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7 Secrets to Keeping and Engaging Top Talent

Being a great leader means knowing the right way to nurture and motivate them

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BY Brent Proulx - 14 Dec 2017

7 Secrets to Keeping and Engaging Top Talent

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

There is nothing more important for the long-term health and success of your business than getting the right employees.

But retaining top talent alone is not enough. A good leader knows how to keep them engaged by nurturing, motivating, recognizing, and rewarding them.

Here are 7 ways:

1. Keep your standards high in the selection process

Every manager has done it – you get frustrated at the lack of outstanding candidates and eventually settle for the “best” one in the bunch. But he/she turns out to be mediocre, as well.

The thing is, if you have a team of high performers, they will want to work with other people of their caliber. We call it the Gold Standard for Talent, and every manager should know what theirs is and stick to it — however long it takes to find the best person for the job.

2. Build real relationships with your entire team

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to trust your employees like you do to your friends? Guess what, they want to feel the same way about their bosses.

Take them out to lunch, ask them questions and really listen to their responses, or join in random conversations by the pantry. If you are afraid your employees will take advantage of your friendship, it’s likely that you have hired the wrong people. So start by hiring people you can trust and then build a great relationship with them.

3. Give promotions based on performance, not educational level or tenure

Past experience in a certain role usually has little impact on a person’s ability to perform in a different role. This is especially true if someone is moving into a management role for the first time or making a lateral transition into a very different business unit.

Your best associates are rarely your best managers. The people with the most potential to be great managers have unique talents and a natural ability to lead, coach, and motivate people.

Be aware of the “politicians” on your team who are merely average performers but who excel at propping themselves up. Research by Google shows that these folks are more likely to receive promotions but are much less deserving.

4. Develop great performers individually

Coach, mentor, train, teach, and support them individually. If you can do them well by yourself, then by all means. Or better yet, find someone in your team or department who can. Remember, a generalized, one-size fits all, half-hearted investment is probably worse than offering no investment at all. Call in the experts to help if you have to. They can provide tools, education, and support to help you improve in this area or take over the coaching and development altogether.

5. Incentivize performance with what matters most to each person

It could be money, an extra day off, new responsibilities, or maybe simple recognition. Whatever you do, tailor it to each person. Let’s call this one, Individualized Incentivization.

6. Don’t overwork people, but don’t let them get bored either

Your best bet: ask who wants to take on more or who has the bandwidth to do so. Check in frequently and offer to jump in and help if you know what to do.

The question, “How can I help?” is always welcome.

7. Stand up for your top performers

Even the best people on your team occasionally get bad-mouthed by others; what matters is that you stand up for them. They will be happy to know that you have their back and will be confident enough to take on challenges.


Brent Proulx is a Leadership and Management Consultant at Talent Plus, a U.S.-based global HR consulting firm with an office in Singapore

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