Retaining Employees with Talent

Since the economy’s recovery from a dramatic recession, the environment for finding and keeping talented employees has become more competitive. When times are tough, people tend to be more willing to live with challenging circumstances in order to provide for their families, including bad bosses. As things get better, there is more pressure on leaders to earn the loyalty and engagement of talented employees in order to retain them.

To evaluate if you are doing all you can to ensure that talented employees keep their skills with your organization rather than taking them elsewhere, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. Do my employees feel heard? Talented employees believe they have contributions to make to strategy, process, procedures and systems. They are often aware of issues before their supervisors because they deal with the situation every day. If they believe they are listened to by the leaders of the organization, they feel greater ownership. As a leader, you don’t have to follow all ideas presented to you, but you should make time to listen and respond to your employees accordingly.

  2. Do my employees feel adequately supported? A good leader knows the type of support each of their employees require. Talented employees need to feel like their supervisor has their back by providing the tools and resources they need to be successful and by “going to bat” for them when disagreements arise.

  3. Do I provide my employees with valuable feedback? Talented employees always want to know where they stand. Some leaders spend so much time on problems and issues with poor performers that they fail to give specific feedback to outstanding performers. They often justify this by saying that, “they know how I feel about them and that they’re doing a good job.” Lack of feedback may be detrimental to retaining employees of value, as they may begin to drift if leaders aren’t ensuring that their talent is properly coached, recognized and challenged.
  4. Do my employees have clear expectations? Talented employees can become frustrated when priorities and objectives are unclear. When they’ve put tremendous effort into a project and missed the mark because they were aiming at the wrong target, the results may be devastating. Talented employees don’t mind “failures” that were under their control; they see them as learning opportunities and move forward. The real frustration lies when they feel mislead by a leader who either changed his mind part way through the project, or wasn’t clear what he wanted in the first place and didn’t communicate either expectation.
  5. Do my employees feel like an investment? There’s a story about an employee who worked for IBM in the early years of the company, under Tom Watson, Jr. When it was discovered that one of his employees made a mistake, which cost the company $600,000, Watson was asked when he was going to fire him. Watson replied, “Fire him? I just spent $600K training him.” Talk about an attitude of investment. Talented employees want to know that they are worthy of investment in their future at their place of employment. Whether it’s spending extra time, exposing them to different areas of the business or providing formal training, investment builds loyalty. Regardless of the loyalty factor, would you rather gain an untrained employee or lose a trained one?

With these five questions, you are armed with some key factors that are vital to retaining employees for years to come. Beyond just employee retention, these practices can improve overall company performance and culture, leading to better results from your employees, your business and yourself.

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