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How can I make my top staff feel confident about their prospects?

How can I make my top staff feel confident about their prospects?

When businesses fear they will not be able to fill posts with appropriate candidates, it's necessary to look in on themselves to identify and nurture the talent within.

Whenever the employed dare to think of seeing if the grass may now be greener elsewhere, it's your employees with the most potential who are most likely to leave for more tempting pastures.

For all sorts of reasons, focusing on keeping these prized employees makes sound business sense. It can help you save on the major expense of staff turnover. Concentrating on talent also helps raise staff morale. After all, if other ambitious employees see others enjoying career advancement within, they are more likely to feel positive about the career prospects for themselves and stay loyal to you too.

To keep top talent, there are some key tactics you need to consider:

  • Establish clear, internal career paths – Give top talent hope for the future. Never make them look outside for more and better. In appraisals, set goals and measure progress. Map out the arc of their career together. Be aware of limited or dead-end roles. Plan how to help employees in these positions make the bridge to a role with a future by looking at transferable skills and responsibilities. Promoting internally also creates attainable goals and builds strong foundations.
  • Continual communication – Talent want to know if and how they are meeting expectations. An annual performance review is not enough. Institute a minimum of two formal annual appraisals a year: the first to establish goals against the business plan and, the second to monitor progress. In addition, line managers should hold regular one-to-one monthly meetings with talent to informally update on progress, problems or other issues.
  • Meet the mentor – Mentoring helps talent learn and develop over the long term, focusing on career and development. The mentor is effectively a more experienced colleague who acts as a career counsellor, gauging their mentees' aspirations and setting individual goals to fit in with business needs. Mentored talent report feeling more satisfied, more recognised and feeling they have a higher chance of promotion.
  • Think perks – Make yours an attractive firm to work for. As baby boomers retire and Generation Y, with their greater belief in work-life balance begin to populate the top spots, think again about the benefits of offering flexibile working – not just to talent, of course. But, for talent, it does have specific advantages: improving work/life balance, improving productivity, increasing levels of happiness and loyalty, decreasing tiredness and lowering the chance of burn-out.
  • Train. Train. Train – Put training at the heart of the perks you offer employees. Top talent are always on the look-out for opportunities to advance. Organisations who provide training help keep talent motivated and happy. Even in – or just out of – recession, it's a two-way advantage: talent becomes more talented making them happier and the organisation benefits from their burgeoning skill-set.
  • Breed leaders – Leadership is a way of thinking. It comprises less measurable soft skills like trust, inspiration, decision-making and character. Nevertheless, to help talent make the transition from individual contributor to effective leader, they need specialist training to help them change the way they think and begin to focus on communications skills, strategic thinking skills, delegation, teamwork, employee development and their personal leadership style.

Helping talent achieve their potential helps your business respond to challenges and move ahead of the competition. And a company with a talented and loyal work force develops a reputation for being a great place to work, thereby attracting other top talent to it, again adding a healthy sheen to your bottom line.