HRHeadStart #46: Retaining Top Talent; Career Purpose; Odds of Success
The Talent Agenda
In today’s knowledge economy, top talent has a disproportionate impact on organizational performance. They contribute significant value to the organization and also extract significant value in the form of compensation. Money is usually table stakes, not the key motivator of performance. And, as we have experienced during the Great Resignation, employees (and top talent in particular) have options - options that can be damaging for the organization. A lack/loss of talent can stifle the organization’s ability to execute on its strategy. So, what are some potential levers to retain talent?
Firstly, always listen to the voice of the top talent. These people have invested considerably in their skills and accumulated diverse experiences. They don’t really like their ideas being dismissed off-hand. Leaders need to shape a culture where people’s ideas are heard, valued, and if powerful, acted upon.
Secondly, since star employees are so intrinsically motivated, we make the mistake of assuming they don’t need positive reinforcement. But the fact is that such employees push themselves hard on hard things and often experience failures on their paths to success. Hence, they need frequent and individualized recognition.
Finally, star employees are so good that their managers don’t ever want to let them go and work in other teams, thus thwarting their development. A culture of talent hoarding takes shape and eventually leads to talent flight. Leaders often opine that the employees’ skills are specialized and hence, not transferrable to other teams. In practice, well-designed talent mobility programs create better performance (see a live case study I wrote here) and helps in retention.
Some people just go through their careers, moving from one job to another without a clear purpose. Career satisfaction is highly dependent on figuring out what your “true north” is - where do you want to do, why and what impact you want to have. Chasing your true purpose is far more rewarding than chasing job titles. Check out this brilliant HBR article written by two Harvard MBAs on how and why they chose to build a career in HR. It provides a peek into their minds as they set about directing their careers and making an impact.
Things that often reduce odds of long-term success:
A lack of focus.
A lack of patience.
Focusing on yourself.
The wrong relationships.