Beating the Talent Statistics

Geek 5, Managing people

In a previous post, we discussed an article written by Jean Martin and Conrad Schmidt called “How to Keep Your Top Talent” from the May 2010 HBR.  They presented some frightening statistics about the risks of losing high potential employees.   Continuing the conversation, we’ll cover some of the mistakes they discuss in the article. 

Don’t assume engagement

One mistake is to assume that HiPos are highly engaged.  The statistics indicate that many of them are considering leaving and don’t give full effort.  HiPos tend to have out-sized expectations and realize they have lots of employment alternatives.  This can make them edgy and restless.  HiPos are often the first people to be disappointed when the company’s struggles impact compensation and opportunities.  They don’t want to tough it out.  They want to be rewarded and recognized for their contributions.  In these cases, managers and companies need to be creative in offering developmental opportunities and visibility to HiPos to keep them engaged.

HiPos are corporate assets

Another mistake is delegating the development of HiPos to line managers.  Martin and Schmidt argue that HiPos should be managed more centrally.  This allows the HiPos to be developed without a negative financial impact to the department.  It also prevents a line manager from “hoarding” or hiding good talent.   For the most part I agree with this advice.  HiPos should be treated as corporate assets.  However, they also have an operational, line role that needs to be managed by the line manager.  In my view it needs to be a partnership between the line manager and the larger organization.

Check out the article for details on other common mistakes made in dealing with HiPos.

Don’t forget the needs of the organization

It is a good article, but I do take issue with one aspect.  The article gives all of the power to the HiPo and only focuses on what the company can do to satisfy and retain them.  I believe that it needs to be a balance.  There are times when the needs of the organization must trump the needs and desires of the HiPo.  They might need to stay longer in a critical role and not advance as fast as they would like.  They might need to take a pay freeze along with everyone else.    HiPos are usually worth a special development focus.  But don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.  Don’t reward one person to the detriment of others.  Keep a balance between retaining HiPos and running the business and treating all employees well.  HiPos alone cannot run a successful company.  If you balance too far in their favor, you could damage your business.

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