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The 6 biggest retention mistakes … and how to fix them

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in Best-Practices Leadership,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

With unemployment still floating above 9%, it’s a bit easier to find good employees. But keeping the best people never has been and never will be easy.

In fact, one study says a full quarter of your highest-potential employees may plan to jump ship within a year.

What can you do to keep them around? A recent Harvard Business Review pointed to these key retention mistakes and solutions to fix them:

Mistake 1: Assuming that high potential means highly engaged. Smart people need to know why they should stick around.

Solutions: Recognize them early, don’t abandon them, and let them help solve the company’s biggest problems.

Mistake 2: Equating high performance with potential. Yes, low performers don’t usually have high potential, but that’s not to say that high performers do.

Solutions: Look for ability, engagement and aspiration. Ask: “What would entice you to take a job with another organization tomorrow?”

Mistake 3: Delegating leadership development. It’s true that line managers know their people best, but it’s a bad idea to let them manage high potentials. Too often, they’ll provide only narrow opportunities limited by their own units’ requirements.

Solution: Top talent must be developed by senior leaders.

Mistake 4: Protecting them from blunders. Ah, the boomer leader as helicopter parent, always hovering and shielding junior from harm.

Solution: Future leaders need to test their limits, and they may derail. Let them learn from simple mistakes.

Mistake 5: Forcing star employees to share the pain. Under normal circumstances, high potentials put in 20% more effort. Their workload may be even heavier because of downsizing, reduced hours or restructuring.

Solution: Make sure you’re distributing rewards according to employees’ tangible contributions.

Mistake 6: Not aligning your stars to your strategy.

Solution: Have them attend briefings on important issues. One global IT firm gives its high potentials access to a web site that lets them serve as a “shadow board.”

“These are the people who will launch new businesses, find new ways to strip out costs, build better customer relationships and drive innovation,” one HR chief says. “Really, the future of our organization is in their hands."

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