I’m going to make this brief. Many companies have undergone significant change over the last several years. Heightened consumer expectations, a ruthless business climate, the fast pace of technology, and increasing diversity of gender, culture, and flexible work needs have upended our once reliable talent management practices. The greatest risk to any organization during this time is losing top talent on the bridge from where you are to where you want to be. Here are five strategies you can use right away to keep your top talent engaged.

Be generous and specific with praise.

This is not a time to be stingy with positive feedback. When you hold back, you risk having your top talent wonder where they stand. The longer they wonder, the more curious they become about what’s going on elsewhere. Show gratitude. Express in detail what you value about them and why—the skills, behaviors, and results they deliver that make them so important to your team’s future. Then get other influential leaders to provide feedback to fortify yours.

Find out what motivates them.

Sometimes we refrain from pulling retention levers until it’s too late. Talented employees don’t like when you throw them a bone as a last-ditch effort. It feels disingenuous. If you know your company’s current state is making people antsy, identify what your critical players value. Then provide it. Money? Flexibility? Public recognition? Autonomy? Challenging work? Whatever it is, get on it. It’s “cheaper to keep her.”

Make sure they feel connected.

Strong work relationships minimize the stress associated with change. When employees collaborate, solve hairy problems, and flip dilemmas with people they know and trust, they’re more satisfied at work and feel supported. Difficult issues can’t be solved in isolation—it takes a village. If your employees feel part of a team, they’re more likely to hang in there through tough times.

Challenge them.

Your top employees want to work hard. They want to influence strategy, lead teams, overcome barriers, and break new ground. They want to be part of the solution. Engage them in designing the future state! Entrust them with confidential information that will let them know you have confidence in their ability to facilitate transformation. Everyone wants to feel useful, right? Your top leaders, like “A” students, like to be on the front lines.

Give them a reason to believe.

I saved this for last, but it’s arguably the most important. Smart, talented employees need a vision they can get behind. They want to make a difference and see themselves in a future that inspires them. Sometimes people leave an organization because they just don’t believe anymore, either because you haven’t shown them a version of the future they connect to, or they don’t see a viable path to get there. A compelling vision with an actionable plan gives people hope.

There you have it. 5 simple strategies to keep your hero talent. The job market currently favors results-driven, innovative, and agile leaders. Chances are that’s exactly the kind you need, too! Don’t hang back and hope they’ll be patient through the storm, or assume they know they’re important to you. I guarantee a select few are job-hunting as you read this article.

If you have winning talent strategies to share, please add them below!


Tara Jaye is the author of Say Yes: A Woman’s Guide to Advancing Her Professional Purpose, and speaks across the country about leadership, multiculturalism, and creativity as a solution to business problems.

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