Five Steps to Retain and Grow your Talented Players

By Morag Barrett, CEO and Founder, Skye Associates LLC and CWCC Member

There is no doubt that the last few years have been challenging for businesses of all sizes.  With the economy beginning to show signs of recovery, we are starting to hear a collective sigh of relief as companies anticipate better years ahead.  But slow down there, as things start to improve your business could be at a huge risk of losing your most talented players or maybe worse still, keeping your disengaged employees.

According to the Blessing White 2011 Employee Engagement Report:

  • 31% of employees are engaged, and 17% are disengaged.
  • More employees are looking for new opportunities outside their organization than in 2008.
  • Employees view opportunities to apply their talents, career development and training as top drivers of job satisfaction.
  • Managers are not necessarily doing the things that matter most, for example building effective working relationships with their team members, to build an engaged team.

What can you do to retain and grow your own talented players?

  1. Pay attention to your talented players. Make sure that you spend more time with your star employees than your troublesome employees.  Find ways to involve them in projects and other parts of the business that might not otherwise be available to them.  Remember, your best employees ALWAYS have options and will be the first to leave; they have a history of success.
  2. Conduct a ‘stay-interview’.  Many organizations conduct ‘exit-interviews’ when people are leaving a company, but by then it is too late, your talented employee has already made the decision to leave.  Instead, get ahead of the game, and sit down with your team members TODAY and find out what motivates them; what their career aspirations are and what frustrates them. Ask why they choose to stay with the company and what might cause them to leave.  Identify how you can help and involve them in creating a development plan that keeps them in your organization.
  3. Tackle poor performance immediately.  Before an employee becomes ‘actively disengaged’ there are usually tell-tale signs and symptoms that indicate all is not well; results may drop, attitudes become cynical.  Ensure that you clearly articulate expectations and hold everyone accountable for both the results they achieve and how they go about achieving those results.   
  4. Take a talent snapshot.  Are you leveraging the strengths of everyone on your team or relying on just a few ‘go-to’ people?    Identify opportunities to develop your team members through on-the-job experience, coaching, changes to assignments or team roles.  Give your employees the opportunity to do their best work and ensure that they look forward to coming to work every day.
  5. Develop the leadership and management skills of first-line managers.  Best-in-class organizations provide training and tools to managers to help them better engage their employees. Gallup’s quote that ‘people join companies, but leave managers’ is as true today as it has ever been, research continues to demonstrate that a person’s immediate line manager is the single biggest influence on their engagement — and whether they decide to stay.  Given that employee turnover can cost between 35% -250% of annual salary, it clearly makes good business sense to help managers keep their employees engaged.

What steps are you taking to keep your talented players engaged and growing your own leaders? What additional advice do you have?

With over 25 years of experience in business and leadership and executive development, Morag Barrett is the CEO and Founder of Skye Associates LLC, Denver. Skye Associates is a woman-owned, international leadership development consultancy that is focused on you, your business, and your success. Celebrating their 5th birthday, Skye Associates has provided high impact leadership and management development programs, high performing team and executive coaching to leaders and managers in over 22 countries and on 4 continents. For more information visit

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