Retaining talent in investment promotion

Finding the right talent for your investment promotion agency (IPA) or economic development organization (EDO) can be challenging. Retaining good employees can be even more difficult and turnover rates in the field of investment attraction are typically high. Keeping a motivated, multicultural, multilingual, multigender, and multigenerational workforce is an essential area of focus for your agency to succeed in investment attraction.

Why retention matters

IPAs and EDOs are usually organizations with a flat hierarchy. As government organizations, they often have regulations that make promotion dependent on seniority. This makes it difficult for employees to identify professional development opportunities within their organization. The best employees are often recruited either by other IPAs or EDOs, or, in many cases, by companies they have supported with their investments. In either case, the contacts and knowledge that these employees have acquired are lost or – even worse – taken to another agency.

A high turnover rate is a challenge that should not be underestimated. If employees are to make a long-term commitment to any organization, the employer must provide sufficient reason for them to stay.

What you can do

Providing a family-friendly environment, health and wellness benefits, support with commuting costs, flexible working times, and remote working opportunities are all essential today. To increase employee interaction, pride, and loyalty towards the institution, agencies can provide opportunities to volunteer on local projects, which will also build a positive relationship between your IPA or EDO and your community. These types of initiatives also help to improve employee confidence and satisfaction while branding the IPA or EDO as an attractive organization for potential employees.

The primary focus of any retention efforts should be on professional development. Here are five ideas that you can apply to your agency:

  • Ask your employees for feedback to understand what professional development means for each one of them so you can determine how to support their growth.
  • Encourage mentoring and coaching programs. You can ask each team member to identify an area that they would like to work on and schedule regular coaching or mentoring sessions to discuss progress. It is also important to provide regular feedback to your employees and not just during an annual review.
  • Provide specialized training that allows your employees to develop their skills and learn something new that they can apply in your agency. Sending employees to external training courses will also allow them to expand their network and meet peers from around the world.
  • Introduce an annual learning stipend for employees. Personal learning encourages self-determination and self-esteem, which can enhance job satisfaction.
  • Introduce additional holidays to be used for learning. This extra paid time can be dedicated to skills that are related to the employee’s role in the agency. For instance, if a particular employee focuses on attracting investment projects from Japan, this time can be used to take an intensive Japanese course, which will support investment attraction activities in this target market.

The benefits to you

Investment promotion is a specialized profession that is mainly learned on the job. Talented professionals with the right combination of skills and personal attributes are a highly valued and scarce resource and finding and onboarding new talent takes time and money. Focusing on retaining your best employees is not only cost-effective but crucial to the performance and success of your organization.

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