Top Talent Development

Getting, retaining, and growing your top talent isn’t easy, but it is simple. In many ways, it comes down to two things:  igniting passion and good management. Top employees are motivated by challenging work that helps them to fulfill their professional goals. However, even employees who are excited to come to work can be driven away by bad managers. A simple concept, but as I said, not always easy. So, here are a few relatively easy ways leaders can keep and develop their top talent.


  • Give employees opportunities to be leaders – This has two benefits: First, you will never be able to identify your top talent through micromanagement. They need a chance to succeed and also to fail on their own.  Secondly, ownership increases engagement and commitment.
  • Prevent stagnation – Your top employees need to feel as if they are continually being challenged. Give your employees opportunities to take on new work and special projects. Bring them in to do work that has a larger impact on the organization. These new opportunities will promote innovation and keep your talent learning.
  • Learn your employees’ strengths and interests – I talked about the importance of this and how it plays into employee engagement in a previous post. Collaborative technology gives you a unique opportunity to identify the strengths and interests of your employees beyond their day to day work.
  • Show your employees they are valued – An American Psychological Association survey found that 50% of employees who don’t feel valued at work will look for a new job. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Say thank you more often, ask your employees for their opinions, and implement worthy ideas. Let these small things be part of your daily leadership mantra. 


  • Request 360 degree reviews of managers – Not only should managers review their employees, but employees should review their managers. This feedback can be valuable for improving managers and helping them to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Review retention rates at the management level – Go beyond an organization-wide view, and look at your turnover rates from a department and manager level. If you are seeing a repeat issue in one department, it may be time to look at the management.
  • Implement a mentorship program – Give your employees the opportunity to get the career development advice they want. Mentorship gives employees an additional connection to the organization and can increase the motivation of both parties.
  • Enable your managers – Managers need training too. We can’t expect that everyone inherently knows how to be a people manager. Invest in your managers and their development, because ultimately your managers have the biggest impact on whether or not you keep your top talent.
  • Recognize not everyone should be a manager – While many people can learn to become a better people manager, not everyone is meant to be a manager. There are people who can be great in their technical expertise, who can be great project managers, but who ultimately can’t be people managers, and that’s OK.  The important part is to identify those people who can be great managers and those who can’t.

Managing your top talent can be challenging, but it doesn’t require you to completely change your organization. Start by focusing your efforts on igniting the passions of your employees and developing a successful management team. Do you have any other ideas? Share them in the comments.


What I’m reading now: Training Leaders

Practicing anything mildly important, like say skiing or golf, without training is inadvisable. The fact that so many of your managers are practicing leadership without training should alarm you.