There have been many times when I have had incredibly talented staff on board who I have wondered how I would do without.
I have pondered this greatly and realised that (particularly in a service-based business) without key individuals, you essentially don’t have anything to offer. This factor alone has driven me to better understand my team, what motivates them and how I could ensure that they stay on for the long haul.
Whilst leaders often underestimate the vital role they play on many levels of the business, one factor that is particularly overlooked is the time they spend engaging with and motivating their top talent. And when a leader is pulled in other directions and starts minimising time on this essential function, the results can be disastrous.
It is usually during this time of disengagement with you as the head of the organisation that your talented staff start to become restless.

5 factors contributing to the loss of your top talent

1. Lack of engagement

As a leader, you are looked upon to set the vision. You team needs to feel like they are all working towards a common goal. It’s even better if that vision is broken down into tangible shorter term milestones that you can all celebrate reaching as a team.
If they feel like they are just another ‘cog in the wheel’ and they don’t understand how their scope of work plays into achieving these milestones, then they will become disengaged — and quickly.
It is your responsibility to set the agenda and check in with them regularly to ensure you are all on the same page. I have weekly meetings to go through responsibilities and tasks with each team member, and then a monthly personal coffee catch up that isn’t structured and gives them a platform to air any concerns, talk about how they are travelling towards their bigger goals and anything else they want to discuss privately. It also allows me to give them any feedback I might have, rather than waiting for their formal yearly reviews.
Rewarding staff and recognising their work both personally and in front of the team is also key to further engaging them.

2. No clear career path

While we all have to work towards company goals, ultimately one must remember that each individual is managing their own career.
They may have a very good idea of where they want to go, but some may not and it is up to you to guide them.
This is where setting personal career goals in line with your company vision becomes imperative. This way, not only are they striving for something and overcoming challenges, they are inevitably contributing to the greater good of the organisation.
When top talent start losing faith in their direction, they will look outwardly to compare and that’s when you can end up in hot water as the grass is always greener on the other side!
3. Paid under market value
This is an obvious one, but is often ignored, particularly with staff that have been with you for a long time. I have seen many top talents ‘jump ship’ because they know that moving to another firm will mean a bigger leap in salary, unlikely to be matched through a review/promotion process.
It pays to be well versed in what is happening within your own industry on salary fronts and to ensure that staff is paid in accordance with this, or even in excess if you can afford it.
While remuneration is surprisingly one of the least regarded contributors to whether an employee feels satisfied in their role, it is one that is easy to dangle when a competitor tries to poach them. So you want to take this element off the plate if you find yourself in this situation.

4. Lack of cultural fit

Many HR experts recommend hiring for cultural fit, rather than skill. They believe that ‘fit’ is very difficult to change while core competencies can be taught.
While I understand this, I think it’s important to find a good balance between the two. However, ignoring fit all together is a definite no-no.
For this reason, I abide by the rule of ‘hire slowly, fire quickly’. Our last hire took three months to make because I was not only looking for the right skill set and potential, but this person also needed to be able to fit within our unique team really well.
I have seen amazing talent leave after less than a year despite all my effort to keep them, as they were so good at what they did. Ultimately, it was because they didn’t really fit in culturally and were looking for a different environment. Had I have screened better for that initially, I would have avoided that loss and upheaval within our organisation.

5. Lack of openness with ‘The Boss’

Without knowing it at times, a leader can become very dependent on certain members of their team. And without these individuals, the company would not thrive in the same way. So while most won’t remain with you until their dying day, you want to hope that they stay and grow with the organisation so that you can all flourish together.
But when the time comes that they do need to move on for whatever reason, you want to have the most open and trusting relationship you can so that you can plan for their departure with the smoothest transition possible.
In order to achieve this, you must build rapport and openness via good heart to heart conversations. You don’t need to be best friends, but sharing how you feel about the work regularly means there are no surprises at any point.
I believe that it falls back on the leader to create a platform and safe environment for this to occur.

All in all, keeping great talent really means the difference between a business succeeding or failing. Thus it pays dividends to spend time on your leadership and management skills of your talent.
Other than business development and administration, I would say I spend up to 75% of my time closely working with my team so that they are constantly nurtured, listened to, and developed in the right direction. We not only benefit from it as a team, but our organisation and clients reap the rewards too. It’s a win–win situation really!