Retaining Top Performers: The Wrong and the Right Way

Allen Krom

"What are your tips for creating and communicating a clear career path as a retention tool?"

I received the question above from HRIQ the other day and thought it was worth exploring. And then today I read a blog post by Deidre Honner, the HR Maven. It's a classic example of how not to do the above. Here's a snippet.

Someone doing it wrong

I was contacted by someone who works outside my organization, asking for some career advice... I asked her about her current employer. They are a large area employer with several locations. Seems there would be lots of opportunity and availability to move up the ladder. Or at least try another ladder. Before looking externally, I suggested that she look internally. And I asked her about opportunities for promotion. What she said stunned me. She didn't know.

I thought my hearing failed me. Not only did she not know what opportunities there were within the company, she wasn't ALLOWED to know because she wasn't a manager or a salaried employee.

Wow. I'm just as shocked as Deirdre. If you are a large organization with various types of operations, it is in your best interest to identify the solid performers and do what you can to keep them on board. If it means transferring them to another job that they want to do, then do it. Moving a talented performer around might cause some extra paperwork, but if the alternative is them leaving the organization for another employer, then what is the better choice?

Someone doing it right

My best friend works closely with a company called Bechtel. They are known for finding their "A" players internally and moving them around every 2-3 years. This keeps the people engaged and knowledgeable about multiple areas of the business and it helps the leadership know that they are filling internal positions with quality people. One of their biggest draws for candidates is the opportunity to grow professionally and to have exciting assignments in different areas of the country (or the world, if they choose to go international). They use the idea of a varied career path as a retention tool, and they do it well.

It's a mindset issue

Instead of looking at employees as resources to be hoarded, look at them as resources to be shared. Find other areas that they are interested in and look for ways to get them there. Look for their areas of strength and give them more opportunities to use them. You don't own the people, so don't try to hold them back from doing what they love.

Please feel free to comment below: Does anyone else work for a company that values career progression internally? What about a company that doesn't? How do you think their corporate cultures compare?