The Role of Leadership in Retaining Top Talent

The challenge of attracting and retaining top talent at various levels throughout the organization is of increasing concern to business leaders and HR professionals.  Leadership plays a critical role in retention, and in fact, is at the center of developing and implementing a successful retention program.


A retention discussion must begin with leadership.  From buy-in to implementation, it has to be a driving concern for all levels of management as well as encompass the broader issues of the nature of work, rewards and recognition, career options and employee needs. 


Retention requires a multi-prong approach and career management is a key ingredient. Ensuring that you have the right people in the right jobs and providing  professional development opportunities that are in line with your company's mission goes a long way to making employees feel valued.  Developing internal "bench strength", succession planning and solid leadership development are just a few of the benefits of a well-crafted career management program.


Many companies have not yet adopted a formal approach to developing their future leaders. Two key reasons for this lack of advanced planning are: management teams do not understand the process for developing such a plan, and secondly, are too engaged in fighting immediate fires to strategize for the future. Here are some activities to get things started:


         Link individual development to business goals.  Individual future executives may have a variety of personal developmental goals, but if they are not linked to the strategic business needs of the enterprise, the development investment will be not be substantive

         Envision the future state.  How will your infrastructure need to change to support your strategic goals? Identify the leadership competencies your organization will need to achieve these goals, not just what has led to success in the past and present.

         Challenge assumptions about who is in the talent pool.  Engage in honest and objective discussion about those who are seen to be your most promising leaders. Avoid rubber-stamping candidates based on political niceties. Seek to find those leaders who not only have the requisite backgrounds, but also the agility to deploy their skills and experience in an uncertain future.

         Start small and build over time.  Determine where there is energy and leadership in the system to address future leadership challenges, and leverage that energy. Many programs fail due to a lack of enduring commitment from the top of the organization.