Identifying and Retaining Key Talent

Since 2009 companies have been forced to hunker down and ride out or even survive the most recent downturn in the economy.  This meant cutting all unnecessary costs ranging from the marketing budgets to laying off employees.  Most common HR cuts have included minimal to zero merit increases, limited bonuses, cuts in the health care program and of course very little to no training and development.

Although this may have been very necessary at the time all signs are indicating that the economy is in recovery mode and we have to start thinking about reinvesting in our employees, especially our key talent.

When talking about key talent and determining whether we have the appropriate programs and initiatives in place to retain them we often put the cart before the horse and miss the first step which is, identifying who our key talent is.

As a company, you need to analyze and determine what are the performance indicators that your organization values?  This can be different for many companies depending on the industry, competitive landscape and the product or service offering.   According to an article by Bill Gilbert named “How to Identify Top Performers” he indicates that top performing employees must have the right combination of; technical skills,  work experience, academic achievement, accreditation, thinking / learning styles and mental abilities, behavioral characteristics, desire for working conditions and fit with the work culture.

As a senior management team you need to work with your front line managers and determine what are the core indicators that make certain employees outperform others?   Is it their customer service skills and abilities? Is it their technical aptitude?  Is it their ability to deliver when faced with a challenge?  What is it that makes them a “key talent” in the workplace?

Once you have properly identified who your key talent is, you need to determine if you have the proper retention tools in place to motivate and retain them.

Some things to consider when determining this include:

  1. Motivation

    What it is that motivates this group of employees?  It can be different for many; some it could be compensation where others it may be learning opportunities, challenging work or the ability to advance within the organization.  If retaining these employees is important to the organization than it is critical that you find out what motivates them and build a plan accordingly.

  2. Training and development

    As mentioned previously, training and development budgets were one of the first causalities during the economic downturn.  Now as the global economy turns around and aggressive growth strategies are developed it is more important than ever to ensure you have the right training and development programs in place to retain AND develop your already existing key talent.

  3. Opportunities

    Unfortunately you may have lost some of your talent through natural attrition.  Therefore, you need to determine where those gaps are within your organization and either attract externally or use this as the prime opportunity to develop one of your identified high potential employees and groom them accordingly.  There is no better way to retain a key employee than to provide them with a career development opportunity, provided the right tools are put in place to help make the employee successful.

  4. Compensation

    You need to review and ramp up your total compensation programs.   The market place will only become more competitive and many of your key talent may be feeling a little disillusioned with the lack of merit increases, possible cut backs in base salaries and/or lack of bonuses over the last couple of years, therefore may be shopping the market for some new opportunities.  Again, this is a critical time to ensure you have benchmarked your total compensation plans ensuring you are truly competitive.

  5. Engagement

    Lastly, are you involving your key talent in the strategy and development initiatives of the company?  Are you making them feel like they are part of the big picture and a key contributor?  If not, involve them with your strategy sessions or key projects, stretch them, hold them accountable – CHALLENGE THEM!  Many times this is all they are looking for, an opportunity to learn and become more valuable to the organization.  It is a WIN-WIN formula.

As we look forward to a new economic landscape and get excited about growth opportunities it is important to keep in mind that now is a critical time to review your attraction and retention strategies making sure that you maintain that competitive advantage through the retention of your key employees.

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