Three Steps to Retain Top Talent

To succeed in today’s fast-paced global workplace, companies need to think differently about how to approach employees. Top performers, in particular, must be able to clearly understand what it takes to be successful and have the tools to deliver results. Otherwise they can become disengaged and fall into a career rut.

Top performers often decide to leave an employer because they aren’t getting three important things out of their current work situation: inspiration through exciting work, engagement with a broad people network and clear career paths and development opportunities.

Inspiration. When employees have clear goals, an understanding of how those goals impact the company, the tools to accomplish those goals and are rewarded for their achievements, it’s much easier for them get out of bed in the morning. This clarity of purpose combined with stimulating projects helps inspire employees to give their best.

It is estimated that companies only realize about 60 percent of their projected business results. Up to 40 percent of employee productivity is lost due to poor communication of strategy, misalignment of goals, unclear performance expectations, lack of rewards for high performance, and organizational boundaries and silos. All of these factors tend to build a culture of underperformance where employees tend to focus more on not getting in trouble than actually trying to take responsible risks to do something great.

Studies show that companies that can close that performance gap and build high-performing cultures over time so employees are much more engaged and inspired to do great work are much less likely to have employees get into a career rut.

Engagement. An important part of building a high-performance culture is giving employees the tools to connect with the right people, ideas and information.

New social and collaboration capabilities are breaking down artificial barriers and silos inside and outside organizations, and enabling much higher levels of connection and engagement across broad people networks of employees, customers, partners and suppliers. This is where enterprise social networking, instant video Web conferencing and gamification can play a significant role.

Gamification, which can often help achieve social/collaboration goals, is the process of using game thinking and game mechanics to engage and solve problems. For example, by making it possible for employees to recognize other employees with “badges” and keeping track of key contributions and badges collected, employees become more motivated and engaged to gain that recognition from their peers.

Tapping into these types of mechanisms can create more social, fun and challenging interactions, which can accelerate employee motivation in a significant way. A Gartner study found that 70 percent of the Global 2000 expect to use gamification by 2015 and 50 percent expect innovation to come from game processes.

Simultaneously, instant video Web conferencing capabilities along with enterprise social networking — such as ideas, discussion forums, questions, video channels, expert location and social bookmarking — have also been found to help establish highly connected and engaged work environments.

Development. Forward-thinking employers have long known the importance of having leaders work with their employees to develop a career map that outlines specific development goals and timelines for meeting those objectives. However, today’s fast-paced social workplace has made some traditional talent management processes — such as the annual cycle of setting goals, doing annual performance reviews and assigning development — too slow and irrelevant to have a significant impact.

Instead, organizations must empower their employees to continuously gather feedback on their progress through feedback loops and have access to a variety of real-time formal and informal development activities that have an instant impact on performance.

Applying socially inspired, real-time feedback can create a more effective and ongoing feedback loop so employees get better insight into their immediate performance. This also gives them control of their career as it provides real-time visibility into their strengths and areas of opportunity so they can take stock in their contribution and take the immediate action necessary to position them for career advancement within the organization.

Providing visibility into other opportunities within the organization can empower workers to seize new opportunities they find appealing and may not have learned about through traditional channels. This can be done via an internal job board or sharing via social channels, such as enterprise social networking, Twitter and Facebook.

At the end of the day, organizations need to create a culture of development and ongoing learning so employees feel equipped to take charge of their careers and can see a clear career path ahead of them — instead of a rut.

Chris Tratar is senior director, product marketing, talent management at Saba, a talent management software company. He can be reached at