HR strategy: How to engage and retain your MVPs

Ben Egan

As the war for talent rages on, big companies face a battle to keep their top talent. Just like in elite sports, the best of the best—the most valuable players—are highly-coveted. HR professionals: You must act fast to make sure you have the strategy to help your organization engage and retain your MVPs. We’ll tell you how.

Identifying your talent

This may seem like an obvious place to start, but many large organizations are still failing to identify and track talent—at least not consistently, anyway. The result is that talented people go unnoticed. They aren’t developed, given stimulating work or rewarded. They get disillusioned and move on. With the right strategy, this is entirely avoidable.

The first thing to do is to define what talent looks like in your organization. What traits, skills and experience mark your people out as talent?

Answering this question will help you develop a commonly-understood definition for talent across the business, and will mean you’re able to identify your top talent. And, once you’ve found them, you can track their progress and develop them in line with your business strategy and succession plans.

Engaging your talent

Employee engagement is already on the radar of most HR pros. But when it comes to engaging your top talent, research suggests some different rules apply.

By definition, your MVPs will be fiercely driven and ambitious people. The research report "Engaging for Success" highlighted the most important factors for engaging high-achievers as:

  • Being given an interesting work environment
  • Having a say in decision-making
  • Having a clear career path.

Leaders and managers also play a big part in retaining top talent. It’s a commonly-held view that employees leave managers rather than jobs so assess and develop your managers’ capabilities to ensure they aren’t driving talent away.

Retaining your talent

How do you go about retaining your top talent? Increasing employees’ salaries is the obvious—but short-sighted—answer. In our experience though, it’s not quite that simple.

Of course your top talent will expect to be well-rewarded financially. This is a given, really. These employees will know their worth and will know they could just as easily go to one of your competitors and command a comparable salary.

Ultimately, you need to understand what drives your top talent and ensure you’re giving them what they need to retain their expertise.

Below, are five steps HR pros can use as a framework to better engage (and retain) their MVPs:

  1. Ask them about their workplace experiences, motivations and what drives them (do this through an engagement survey, focus groups, one-on-one with a manager or coach)
  2. Act on that feedback and make the process transparent
  3. Communicate the vision and give feedback on how talent can progress
  4. Embed performance and development programs establishing personal development plans for talent
  5. Review and manage performance and development regularly, identifying skills gaps and succession plans offering talent clear career progression and continuous challenge.

Ben Egan is a consultant at UK-based HR consultancy and bespoke technology firm ETS. The company works in partnership with global companies including PepsiCo, Vodafone and The Royal Bank of Scotland on employee engagement, development and appraisal initiatives.