6 Secrets to Retaining Top Talent

How can you retain the best talent and employees without tying them to their chairs?

Team Building
People Strategy

Catherine Dulude

Corporate Coach and Business Happiness Consultant

Monday, March 21, 2016


Most employers easily claim that they have no problem retaining top talent, but… in reality, it’s quite a different story! And if they are, in fact, able to retain them, there are always ways of getting better at it.

A company’s success is rooted in its employees’ talents as well as on its capacity to optimize a group’s strengths to push it to continuously surpass itself. Then again, top talent is hard to hire and it is often strongly coveted by others, as well. In the end, we can say that a company’s capacity to retain the best talent is an essential part of its overall success and, as such, it should hold a place of honour in its corporate strategy.

Is this the case in your company? Either way, here are a few secrets to retaining top talent!

1. Understanding Individuality in Order to Retain Top Talent

Since every person is different, it is essential to begin by understanding that individuality. It is the very first step to take!

It is often assumed (albeit wrongly) that top talents aspire to the same goals, that they are motivated in the same way and that they all have identical needs – however, that is completely false! If you are striving to have a good employee retention plan, don’t rely on a one-size-fits-all strategy; adapt it to the needs of each individual.

What motivates a specific individual? Are they motivated by attaining results or by their desire to help others? Do they aspire to challenges or to security? Do they have an unquenchable thirst for learning? Are they going to ask for what they need, or will they hesitate? What are their strengths? What are aspects of their personality that could use some more work? Are they satisfied with their job? Using a psychometric test is a good starting point to begin answering all these questions.

Then, we also have to talk about things as they are. What are their needs? Their goals? Their fears? The obstacles they face, the thing that stops them in their tracks?

2. Communicating Openly and Honestly

If you want to understand someone, you have to establish open and honest communication between you. Beware, though: without your employees’ trust, communication can never be optimal. You simply cannot assume that top talents are going to tell you things as they are or that they will clearly share their dissatisfaction, their lack of engagement or their needs. In order to be able to have that, a serious climate of trust has to be developed!

And so many employers declare, “I counted on him/her so much, I just don’t understand why he/she quit!”

Another fundamental aspect of communication is the clear transmission of the company’s objectives. If the top talents don’t know how to contribute their best, if they don’t see where the company is going nor its ambitions, there is simply no way that they could feel engaged, and so, they are likely to fly away to other faraway places.

3. Past Performance Is No Guarantee of Future Performance

A very common mistake is to place your bets on employees who are great at their job and to assume that they will do just as well in a hierarchically superior position. An excellent salesperson will not necessarily be an amazing manager, yet an average salesperson could also easily become a fantastic manager. Do not let yourself be blinded by past successes. If you want to rely on top talent, the first step is defining the competencies needed in order to optimise the next generation of workers. It is a most fundamental exercise!

4. To Retain Top Talent, Focus on Managers

According to Roger Herman, the “Father of Employee Retention”, 75% of people who willingly quit their jobs don’t quit their positions, but their bosses.

The moral is:  you cannot succeed in retaining top talent if you do not pay attention to your organisation’s managers’ competencies!

Your managers have to grasp their impact on the retention of your best employees. They must also be empowered in that direction and obtain support in order to be able to better themselves.

5. Recognizing Good Work and Rewarding It

Your managers can learn to recognize good work and reward it appropriately. With that in mind, let’s go back to my first argument: they have to know how to do so in a way that is tailored to each individual.

Attempting to reward someone with the wrong type of motivation could create the opposite effect. It is unfortunately common to hear, “I have him/her a salary raise, and I don’t understand why he/she quit.”

6. Rely on the Team to Retain Top Talent

A very important element of retaining top talent is their teams. Many people stay at their jobs because of the people with whom they work.

It is an important aspect that should not be neglected!

Hence, if your top talents admit that they are not motivated by their team at work, that they have valid reasons and that they are not alone, then this problem needs to be addressed without delay. If an employee’s main motivation is the team and you leave them alone in an unpleasant environment, without any open communication, without a possibility to share with someone and without any foreseeable improvements of the situation through concrete actions, you will lose them.

Employee retention is a strategy that needs to be global. It needs to take the individual into account, as well as the managers, the work environment, the working teams and the corporate strategy. Without a globalized vision to retain your top talent, all your efforts will have been in vain – and, in the opposite case, the success of your company will speak for itself.

Good luck with retaining your top talent!

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