How to Retain Your Top Talent
By: Susan Ruhl
Unemployment is low and job openings are at the highest levels they’ve been in 14 years. Unless you are watching your employees during their lunch hour to see if they are looking for a new job, you might end up caught off guard. Your top talent may not be as loyal as you hope when they are approached with exciting career opportunities. The biggest mistake an organization can make is to assume that their best employees will stay forever.
The second biggest mistake is thinking that all top performers will value the same incentives. It’s likely true that your best employees likely share some key traits; and they’re individuals with unique values. If you don’t tailor your retention strategies to their individual goals and needs, you might just find yourself losing a top performer or two. Luckily, assessments can help you determine exactly what mix of retention tactics will keep your best employee from jumping ship. Best practice: implement an annual assessment program for your top performers, and use the tactics below to devise the retention strategy that’ll make them keep coming back.
1. Visibility: Extroverts crave social recognition and excitement. If your top performers are extroverts, give them the visibility they want. They love the opportunity to display their skills. Put them on important projects that will showcase their abilities to the executive team and the rest of the organization. This type of social recognition is critical because it demonstrates to them that the organization values their input and talent.
2. Challenge: Highly ambitious employees seek achievement and challenge. Help those top performers feel like your organization brings out the best they have to offer. Create stretch assignments for them and push them to new heights. A large majority of top executives have identified stretch assignments as their preferred method to develop new skills. Don’t forget, you’ll need to tailor these assignments to the individual. You’re trying to retain a select number of employees, not develop them on a mass scale.
3. Freedom: Some will desire intellectual autonomy. These individuals should not be micro-managed; they can follow rules and are dutiful enough to get their work done. So give them freedom in their role—provide the end goal and offer support along the way, but let them decide how to go about doing it. They’ll appreciate the autonomy, and you’ll likely learn new methods for success as they are free to experiment and innovate.
4. Novelty: Curious people crave intellectual stimulation, and extroverts seek excitement. Fresh experiences can fulfill those needs. Try restructuring their current role, expanding their scope, or providing a cross-functional experience. Ask them what they would like to try, and use creative ways to incorporate those experiences into their role. Beware: employees that are highly structured may not respond well to this approach, because they crave order and may prefer their established routine.
5. Mentorship: Some will value friendship and tradition. They won’t be motivated by challenge or visibility–what they crave is a deep and meaningful relationship with a mentor or a leadership coach. Mentors are a great way to heighten the commitment level of your top talent, while also focusing on their personal growth and development. Research has shown that organizations that use mentoring have higher levels of employee retention than those that don’t.
Attracting your top performers doesn’t stop with the employment contract. Keep attracting them every day by thoughtfully tailoring your retention tactics to their unique needs. Invest in an annual assessment program, help your managers understand how to keep your top performers happy and engaged. You cannot make the competition disappear, but you can give your top talent a reason to stop looking.