How to manage top talent

Good people are hard to come by. In a competitive industry, once you find top talent, you must do what you can to retain them. Otherwise, they will leave and potentially end up with your competitor. 

Retaining top talent not only helps you consistently deliver results and maintain the quality of output but it also lowers the cost of employee turnover which is estimated at 2.5 times the cost of an employee’s salary. 

So how do you manage top talent and keep them in your company? Is it just a matter of paying them a higher salary? 

You might be surprised to learn that money is not the primary motivating factor that keeps top talent from transferring jobs. 

Here are 5 ways to manage – and retain – the top talent in your company.

1. Present Top Talent With Frequent Challenges

Perception is what separates top talent from those in the lower rung. When presented with challenges, those at the top-end view them as opportunities to prove their abilities. 

In contrast, the ones who lag behind do so because they perceive challenges as threats. They believe they are put in tough situations to expose their weaknesses and shortcomings. 

Top talent lives for the challenges because it gives their work meaning and purpose. For example, if the company chooses them to manage a project, they perceive it as a sign of trust and confidence. 

However, you have to be judicious when presenting top talent with challenges. If the task falls too far off from their competencies, they might fail and blame you for having expectations they could not meet. 

The purpose of challenging top talent is to help them grow. You see potential but the skills are still raw. Instead, take them on a journey and be their guide. 

Present top talent with challenges that will help them achieve the next level of personal and professional growth.

To be faced with challenges creates pressure. But just like applying heat and pressure turns graphite to diamonds, challenges turn potential into future leaders of your organization.

2. Approach Them As Individuals

A person is recognized as a top talent because he stands out from the others. 

He could be working with a team but the performance data and keen observation have confirmed that his individual contribution was primarily successful for the success of the company.

If you took him out of the team, succeeding performances would fall below the standard he set and would be underwhelming. 

For this reason, you must treat him as a unique individual. 

To clarify, top talent is a team player. His motivation to perform at the highest level is the success of the team. 

A good example is an athlete who always wins all the individual awards and records the most impressive statistics but his team keeps losing. The individual accolades mean nothing unless the team wins.

However, top talent wants you to recognize his efforts and contributions. That without him, the team goes from “special” to “average”. 

The best way to go about this is to take a proactive approach. Don’t wait for the evaluations to come in or for top talent to come to you and ask for special considerations such as approval for his vacation leave. 

Reach out and take the initiative to show you care and appreciate his efforts. 

For example, if you know he has filed for vacation leave or paternity leave, approve it right away. Then,  give him the good news – personally.

“I just want to be the person to tell you that your vacation leave was approved. You deserve it! In fact, if you want to extend your vacation by a bit, let me know. I’ll see if I can work something out with HR. It’s the least I can do to show you how much I appreciate your talent.”

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3. Be Sincere When You Show Appreciation

One of the biggest mistakes made by supervisors and managers is taking an arms-length approach to handling their people. They associate indifference with strength and authority – that people have to do more to earn their praise. 

Thus, when someone makes an incredible accomplishment, they withhold appreciation and rationalize the achievement as just “part of the job.”

“That’s what the company pays you for.”

But here’s the thing: Top talent does care about being acknowledged. 

Not everyone can do what they do and that’s what makes top talent stand out. They’re special and without them, your company would not be where it is today. Chances are, they won’t show how they feel. The best managers are intuitive – they can sense it. 

So you must show appreciation and acknowledge the work the most talented people in your company have done. 

But do so sincerely. And it’s not as hard as you think.

You don’t have to pull out the red carpet every time someone in your organization hits a target or achieves a milestone. 

A simple pat on the back and a verbal acknowledgment will suffice. Don’t follow the formulaic “Good job!” but have a sincere conversation.

“The work you put in to close the deal with XYZ Company was amazing and timely. On behalf of the company, I thank you for that. I want to assure you that your talent and contributions to the company do not go unnoticed. Keep up what you’re doing and you will have a bright future with us. If there’s anything you need or want to be addressed, you can come and see me.”

4. Introduce a Career Path/Succession Planning Program

Career pathing and succession planning are key elements in developing talent in your organization. Many companies overlook the importance of both programs and believe that you can have one without the other. 

Also, some managers think the terms are interchangeable. No, they are not.

Career pathing is a mechanism that enables talent to chart their path within the organization. You can say that career pathing is viewed from the perspective of the employee. 

Basically, he undergoes an assessment test designed to measure his skills, abilities, interests, and aspirations so he can find out the best role within the organization that can help him fulfill his potential.

Succession planning is a process that helps HR identify and nurture talent to fill out key positions in the organization.

HR develops criteria for identifying, evaluating, testing, and selecting the best people in the organization for specific positions. The experiences and accomplishments of these individuals are also included in the process. 

Once the people – the top talent – are identified, they can be scheduled for training to improve specific skill sets and to develop key attributes. 

Both career pathing and succession planning provide an integral component in managing talent in your company – direction. Without the availability of these programs, your employees – even the most talented ones – will begin to feel they are in a dead-end career. 

5. Encourage Greater Involvement

Encouraging your top talent to be more involved in the organization is another effective way of treating them as individuals.

By asking for their advice on matters that are not related to their specific duties and responsibilities, you are letting them know their skills and abilities are not limited or confined – and that you recognize this. 

Imagine if you were assigned to Finance then the boss comes over to you and asks for your opinion on how to expand the business in another location or region of the world. 

Initially, you might think this is a head-scratching moment but then you’ll realize the boss has noticed your other abilities and talents. This is an opportunity for you to prove your boss is correct – that he approached the right person.

Wouldn’t this make you feel more assured that you are working for the right organization?

Getting your top talent to be more involved with the business accomplishes 2 things. 

First, it will motivate them to work harder because they feel valued. Second, you get to see how they perform in a different setting – where the risks, as well as the stakes, are higher. 

Conclusion

It will be heartbreaking to find out how you could have retained one of your best people during the exit interview. 

Don’t be the last to know. As the business owner or the manager, you have to take a proactive approach. It’s never too late to implement processes and programs designed to keep your people happy and motivated to work for your company.

By doing so, they may not only work for your company but in the future, they may end up working with you in your company.

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