Your Super Stars – Will They Still Love You Tomorrow?

Today’s guest blog post is written by our board member and VP of Editorial at ERE, John Hollon.  John writes below about what it takes to retain super star employees.   Read on to learn the magic formula for retaining your high potential employees.  (Spoiler alert – it’s harder than just throwing more money at them.)

No matter how well your organization is doing today, your ability to excel tomorrow depends on growing your up-and-coming employees into the high-performance performers of the future.  But, are you really worried about keeping your starts of tomorrow? Well you should be, because all of your competition is.

A new survey this month  by the global coaching and leadership development firm OI Partners shows that employers are growing increasingly anxious about losing their “high-potential” employees.  Not only are these workers being targeted by other companies as they hunt for talent in our slowly recovering job market, but these are the people generally considered to be the greatest flight risk, the ones on your staff  most in danger of suddenly bolting for another job.

Even more troubling is the fact that although high-potentials are an important source of a company’s future management team, many of the employers surveyed believe that they simply do not have enough of them on board – making potential losses all the more critical.

In fact, the survey numbers show the depth of the problem:

  • Some 78 percent of companies say they are worried about high-potentials quitting;
  • About a third of employers (34 percent) report and increase in the departure of high-potentials over the past year;
  • Almost half (48 percent) of employers consider high-potentials as their greatest flight risk, particularly as the economy improves;
  • Some 49 percent of companies feel that high-potentials are their biggest source of future leadership, yet nearly one in four organizations (37 percent) say they currently do not have enough high-potentials on board.

Yikes, this is a bleak picture.  So, what CAN employers do to keep their high-potentials in the fold?

Well, more compensation and benefits are nice (and 47 percent of the companies in the OI Partners survey said they are doing that), but that may not be the answer.  Roland Smith, a lead researcher at the Center for Creative Leadership in Colorado Springs recently told SHRM’s HR Magazine that high-potentials can replicate salary and benefits pretty easily elsewhere.  “What they’re looking for instead,” Smith said, “are the things that truly differentiate employers. These include opportunities to more directly influence and direct their careers, and more challenging assignments with real risks and rewards.”

It’s the same old things that executives keep getting told but then promptly forget: people want to feel they matter and are making a difference, that they are being challenged, and that they get rewarded well when they meet those challenges.  Is this so hard to remember, or to accomplish? I think not, which is what makes the results of the OI Partners survey equally surprising AND depressing.  Corporate leadership knows exactly what they need to do to keep their best and brightest in the fold, but all too many simply aren’t doing it.

There’s a lesson in all of this: you need to closely pay attention to the answer after you ask the critical question.  Failing to do so will simply put you in the basket with the 78 percent who are worried that their high-potentials are going to leave them.  And really, is that where you want to be?

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