In today’s intensely competitive environment, human capital is the absolute key to success. Organizations increasingly need lynchpins who can connect silos of knowledge across the enterprise to spot key trends and issues, modify internal processes to deliver the right levels of customer experience and, most important, drive constant change within the company to stay on top of market needs and lead the way.
I find that there is a small but disproportionately valuable segment of the company— approximately 10% of the overall workforce—whose unique blend of skills, knowledge, and experience give them the potential to create high value from the resources their organization provides them. These individuals increase the productivity of others, generate ideas and intellectual property, and most importantly form the intellectual capital foundation of the company. The success of the organization has a high level of dependency on these individuals.
The challenge we continuously grapple with at Connectiva is how to best manage and nurture these lynchpins and leverage their skills and potential to the fullest possible extent.
Retention of such high quality talent is a global issue that impacts companies of every size and in every industry. Key questions to grapple with include:
- How to recruit effectively
- How to identify them from within
- How to cultivate and nurture them
- How to motivate and retain them
- How they can be best leveraged
Establishing the right screening process is very important—remember, training will not fix an ineffective recruiting and selection process or a wrong hire. If you do not invest the energy and time in hiring good people, there’s a high probability that your competitors will. In today’s global village everyone has equal access to information and resources— the real difference is the manner in which successful companies use these effectively.
Today’s top talent has a unique set of needs. Leading such individuals is not always an easy task; they demand the freedom to explore and fail and they expect their peers and leaders to be intellectually on the same wave length. Let’s take a deeper look at some of the common traits they share:
- Pride in Where They Work and What They Do
- Meaningful Work—The opportunity to Make a Significant Difference
- Freedom and Control
- Recognition and Fast-Track Career Growth
- Top-of-Range Compensation Packages
- Flexibility That Allows for Work/Life Balance
A few key things to keep in mind while motivating top talent:
Provide regular and objective feedback to keep them on track and show that the organization cares for their success
Make line managers accountable for retention and growth of top talent
Remove role ambiguity and provide the latitude and freedom for top talent to succeed
Resolve any conflict quickly and seamlessly— use active listening and questioning skills
Encourage healthy competition to bring the best out of your people but never let that degenerate into politics. Ensure that all managers are trained to nip such activities in the bud.
A few key tips for ensuring that your top talent is leveraged to the fullest extent of its potential:
- Institutionalize a structured top talent program that has specific milestones, programs, and initiatives
- Rotate key people across various departments and functions to ensure that they understand different aspects of the business
- Ensure that your top executives take time and effort in mentoring key individuals. This must be a core part of their objectives.
- Keep the list fresh and updated on a bi-yearly basis based on actual performance and provide opportunities for the entire cross-section of the company to participate in such a program. (Do not limit it only to certain levels.)
Just finding top talent is not enough—organizations have to ensure that they can also retain their top resources even before the ink has started fading on their contracts.
There are many reasons why workforce attrition is such a vital concern today:
Loss of key players affects organizations’ short-term productivity and may cause customer dissatisfaction
The cost of attrition—recruiting, hiring, and time-to-productivity—is very steep, especially for software product companies
Loss of top talent to competitors can significantly reduce competitive advantage
High attrition affects morale of the overall workforce
There needs to be an organization wide emphasis—starting with the CEO—on the key aspects of the culture that can lead to better talent recruitment and retention. These include rigor in screening and hiring, on boarding, talent cultivation, and overall employee lifecycle performance management.
If talent management is a critical business objective at all levels in the organization and can be baked into management thinking and decision-making, it can create a significant competitive advantage. You acquire a unique competency to hire, nurture, and retain the best employees who in turn can build great products, acquire great customers, and deliver excellent service. If done well, it also creates depth of management talent, eliminates choke points in the organizational structure, and provides a clear path to sustainable and profitable growth that is very hard for the competition to replicate.