In the “information age” environment, executive recruiters, corporate HR, hiring leaders, team members incentivized by finder’s fees can search for talent faster than ever. With the powers of LinkedIn and Google, they can identify professionals with the skills and background needed, no matter how specific, or how much in demand those credentials may be. My clients consistently find that only days after we expand their online profiles to include details of their expertise, from “Chinese market development” to “brand expansion” to “palliative care management,” they receive contacts from companies and recruiters seeking their specific qualifications.
In the hot growth sectors, there has been a considerable focus on this trend, as covered in the May 2014 issue of Inc.: How to Master the Art of Poaching Employees. Naturally, this creates a challenge for leaders who seek to retain their best players, without resorting to the obvious (and not always successful, and not always possible) tactic of increasing salaries. To provide some additional context and guidance beyond my tips included in the article, I’d like to offer the following:
- Ask and learn first.
Express genuine interest in your employees’ career aspirations. Absorb as much detail as you can, before explaining how they can become more valuable to your organization. Listen attentively to the words they use and the emphasis they place on certain priorities. By asking open-ended questions, you’ll learn a lot in a short time. For example, “What would you like to say about your professional role a year from now that you might not be able to say today?”You can also gain clarity on their personal or work-life priorities which as a leader, you may be able to align with higher job satisfaction and motivation. Follow up with a responsive solution. In one case, a Director at a leading financial services firm learned that her marketing manager regretted not participating in his child’s school events. She suggested, “Would it be helpful if we organized your schedule so you could take half a vacation day every other month to attend your son’s concerts or sports practices?” The marketing manager was relieved and appreciative of this simple solution which only improved his loyalty and performance.
2. Understand the breadth and depth of their strengths.
Take time over lunch or during a one-on-one session to review the backgrounds of your colleagues and your team – you’ll be surprised at the information and advantages you may discover.
Let’s say you’ve been thinking about the potential benefit of better business results analysis. Someone on your team, who is a specialist in regulatory compliance today, may have had a prior role in financial reporting. You’ll never make the association if you don’t fully understand that person’s background and skills. On the other hand, maybe you’ll learn that your Travel Manager was an actor for years after college, and could be useful at trade shows, or in certain client-facing situations which require a strong presence and a bit of dramatic effect.
3. Outline a 12-month plan with mutual clarity and commitment.
After you have listened, then you can propose a win-win match between your strategic needs and their professional and personal aspirations. Have them write up a 12-month professional growth plan for your review. Then agree in advance that you will schedule quarterly checkpoints. Set realistic and achievable goals: the idea is to create win-win momentum, not additional stress or pressure.
4. Remember: they are entitled to feel recognized.
While Shakespeare assures us “that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” when it comes to job titles, people truly care. Once a year, review each person’s actual contributions and role. If possible, collaborate on a title which accurately reflects his or her contributions, within bounds of what your organization allows. Offering the highest, most descriptive title possible will make people feel proud, connected to their role, and recognized. It will likely work in the company’s best interest as well as customers and vendors will also appreciate the expertise of their contacts.
If you try this out and would like to share the results, or ask any questions, please contact me.