments search for executives who understand how to implement and lead data-centric digital agendas.

For more information visit: or contact or call +44 (0) 20 8092 6048.

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