Ask any executive or business owner if they have a process for developing top talent in their organization, and they will tell you yes. Chances are, they will immediately tell you about a series of initiatives to identify and develop their high-potential employees. They may even tell you about their various leadership-development programs and training opportunities.
Every savvy business leader understands that employee turnover is extremely costly and disruptive to their operation. Interestingly enough, although these leaders spend a lot of time talking about the importance of developing and keeping their best players, many find themselves making the same mistakes over and over again. Perhaps there is too much focus on the theory behind maintaining a highly competitive work environment, and not enough emphasis on the practice of recognizing and avoiding the issues that are pushing their top performers to leave in the first place.
If you want to lead an organization that reaps the bottom-line rewards of having a team of highly engaged employees, read on for some ways to keep your star performers happy.
1. Give them a reason to stay.
Offering a competitive salary is a good start, but don't fool yourself into thinking it is your biggest retention tool. Truthfully, your best people may be tempted by a new opportunity at any time, regardless of the economy. Challenge yourself to consistently give them compelling reasons to stay. Perhaps you've heard of the saying, "Employees don't quit their job, they quit their boss." Don't wait for the resignation letter to find out that something is wrong. Stay connected and regularly touch base regarding workloads and interpersonal dynamics. Throughout my career, I have witnessed many strong employees who leave a great job out of a perceived disconnect with leadership.
2. Unleash their passion.
Smart employees want to be challenged and engaged in their work. Most importantly, they want to give all of their talents into projects that align with what they are passionate about. As a leader, it is your job to tap into their natural talents so you can get the most out of what they have to offer. This can't happen without first knowing what makes them tick. Take the time to ask questions and find out what type of work gets them fired up and excited to contribute. Then, try to align these passions with their given projects whenever possible. Watch them perform at very high levels, and enjoy the benefits of their growing commitment to your organization.
3. Engage their creativity and challenge their intellect.
Your brightest people want to feel challenged to constantly improve themselves, enhance their abilities and add value in different ways. As a leader of such an employee, it is your job to tap into this natural desire so they can help drive your organization to experience increasing success. Allow your people to challenge the norm and contribute in an innovative way. Don't put them in boxes filled with unnecessary rules and roadblocks. Your most talented people have worthy thoughts, ideas, insights and observations. If you aren't smart enough to listen and challenge their minds, they will leave for someone who is.
4. Keep your commitments as a leader.
Is your organization failing to meet its sales quotas? Is your team falling short on successfully completing a big project? There is a familiar saying in modern business-development practices, "Businesses don't fail, products don't fail, projects don't fail and teams don't fail. Leaders fail." How are you leading your top performers? Breaking their trust and not holding yourself accountable to follow through on promises made will cause you to pay a steep price. If you fail to demonstrate integrity and strength in your leadership style, your top people will seek out an organization with a leader who does.
5. Recognize their contributions.
Instead of being a leader focused on self-promotion through taking credit for the work of your team, learn to give credit where it is due. If you become known for failing to recognize the contributions of your high-potential employees, you might as well ask them to leave.
Most importantly, never forget that your top talent is what gives your organization a competitive edge. Take these proactive steps to keep them fully engaged, professionally challenged and forever committed to being with a winning company.
Elizabeth P. Cipolla is a business communications professional specializing in the areas of leadership training, creative recruitment strategies, professional development and executive coaching for more than 13 years. She brings leadership experience from various industries including marketing, mass media, apparel, education, manufacturing, nonprofit agencies and insurance. To contact Elizabeth, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.changeagentsee.com.