3 Ways To Retain Top Talent In Your Organization

March 21, 2014 - 6 minute read - Posted by

There is a war out there to find great talent, and it’s not getting easier. Companies are investing more time and effort into building their recruiting processes to better attract and retain top talent on a global scale. According to CareerBuilder, 39% of employers were concerned they would lose their talent in 2013 and 25% of those employees plan to change their work this year. Once we get our A-players in the door, what must be done to have them want to stay? Here are some insights and practices that we believe will retain your top talent.

It Starts with Good Hiring

Before you take actions to keep the right employees at your company, you must have great recruiting processes in place. There are many things you can do to get yourself out there: writing better job postings, asking for referrals within and outside your company, investing more time in each new hire or having non-traditional interviews to fit your culture. The bottom line is digging deep into what the candidate can achieve. How can you create a process where the candidate feels like they will commit long term to your organization and you can see them follow through on this commitment?


Many agile companies use a process called “Topgrading” to enhance their selection process. Developed by Dr. Brad Smart, Topgrading involves putting candidates through structured and in-depth interviews. While developing the Topgrading process, Dr. Smart met with 100 of the top HR executives from the largest companies and found that only 20% of managers got promoted and exceeded expectations resulting in 70-80% of the rest of the organizations work as average. With Topgrading, you look deep into a candidate’s life to see patterns of success tracing back to high school and younger to see if they are a fit for your role.

Avoiding Turnover Early On

A lot of companies miss the mark when it comes to training and developing their emerging leaders. Here are a few things to avoid:

  • Leaving top performers on their own.
    Early on, you may see new top performers bust loose and get results fast. This may be someone who is driven to create their own direction at the company but it’s important to be a part of their career development. You need to ensure they are building the right skills and getting great mentorship.

  • Not using top talent to develop your team.
    You are missing out if you aren’t using new top talent to train your team. Their past experiences or insights from a different standpoint can bring value and drive team performance. Create opportunities for them to share what they are doing right as well as learning from more senior members to improve further. Hold them accountable to having them teach and reward them for it too.

  • Not giving the recognition they deserve.
    A-players do not like to be undervalued. If you let their work go unnoticed you run the risk of losing valuable talent. CCL research shows that formal recognition for top performers is important to 77% of managers. Not formally being identified as an A-player leaves room for doubt, lowers engagement and weakens commitment to the organization. More CCL research shows only 14% of formally recognized high performers are seeking other employment. That number goes to 33% when they aren’t recognized as high performers.


Proper Systems and Clear Career Discussions

According to Forbes, poor annual performance reviews are one of the reasons companies lose great talent. There is no discussion about long term future or what the employee is actually interested in gaining from that future with the company. Sometimes the easiest thing to do is have a conversation and genuinely start asking questions. What are their interests? What do they care about? What has kept them sticking around for a year and what could be improved?

In Kim Scott’s article My Management Lessons from Three Failed Startups, Google, Apple, Dropbox, Twitter and Square, she writes, “good managers give a damn.” It’s common to hear that people don’t leave companies — they leave managers. This is not always the case, but is very often true. Having tough conversations with your top talent is better than not having any at all. They will respect you more for it. One of my favourite takeaways from Kim’s article was to not only ask deep questions about their past and core values, but ask for 3 to 5 scenarios they see for their future career.


Retention of top talent is something all companies have to deal with. Regardless of your industry, you will be competing for top talent. When someone great walks in the door, do whatever it takes to keep them there.

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