How to Retain Top Talent on Your Staff

“Can we talk for a minute?” If you’ve ever been in a relationship, you know this is going to be tough. It’s not much different as a manager of a business. “Sure.” Queue the shaky hands as the door clicks shut.

The next few minutes are cloudy, at best. You’re hearing this employee, one of your best and brightest team players, give the proverbial ‘two-week notice.’ Panic ensues. You nod your head politely, asking questions about where they’re heading, offering congratulations, but secretly you’re in panic mode. You knew this day would come eventually, but not now. Certainly not now.

You know, it’s not much better for them. Something drove them to explore other opportunities, something they weren’t getting from you. Sure, it could be a bigger paycheck or better benefits, but it’s likely there was more than that. Imagine the panic for them when their needs weren’t being met, desperately awaiting the job offer that would help them meet their goals.

In fact, 30% of employees report looking for another position while they are gainfully employed. But it doesn’t have to affect you, too. So how exactly can you retain these talented team members? Let’s take a look:

Recognize Your Talent

“Thanks! That was a big help, and I appreciate it!”

When was the last time you recognized your entire team? I don’t mean a pat on the back to the entire team for completing a project ahead of time, or exceeding expectations. I mean a very specific recognition of a job well done. Can’t remember? That’s a problem. Consistent, timely feedback on job performance is not only valued, but needed to improve the output of your team.

When you recognize a job well done, you feel valued, right? Typically, yes, but some folks are private. Public recognition might be off-putting for some employees, but private recognition is impactful, too. And yes, words count, but so do other tokens. An extra day off, a handwritten note, or even a sincere gesture to an employee (a gift card for their upcoming vacation perhaps) shows that you’re not only recognizing their talent, but you’re listening to them, too.

Keep Them up to Date

When people say they have a bad boss often it’s due to a lack of communication. Sometimes their boss simply isn’t approachable, or they’re difficult to talk to. Other times, their boss is “out of pocket,” not really in the trenches with them. But a great boss, well, that’s a pleasure. They’re quick to jump in the trenches with you and will drop what they’re working on to give their undivided attention to you. The difference between a bad boss and a great boss? Communication.

Communication is so much more than watercooler chat. Have there been some personnel changes? Discuss them with your team together and one-on-one to address any concerns that “they’re next.” Have you had a few rough quarters? Bring up the elephant in the room and tell everyone exactly where the company stands. Employees want to be in the know, too, so keep them in the loop as much as possible. Without keeping an open line of communication, employees typically fall into another trap…office politics!

Beware of the Office Politics

Oh, if only office politics disappeared as quickly as political party signs the day after an election. Employees would be so much happier! Kinda like highschool, cliques or groups form divides within an organization. Sometimes they chat about other people or groups, other times they become aware of pay inequalities, adding fuel to their fire. Office politics help no one, but how you handle them will show your employees if you’re a Screech or a Mr. Belding.

If you’re the supervisor, or even a trusted role model within an organization, act like one and refrain from office gossip. And if you’re not in an authoritative position, and you want to be, you too should stay out of office gossip. The moment you find yourself or an employee as the target of office gossip, try to lessen the damage quickly, in private. And no matter how close you think you are to someone in the office, do not talk about someone behind their back.

Show Them Advancement Opportunities

In a 2014 LinkedIn study, employees said the number one reason people leave one company for another is career advancement. While some employees are okay with the status quo, and have little desire to climb the corporate ladder, other employees choose to leave because they feel they’ve hit the proverbial glass ceiling.

Share with your staff potential opportunities for growth within your company. It may seem elementary, but simply letting the staff know that you’re hiring for a position before it is posted publically, makes a big difference. There’s nothing worse than learning about a job that you would have been a good fit for, after it’s been filled by an external candidate.

Sometimes, there is limited opportunity for advancement within an organization. Does that need to be prohibitive? Absolutely not. Sure a physical job change opportunity may not be available, but these folks typically have a strong desire to learn and flex what they’ve learned in the workplace. I am a huge supporter of hiring team members that are curious about both personal and professional development. I might not be able to promote them, but I can certainly encourage and support them to explore other parts of their position or mentorship of other roles in the organization.

Never Stop Teaching Them

It’s a good bet that during an interview with a potential hire, they’ll inquire about a training program and how it works. In fact, if they don’t ask, be concerned.

People in general want to know what’s expected of them, and what they need to do to achieve the desired results. And, in order for your staff to perform at their peak performance, they need to have a clear direction and an understanding of how your business performs.

For example, maybe you have a staff of salespeople and are bringing in a few new faces. Some may come with prior sales experience while others might be fresh out of school or coming from other industries. Regardless of their background, they should have a solid understanding of how your business sells your product to your potential clients. Don’t expect them to know it all, otherwise you’re likely to see your staff burned-out and possibly searching for a new gig.

And don’t let that initial onboarding training be the only time you’re training your team. Learning is an ongoing process, and directives change over time. Schedule opportunities to regularly train and teach your team. They’ll thank you later.


Behind every empty seat in your organization is an employee that wasn’t getting what they needed from your company, wasn’t cut out for the position, or needed to move on for personal reasons. And filling that seat isn’t always a walk in the park either. Nourish the talent that you do have, and it will go a long way.

Chances are if you’re having that awkward conversation with one of your best employees, and you’ve treated them well, they’ll repay you. Who knows, they might be moving onto a company that can help you leverage your company, and your best brand advocate might now be part of their inner-circle.