Retention Challenge: To Keep Talent, Prepare Them to Lead - and Leave

Guest Contributorby Ben Casnocha | Posted | Engagement

Retention Challenge: To Keep Talent, Prepare Them to Lead - and Leave

We are all works in progress. It doesn't matter whether you are a recent graduate, a seasoned professional, or reinventing yourself mid-career. Great people, like great companies, are always evolving. They're never finished and never fully developed. Each day presents an opportunity to learn more, do more, grow more - this is the mindset of every entrepreneur.

But how should companies think about the implications of this point of view - with individual professionals managing and investing in themselves in light of a more fluid relationship with employers? How do companies think about HR and retention? If individuals are living this entrepreneurial spirit, it means that if you have 500 employees, you do not have 500 individuals ready to be subservient and loyal for life; rather, you have 500 businesses-of-one who are leasing their talent to you at this point in time.

We wrote The Alliance specifically to answer the question: how can companies change so that they are prepared to recruit, manage and retain those individuals who are revolutionizing their careers? Or put another way, what does it take to successfully manage talent in the networked age?

Visual summary of The Alliance

Instead of denying the job-hopping, opportunity-seeking ways of young talent today, it seems wiser for companies to face the reality and embrace it. Help employees develop transferable skills. Essentially, try to retain employees for as long as possible, but be frank about their likely brief tour of duty, and be clear that you expect them to be active corporate alumni members for the years after they leave the company.

Enable leadership at all levels

In addition to giving employees transferable skills and having honest conversations about business relationships, the key to managing in the network age is enabling infrastructure for effective leadership on all levels of the organization. Employees living The Start-Up of You are born leaders. Leaders have a vivid vision of what the future could be, and rally others to strive for it. Marcus Buckingham suggests that to help develop a budding leader, don't tell him to be humble; challenge him to be more inquisitive, more curious, and thereby more vivid in describing his image of a better future. And then encourage him to channel his cravings and his claims towards making this image come true. Encouraging leadership on all levels of the organization will allow individual employees to envision their future within the company. This, combined with fostering an honest relationship and investing in the employee's skill set, will result in higher value, engaged employees who will be more invested in your company's future.

Bottom line: Talent seeks opportunity.

With opportunity increasingly visible and accessible, talent is moving around more and more. Company executives should be explicit with employees about signing up for a tour of duty for a period of time, provide a clear view of the transferable skills the employee will gain that will increase their value during that time, and foster the entrepreneur within by allowing employees to develop as leaders. This honest relationship between employer and employee will bring about confidence and trust, allowing both parties to engage 100 percent in the mutually beneficial efforts towards a clear and shared goal.

What do you think about tours of duty for your employees? Do you have questions for Ben? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and we will ask Ben to address them when he keynotes March 31 at Saba's Global Summit: @Work 2015 in Las Vegas.

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