Are You Paying Attention….


 . . . to your top talent? If not, then please don’t complain when they walk out the door.  For years, we have been talking about the war on talent – especially for highly skilled professionals in procurement, sourcing, finance, consulting, etc.  Some of our clients spend so much time trying to recruit new talent, they forget to pay attention to the top performers they have right under their nose.

Last week, I read an article in HBR, “The 3 Simple Rules of Managing Top Talent”.  The article immediately dispels the myth that top talent is “highly sensitive to and motivated by compensation”.  Professor Roger L. Martin (the author) notes that in his long career, he has not met a single person where this is the case.  Yet, we have a tendency to use big monetary rewards as a key to managing our top people.  STOP! 

I found his 3 simple rules to be very interesting.  I’d like to share those with you and pepper them with a personal situation I am dealing with right now.

Rule 1 – “Treat Them as Individuals, Not as Members of a Class “

Even though top talent is part of a “superior” class, they still want to be treated as individuals.  They want to be valued as strong contributors and have their contributions recognized.  These are the very employees that companies go to in tough situations and expect something extra but they don’t always reciprocate when that same employee has their own unique requests that need to be met.  In my experience, this can be difficult at times when we are dealing with HR departments that want to treat everyone the same.  My middle son is dealing with this very situation now.  He is a management consultant who is always given the most difficult clients along with team resources that need extra “coaching”.  Yet, when he asks for anything outside the HR norm, he is told that this is the policy and he needs to live with it.  He is told over and over (with money) that he is top in his class but not being treated as an individual is a REALLY big deal to him and one that will most likely cause him to leave – shame on THEM!

Rule 2 – “Provide Opportunity Continuously”

This rule is really important.  High performing individuals want to be challenged continually.  This can be easier in some environment than others.  If you have top talent, make it a priority to find stretch assignments for them and then be there to help them be successful.  Make sure you don’t take this too far and put someone in a situation where they are simply stretched too thin.  My son has been lucky that his firm has kept him challenged but there have been times when he simply had to say NO or risk being completely overwhelmed.

Rule 3 – “Give Pats on the Back”

Believe it or not this is a BIG one!!!  It is so simple to do, means EVERYTHING to your top talent and something we simply don’t do often enough.  Martin states, “Talented people spend all their time doing really hard things.  To do what they do, they have to flirt regularly with – and actually experience – failure.  For this reason, they need regular pats on the back.  Otherwise, they become resentful or sad and drift away from the organization”.  I could not have said it better myself (so I didn’t   🙂 ).  When we ask our top talent to take risks (and we do it every day) we need to acknowledge it immediately and in an individualized manner.  It costs us, as managers, absolutely nothing but pays HUGE dividends.

I think these simple rules are great!  As we work through this war for talent, let’s not lose sight of those super stars that are right under our nose.  Let’s spend less time looking at the front door and pay more attention to who is walking out the back door. 

Let us know what you think and join in the conversation . . . . . . . .


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