Managing Your Top Talent
Attracting and retaining outstanding staff is one of the biggest challenges to building a great business. Talent management is another one of these really obvious statements I know, but unfortunately, it is rarely executed well in small businesses. Some firms are able to do the attracting part pretty well, but when it comes to the retaining part, very few firms are able to succeed. So what exactly is the problem?
The Attraction Factor
A common scenario in small business is the need to fill a position, either due to a staff member’s departure from the firm, or because you’ve decided that you need to attract a better person in a key role (be that paraplanner, adviser, administrator, practice manager etc.). You recruit then one of two things happens: a) You find some ‘ok’ candidates, but are so desperate to fill the role quickly that you settle for a candidate who meets some of the criteria, but isn’t quite the right fit, rather than waiting for the perfect person. (This is never a good idea, by the way.) or b) You get lucky and find someone who is uber talented. However, because they’re such a star their role morphs over time from what was advertised to filling all the gaps in your business processes. This person gets lumped with the everything else; the stuff that either you don’t want to do or that others on your team can’t do. This is a waste of great talent. If your new recruit is uber talented, you’ll find they can actually cope with a huge amount of gap filling (for a while anyway)…but, as I said last week, having team members lumped with a bunch of jobs just because they’re the only one that can do them, means they have jobs they dislike but are good at. This is both hugely demotivating and unfair. Eventually, someone with that level of talent is going to become disenchanted with their role and will seek out opportunities elsewhere; where they are appreciated and can focus on what they love to do. I see this a lot with young graduates who’ve got real ability, albeit limited experience in the profession.
Retaining and Growing
It is imperative to identify your talent and establish a talent management programme. In large companies, like Proctor & Gamble, they identify their top junior executives and provide them with a mentor from the senior executive team. They also hold regular functions where the talent can mix with the senior team to gain exposure and get them on the radar. This also gives the senior team an opportunity to start forming opinions on which of them might really have what it takes to fill the senior roles as they become available. Of course, your business may not be as large and well resourced as Proctor & Gamble, but the principles of their program can easily be applied to any small business. It really just boils down to seven simple steps you can take to develop your talent:
- Identify who has real ability within your team;
- Tell them that you’ve identified their talent and want to do something to further their career;
- Slot in some personal mentoring sessions (either with you or senior staff members) to provide a broader perspective on what is happening in the business;
- Hire an external coach or mentor for them;
- Pay for them to do further study (e.g. executive MBA or other appropriate course);
- Ensure they’re working on the jobs they enjoy and which use their abilities (not just gap filling for you or everyone else on your team)
- Most importantly, identify a route to partnership or ownership within the business.
While none of these seven things will guarantee that you retain your best and brightest staff members, it will certainly give you half a chance. The alternative is doing nothing and letting them slog it out in an unfulfilling role, which is a sure-fire way to lose them. You work hard to build your business and attract excellent staff. By focussing on retaining your top team members, you’ll create a culture of excellence, allowing your business to become the powerhouse you know it can be.
By Brett Davidson