How to retain top talent

Keeping your top talent motivated, engaged and inspired to stay with your organisation isn’t something that simply happens. It takes a daily commitment to supporting and mentoring high performers in order to show them that they’re appreciated and valued for the contribution they’re making. 

Even the most experienced managers can find it difficult to know how to ensure that their top talent sees a future within the organisation despite knowing that failing to do so usually results in a valued employee leaving for one of the competitors. Retaining talent not only saves organisations money in the form of saved recruitment and training costs, but it also helps employers to demonstrate that they value their people and want to develop them too. There are things that all organisations can do in order to retain talent, and while it takes commitment and time, the dividends are worth it.

1. Learn from existing exit interview data

Too often, companies review their exit interview data only cursorily and miss the opportunity to really understand why people leave. It can be down to external factors such as an employee moving to another country for non-professional reasons, but on the whole the wealth of information available to managers remains unexamined. Speak to your HR team for access to this data if you’ve not already seen it and look for themes. Have the majority of leavers stated that they’ve found the culture to be unsupportive, or does their feedback show that there are too few opportunities for growth? Being able to identify the top reasons people leave your organisation is helpful in planning your talent retention strategy.

2. Encourage internal job applicants

There is a goldmine of unrecognised talent in every business and yet many employers hire from outside as a matter of course. Organisations that hire from within when possible demonstrate to their people that career advancement and development is core to their corporate values. Top talent is more likely to stay with a company that acknowledges their need for continued growth and challenge.

3. Encourage top talent to continue developing

Delegation is a terrific tool for helping people to develop and reach their potential. You might not have much experience with delegation but it’s well worth learning how to apply the methods in your daily work. Assigning a high performing team member a task that might be out of their comfort zone allows them to learn something new and feel that they’re trusted to contribute in different ways. When used correctly, delegation is a brilliant tool which can help top talent to visualise the possibilities within their organisation. And don’t forget the importance of training in keeping employees motivated and engaged. If your organisation doesn’t offer many opportunities for professional or personal development, work with your team member to identify other options such as classes at a local college or useful resources.

4. Don’t overpromise or under deliver

High performing employees get restless when they’ve been in the role for some time and can’t see any internal opportunities on the horizon. If they’re keen to move on because of stagnation you can let them know that while there might not be any opportunities for promotion in the short term, you’ll help them to develop the skills they’ll need later in their career. Don’t take their desire to move on personally but see their need to develop as natural and welcome. Never overpromise or under deliver, but be realistic in what you can do to help them. You could suggest attending an industry conference together or offer to meet them outside of work to share your own career tips.

5. Show them what’s possible

Asking a top performer where they’d like to be in five or ten years is a great way to help them map out what they can be doing today to get there in the future. Even if your organisation can’t offer them the chance to develop their careers as quickly as they’d like, remind them that all careers take time to develop. Explain that you’ll be on hand every step of the way to help them to reach their milestones and achieve the goals they’ve set for the coming years.

6. Speak out

Acknowledge people for a job well done on a consistent basis. And don’t just tell them in a casual exchange but ensure that the whole company sees what their contribution has meant. If your organisation doesn’t have a ‘team member of the month’ scheme or similar consider starting one. Open praise has a powerful impact on both motivation and retention.

The loss of top performers can have a devastating impact on teams, companies and customers. Thinking about retaining your top talent when someone has given you their resignation means that you’ve left it too late. Proactively managing talent is key as is finding out how the whole of your team is feeling about their day-to-day role so that you can intervene and improve things early on. Tying talent retention to business success is an ongoing process but one that brings untold benefits to both your organisation and your customers.