Love the Ones You've Got: Retaining & Developing Stellar Employees

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Talented employees don't necessarily equate to business success. Learn how to train a workforce that provides results.

Did you follow my advice in part one of this series? If so, you’ve hired some seriously gifted individuals. Now how do you develop them?

Your talented new recruits certainly have the ability, but are they yet qualified to become a long-term prize asset to your organization?

It’s crucial that you invest in the development of your workforce if you want to make progress in the market—no matter how talented your employees are.

In part two of this three-part series, I’ll share with you some helpful ideas on how you can actively develop your workforce with personal techniques that you can begin using immediately.

Research

Oracle released an interesting study back in June of 2012 on the role of technology-enabled practices in talent management.

I’ll reference this study a couple of times in this post, and all of my recommendations provided are based on what I have learnt from reading this report—I strongly recommend you do the same.

While it’s three years old, I believe that we can take away some highly actionable advice that will make a real difference to the success of your business.

Provide Direction

Oracle’s study argues that a greater understanding of how an employee’s contributions relate to the success of teams, departments and the organization as a whole reaching their objectives will enhance:

  • Interest
  • Commitment
  • Engagement level
  • Retention

My thoughts on this are that talented employees can easily lose their way. Producing great quality work may come more easily to naturally gifted individuals, but achieving an output that is of supreme relevance to objectives is not necessarily related to talent or ability.

You can’t manufacture talent, but you can train talent on the importance of their role in teams, managers, departments and the overall business achieving performance success.

Providing such direction will be a valuable exercise in ensuring your employees are hitting their personal performance objectives and thus assisting in the achievement of wider company goals.

organizational structure

How can you provide this guidance and understanding from a managerial perspective?

  • Introduce—if you do not already have this in place—a comprehensive Organizational Structure and Performance Management Module into your new employee orientation process, detailing the role of each staff member within this system.
  • Holding regular performance meetings in which you discuss employees’ recent achievements and how their work is positively impacting other areas of the business, as well as the role of the related contributions of others too.
  • Encouraging cross-team communication through regular ‘Update Meetings’, use of open messaging software, such as Slack, and organising frequent company-wide out of hours social events.

Use Facts and Data to Establish Commercial Awareness

Not all employees—including those who appear to have a particular talent in their field—will necessarily be fully aware of the end benefits of their work.

Educating your employees on how their actions drive success and revenue—even if indirectly—can sometimes have a stimulating effect on the motivation of employees.

This one isn’t so straightforward to understand, so let me offer you an example:

Say you hire a Content Writer to craft creative, fun-to-read blog posts, web page copy and so on. They know they’re doing a good job; they’re hitting the targets you’ve set them, they’re awash with compliments for their work, and both traffic and engagement stats are up. Looks like there’s not a whole lot more they need to be doing, right?

Well, maybe there is.

What if the content they’re writing has lost direction and is attracting untargeted traffic—that is, traffic that is unlikely to convert into paying customers.

If you’re able to implement consistently and nurture an understanding of their role to the business’ bottom line, they will enjoy greater success in delivering such value.

You can do this by providing frequent, fact-filled feedback and performance-based rewards to keep employees on the right track for doing work that delivers results.

Mentor With Equality

No employee should have more privileges than any other when it comes to their access to training and their right to learn and develop.

workforce equality

Regardless of ability, workplace favouritism should never be utilized—it will only act as a hindrance to the development of your workforce, as:

  • Employees with which you provide less time and respect will feel disillusioned, undervalued and subsequently become uninterested.
  • Employees that you provide with increased opportunities will lose favour with colleagues causing workplace issues.

While it may be tempting to provide your better performing employees with that extra attention, you must remember the importance of maintaining a workplace in which equal opportunities are promoted:

  • Your workforce instinctively appreciates each other’s opportunities in the secure knowledge that their chances will come if they work hard, too.
  • The fostering of an environment with values of collaboration and respect at the core and with no room for negative workplace attributes such as bitterness or jealousy.

Related Article: Guiding Lights: How to Create a Mentor Program for Your Organization

How to implement:

  • Apply a uniform schedule across the company—or at least across each team—for meetings such as one-to-ones, and stick to it.
  • Establish an L&D plan for employees from Junior to Senior level and adhere to the opportunities that are assigned to each development stage within this, regardless of any factor other than performance.

Collaborate on Setting Achievable High-Level Goals

Assigning high-level objectives for your employees is great—they’ll feel valued, empowered and confident in their ability when they hear about your lofty expectations.

However, this isn’t a process you can undertake alone.

The downside of expecting so much from your employees is that they are often more likely to experience stress, anxiety and overwhelming pressure.

That doesn’t mean you should set such easily achievable goals—it just highlights the importance of working closely with each individual employee to set goals collaboratively.

goal setting collaboration

What do you think your employees are capable of? What do you think they can realistically achieve? Likewise, ask each employee for their own answers to these same questions.

How big is the gap? Who expects more of each employee—you or them? Explore the reasons behind any difference in opinion and learn to understand why your employee has a difference in opinion to you.

Once you’re able to understand this reasoning, you’ll be able to address any issues or work together to set goals which both of you are satisfied with.

In doing so, your staff will feel more comfortable and content in the workplace, yet still have the drive to achieve goals which will lead to their personal and professional development and the success of your business.

Encourage Employees to Manage Their Own Progress

I’ve purposefully saved this one until last.

Whilst all the techniques that I’ve outlined above are of immense importance and should be used where possible, you must also encourage self-management if you are to sustain a workforce of continuous development.

self management

Employees that possess initiative, accountability and responsibility for their own performance and progress (both professionally and personally) allow you to focus on important strategic level decisions.

This is, of course, a strategy with a whole array of caveats involved in its implementation, such as:

  • Maintaining productivity
  • Ensuring the completion of work relevant to objectives
  • Challenges encountered in effectively dealing with each staff member’s concerns and issues with these style of management

However, having such an independent workforce:

  • Creates a culture that appeals to go-getters; nobody will feel micromanaged, and employees will be able to work without restrictions.
  • Frees time up for senior management to focus on strategies for brand building and driving the organization forward in the markets in which it operates.

So how can you train your workforce in self-management?

  • Take an interest in what each staff member wants and expects from their role; how would they like their role to expand and evolve? In what direction would they like to take their role in the company?
  • Place more emphasis on long-term objectives and outlining of strategies with clear milestones and objectives.
  • Proactively guide your employees with advice, recommendations and tasks they should consider, but allow them to learn the details and make mistakes for themselves.
  • Empower your employees and support their decisions.
  • Discuss any errors that cause major repercussions and calmly explain how alternative solutions will provide better results.

Related Article: How the World's Top CEOs Manage Their Time

Summary

It’s difficult to know how to approach the development of your workforce. Each individual staff member will have their own agenda, expectations and personal goals.

There’s no singular solution in developing a bunch of talented employees.

Having said that, the recommendations that I have provided in this article are a great starting point in establishing a mutual understanding between yourself and your employees.

In the final part of this 3-Part Blog Post Series, I’ll discuss tactics to help ensure you can retain those valuable talented employees.

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