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Talent Management Strategies to Retain High Potential Employees

Talent Management Strategies to Retain High Potential Employees

By: The Recruiting Training Corner

What constitutes a “high potential employee?”  Depending on who you ask, it’s generally regarded as the top 3 to 5% of a company who demonstrate high levels of contribution. And while every organization may have its own twist on that definition, there is consensus that this group is always in hot demand. 

So why do many companies invest a lot of effort into recruiting these employees, but then do very little by way of talent management and talent development to retain them?

At a time when this type of talent is so crucial, organizations must put employee development strategies in place to avoid the pitfall. Below are five such strategies that you should be thinking about today.

Pair them with effective mentors. The Odyssey of Homer introduced us to Mentor, Odysseus’ trusted advisor. Today, we commonly use that word to mean a more experienced person who can advise and teach us.  

Corporate environments have taken notice of this talent management concept and have started implementing more structured mentoring programs. These can be a very powerful tool in acclimating employees to the corporate culture and values.

Mentoring can also be enormously valuable for those high potential employees who thrive on interaction with influential colleagues. The difficulty lies in finding that perfect match between a seasoned employee with the willingness and openness to mentor someone, and a high potential employee who respects that mentor and is eager to incorporate the knowledge. But when that is achieved, it can be a great employee retention approach.

Give them high visibility assignments. Giving high potential employees high visibility and meaningful assignments is key to keeping them engaged. This can take on many different forms. Think about handing over stretch assignments that are pivotal to the organization’s success. While this may frighten some managers, it is important that these employees be given challenging opportunities that are outside their comfort zones. They may make mistakes along the way, but that’s a necessary part of their employee development.

Other things you may want to explore include rotation to a supplier or partner, swapping positions, coaching/mentoring, or other creative talent development solutions that expand a high potential employee’s visibility and depth of experience. 

Openly communicate with them. This may seem like “stating the obvious,” but if a high potential employee has a concern, or an idea, it is in the organization’s best interest to listen. 

Give them the one-on-one attention they deserve with all levels of management and foster their creativity. You may also want to consider communicating that you believe they are high potential, and as such, enormously valuable to the organization. Some managers may worry that this will cause the employee to develop a sense of entitlement, but the more likely scenario is that it will boost their desire to work toward fully realizing their potential. 

Invest in their learning and development Think about other types of learning and employee development opportunities that you could offer, beyond certifications or employee training programs.  

This group yearns for dynamic and ever-changing tasks.  Is there an opportunity for an employee to be sent overseas for an extended period of time?  Is your organization large enough that it can implement special “tracks” for high potential employees? 

Many organizations are coming up with talent management structures that allow one employee to touch many facets of the organization, from sales, to marketing, to customer service. For those employees who thrive on constantly learning, what better opportunity than to have assignments in all of these different roles? Remember that if you implement something like this, the employee must be empowered to actively participate in the planning of his or her career development.    

Measure progress quarterly. Given that companies measure themselves on a quarterly basis, wouldn’t it make sense to take your high potential employees and measure them the same way?    

If you’re not thinking that way today, you should start. By exposing this group to mentors, new and high visibility projects, position swapping, etc, you are putting them in unfamiliar territory. 

Instead of waiting until the end of the year for the performance review, implement a proactive quarterly review that provides them with more immediate feedback. In turn, this feedback can be used to improve the employee’s performance in the short-term, thus improving overall performance and communication at all levels. 

Regardless of where your organization stands at the moment, it is imperative that deliberate talent management strategies be put into place in order to grow and retain your high potential employees.   You simply need to understand the state of your particular corporate environment, and then implement those ideas that fit your corporate culture and resources.