Executive Insight: Retaining Top Talent in 2014

Jaclyn Crawford Foresight, Guest Post, Human Resources, Leadership, Management Leave a Comment

Finding power in the question, “What will make you stay?”

Editor’s Note: We asked some of our featured executives what they thought of the recent finding that 21 percent of full-time workers will be leaving their current position in 2014. Here is John Schierer’s response.

Your best talent is always looking for an opportunity, so the survey data is not surprising. Great people are naturally inquisitive, and their work is apt to draw attention. The best way to retain talent is pretty straightforward: Ask them.

This is scary to many employers, who may feel that to ask the question puts the company in an inferior and vulnerable position. However, the mere act of asking someone to describe his or her motivation to stay is powerful and clarifying. Intelligent people understand they may not get everything, but they appreciate the effort.

“The best way to retain talent is pretty straightforward: Ask them.”John Schierer
Organizations get a clear roadmap and insight into retention efforts, and if that top talent describes their retention picture and the organization makes effort to meet that expectation, it is hard for key talent to follow through on any intention to leave. They simply do not know if the next employer will ask that powerful question: “What will make you stay?”

More often than not, when employers guess about retention, they overestimate and exaggerate what they think it takes to retain talent. The guess often starts with outrageous pay increases, bonuses and fancy offices. It sounds clichéd, but it is true: The best people only want to be included to the point they feel like they make an impact.

They may want more customer contact. They may want to cut red tape to make their vision come to pass. If you enable their vision, success and monetary gain may gladly follow, but the mere fact that you allowed them the freedom to execute will be worth as much as a big raise.

One last point: Great performers usually have been achievers all their lives. They did not get a paycheck in grade school. They liked to be told they were better. If you are not paying them fairly, give them a raise, but often great performers still want that recognition that they are the best. If they do not get your recognition symbolically, they will seek it exponentially in their paycheck. They still want to know they are the best.


schierer2John Schierer is Vice President of Human Resources (HR) at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute. He has more than 25 years of experience as a senior HR executive. You can see his 12 Habits for Highly Successful HR Leaders in Forefront magazine. 

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