Are you wasting time and money, as it relates to your leadership development initiatives? Are your efforts truly helping your employee retention efforts?  Do you even know?

As a consultant who advises employers and organizations on building innovative leadership development programs which differentiate star performance for their most promising talent, I am amazed by the amount of money companies spend on development activities like workshops, coaching, and mentoring, without also incorporating employee retention strategies into their programs.

increase employee retentionIf your high potential talent is truly an invaluable company asset, why invest in development if you don’t have approaches in place to re-recruit and excite your participants to stay with the company and implement their newly acquired skills? You are basically developing your top employees to “wow” their next employer versus you!

Recently I was contracted by a company in the automotive industry, to help them create a leadership development program for one of their high growth divisions that had been deemed to be integral to the company’s competitive advantage in their industry.

The company’s lead representative was an executive I’ll refer to as “Alice”. My team partnered with Alice’s team to begin our strategic design sessions to map out the critical leadership competencies to be developed and the best experiences which would align with their company culture. During the session, I asked Alice to define what success would look like in 12-18 months, regarding the program. She stated that making sure the program participants had truly grown their leadership skills was a top priority. And then Alice added, “Oh, and whatever we do, we need to ensure that they don’t leave us high and dry by going to the competition!”

When I asked what approaches were in place to monitor and react to employee retention risks within this valuable group, Alice turned a bit pale and stated, “I’m ashamed to say nothing is in place. Can you help us with this as part of the project?” Of course, I was happy to provide options for her team to consider.

Alice is not alone. Incorporating employee retention strategies within development programs is an opportunity missed by many organizations. However, it is an easy way to increase the return on investment of your leadership development initiatives for minimal incremental costs.

“Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.”
~ Robert McNamara,
former president Ford Motor Company

Not quite ready to implement a full-scale employee retention effort within your leadership program? Allow me to offer some suggestions to bridge the gap. Here are 3 employee retention tips that you can start tomorrow to keep your employees hungry to keep their current employee ID badge:


Be Clear on the win-win proposition of “the Ask”:

Nobody wants to be reduced to merely being a member of a group – no matter how prestigious the status of the group. Top employee talent wants to connect with you and the organization on a one-on-one basis. How can you facilitate this kind of high-touch employee engagement experience in a scalable way?

Star talent usually are excited to demonstrate their expertise in a way that makes a difference to the company’s goals. However the abandonment rates for initiatives which were suggested by them but not seen through to completion is staggering. Why? Face it, if managers and senior leadership do not express their delight and support of the employee’s new ideas (which is usually incrementally more than their core job description), the employee will stop trying to execute their efforts. If this happens, the employee-employer relationship may become irreversibly scarred and the employee retention risk increases sky high!

One foolproof strategy? Be clear on the win-win proposition of your “ask” of the employee. Work with them to prioritize one mutually agreed upon new initiative at a time. Make sure it is one that both the employee and the company highly values. Book time on the calendar to have ongoing conversations with the individual on their progress and give your own mentoring advice along the way. A 5-10 minute weekly check-in will do wonders to ensure your employee feels valued and will want to stay with your organization.


Prioritize the Development Experience:

Only 1 in 5 high performing employees receive ongoing, quality feedback on their development. There are many reasons why this happens, but one of the most common reasons include their manager and/or stakeholders feeling ill-equipped to provide value-added mentoring and support. And we wonder why rising stars are frequently looking for greener pastures elsewhere?!

Many times, passionate individuals just want to be heard. Top employee talent who feel valued and heard are MUCH more likely to feel personally invested in the company’s success, want to retain their employment, and be the loudest advocates for their employer’s brand as a “employer of choice”. With 78.6% of job applicants making the decision to apply based on what they find in their personal research, employers need to make the most of every opportunity for a favorable review. Don’t know how? Teach your people managers, mentors, and key stakeholders.


Don’t Forget Employees who are “on the bubble”:

meeting over coffee When most companies evaluate their top employees during talent reviews, many times there are a list of employees who just barely miss being placed on the list for the company’s current succession plans. We frequently call these employees as individuals who were “on the bubble” to making the list.

Why not invite these employees 1-2 times a year for coffee or lunch, to get an update on their latest performance and achievements? Keep a close eye on the progression of their development. In 6-18 months a few members of this group may have gained more experience and closed the identified gaps to their readiness for roles of larger scope and responsibility. How great you would be perceived by your own leadership if you were able to report which individuals of the “on the bubble group” have risen to become the cream of the crop! With just a little time investment in nurturing these high performers, you can potentially save 75% in recruiting costs by not having to source a new candidate of such high caliber with similar unique skills.

Want to brainstorm some additional employee retention strategies for some of your top talent? Or interested in exploring adding a strategic employee retention component into your development programs?  Let’s chat.  We’d be honored to partner with you.

P.S.  If you liked this post, I have a sneaky suspicion that you may be interested in joining our community of career-savvy ultra-achievers!