Based on a dialogue of leading HR Professionals at the Senior HR Thought Leader Forum at the Union Club in downtown Cleveland
It’s a fact—towards the end of a recession, when the economy starts perking up—the most talented people start looking around for other opportunities.
The best are in demand
Think about your very best employee—either in management or in the field. There are probably several people who come to mind—and really stand out.
Now think about what you would do if these people were to walk into your office and give you two week’s notice today. It’s a scary thought, isn’t it?
Invariably, it is the best people who are recruited away. So now, as the economy is starting to show signs of life, you should take action to keep your “A” players productive, happy, and manage the risk that they accept an “opportunity” with a competitor.
Who are your “A” Players?
Bradford Smart, the author of “TopGrading” says that 10% of your staff are “A” players.
An “A” player is a gifted and productive employee, who’s moved up the ladder, with promotions and responsibilities, and who has a career ahead of them. This person is a change agent; someone others look to for guidance; who others think of as a mentor; someone who sees the big picture; someone who consistently performs to their full potential; someone who brings unique competencies to their job and your company; someone who has career potential with your company.
Can you really afford to lose this person?
“A” players are continuously growing, and show their strength by continually adapting to new and changing environments. The question is: “How to you keep them happy and engaged?”
5 Specific Actions you can take to keep “A” Players
Here are five specific actions you should consider taking to retain your key employees:
1. Start at the top: “A” players demand “A” leadership. During tough economic times, everyone is used to hearing news about the need to “hunker down” and “sacrifice.” Now that your company has survived, everyone’s wondering what your new focus is: “What’s the new operating environment?”, “What are the challenges?”, and “What’s the new strategy?” Communicate the good and the bad. Be transparent and vulnerable. Consider asking for 360% feedback. Being vulnerable and open to feedback at the top makes for stronger leadership.
2. Consider a “closet cleaning”: “This would be my best employee, if he/she didn’t have such an attitude problem.” Like it or not—that person creates a problem because tolerating him or her fosters a culture where employees know that leadership accepts unacceptable behaviors in order to “make do.” It opens the door to other behavior problems. Getting rid of one or two saboteurs sends a strong signal to everyone.
3. Conduct “retention interviews”: Figure out individually what makes your “A” players tick. Meet one-on-one with your top talent and tell them. “You are important.” And then ask “What are the things we need to be doing to keep you around?” You want to challenge your best people with important assignments and make them a part of the decision-making process. If you provide access to strategic information, and seek his or her opinions on what to do next, it will be a “win-win” for everyone.
4. Engage in pro-active career management: Most people, especially the best and most motivated, want to know where their career is headed. Share the company’s strategy, and explain how their efforts are critical to the company’s success. Then provide meaningful feedback and measure their progress. No matter how good an “A” Player is, there’s always room for improvement. The best people want and deserve the truth. Reinforcing what they have done well, but also giving them concrete ways in which they can improve can “help you help them” take your company to the next level.
5. Give your “A” players first chance: This is a great way to overcome organizational barriers for success. While you are taking inventory of the strengths and weaknesses of your organization, you should be asking “Are there any talent gaps?” “Can these gaps be addressed through training?” Before you look outside for new talent, “can you nurture the talent you need from within?” Expanding responsibilities and developing talent from within is a great way to make your best employees feel valued, challenged, and motivated.
Of course it’s important to recognize and compensate your key employees—particularly if you compare the cost of losing and then replacing a key employee—it doesn’t hurt for them to be well-compensated, but by following the 5 specific actions listed above, it will be a “win-win” and they’ll be compensated fairly for the value they are bringing to your company.
There are many things that you can do to help keep your best employees.
Make sure that you are doing something—because doing nothing will be a most costly mistake
And you’ll risk losing your most important asset: your best people.
The Senior HR Thought Leader Forum at the Union Club in downtown Cleveland is sponsored by Dise & Company – a Professional Services Firm specializing in Executive Search, Corporate Outplacement, and Leadership Coaching.
To learn more about what you can be doing to attract and retain “A” Players, call Ralph Dise at 216-752-1700.