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How to hold on to your talent

June 28, 2016

Don’t let your top talent go – or any talent, for that matter. Here’s how to ensure you retain and develop your employees

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How to hold on to your talent

Think back for a moment to your very first day in your very first job. Perhaps it was an internship or training post...

...either way, it’s probably not too hard to recapture the sense of intense nervousness and excitement.

As an employer, getting to the point where you’ve got that key hire through the door and at their desk is just the beginning.

Keep them, inspire them, challenge them

You’ve spent time, money and energy identifying and recruiting the best person for the job, and convinced them to come and work for you.

The next challenge is to keep them, inspire them, challenge them and help them to progress – ideally, of course, with you and not at one of your competitors.

So, how do you do that? How do you hold on to your talent – from intern to CEO – and, especially at more senior levels, what’s the secret to successful, sustainable succession planning?

Perhaps the best way to show this is by following the journey of two fictional hires, one senior and one junior, Tariq and Corinne.

Tariq is an IT graduate and has joined a fast-growing tech start-up based just off London’s Silicon Roundabout. Corinne is an experienced buyer with a high street clothing retailer, managing a small team out of a regional office in Hertfordshire.

What they have in common is both their employers have identified them as being people with high potential and who could, feasibly, go on to bigger and better things.

Tariq’s story

Tariq’s salary is competitive but, his managers recognise, on the low side. However, he’s offered the opportunity to take shares in the company at a discounted rate – which he does – as an incentive to lock him in to the future success of the organisation.

The company also recognises there is much more to the term ‘compensation’ than just money. So it offers Tariq (and all employees) a range of non-cash benefits – health insurance, cycle-to-work, a pension and access to regular (both online and physical) training.

It also works to make the working environment fun and friendly, with a flat, accessible management structure, open-plan working and a range of team-bonding and building activities.

There are regular performance reviews and appraisals, and managers are encouraged simply to say ‘thank you’ for a job well done.

Within six months, Tariq is leading on projects and attending overseas tech conventions on behalf the organisation.

It is also made clear to Tariq during his performance reviews that he is viewed as someone with the potential to step up to take on senior-level responsibility.

For example, after a year he is offered ongoing senior-level mentoring, including the opportunity to go and work and learn for six months in Seattle through a collaboration the company has with a tech partner in the US.

Corinne’s story

Corinne is a hard-working, reliable buyer with one of the best track records not just within her division but within the whole organisation.

To that end, it is recognised she has the potential to progress, initially to regional level and perhaps even further than that.

This is important because the company has recently gone through an acquisition and integration process, meaning there has been significant change at regional and senior level.

The board has recognised that, particularly within the buying function, there needs to be a more concrete, identifiable succession programme and talent pipeline in place.

Corinne is sent on the organisation’s 12-month middle manager talent development programme, which offers intensive training in management and leadership competencies and approaches to develop essential leadership skills and behaviours.

She is also offered the opportunity to undertake rotations within other areas of the business, including a stint in the retailer’s Dubai office.

Much as with Tariq, the organisational hopes and expectations are made clear to Corinne during her regular performance and development reviews and there is a genuine dialogue around how these aspirations fit with her own.

There are, of course, no guarantees – she still has to deliver – but a clear progression plan is set out, backed up by an ongoing culture of performance development, training, mentoring and coaching.

Ultimately, there’s no one guaranteed way to hang on to your talent. Things happen, people’s priorities change and evolve, whether it’s wanting to start a family, start your own venture, finally do that ‘gap year’ you never did and backpack around Asia, or just jump ship to a better offer or perceived opportunity.

But do six things:

  • Transparently (and visibly) invest in regular performance management, coaching and development communication.
  • Embed a mentoring, training and development culture.
  • Offer opportunity, responsibility and access.
  • Show you appreciate, value and reward the contribution your people are making.
  • Proactively articulate and set out a talent development progression or succession planning.
  • Promote autonomy (manage boundaries and energy), mastery (adopt a growth mindset) and purpose (connect with why) in roles.

And you’ll have a much greater chance of ensuring your ‘talent’ can see, buy into and, crucially, commit to the trajectory you’re keen for them to pursue.

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