How To Retain Your Best Staff
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How To Retain Your Best Staff

How To Retain Your Best Staff

Eugene Burke, chief science and analytics officer at global business advisory CEB, discusses how firms should invest in the right employees.


High-flyers are a crucial part of any company’s continuing performance. Our recent research suggests that they are considered to be twice as valuable to a business as other staff.

Not surprisingly then, many businesses are re-assessing their talent programmes to ensure that they are keeping their high-potential (HiPo) talent engaged and committed to them. It’s in a company’s interest to do so, as an increase in the calibre and supply of leaders and managers can drive growth and revenue.

Our research tells us that just one in six employees entering a HiPo programme succeed in a senior role. And this is because organisations are failing to identify the right people for HiPo programmes by assuming that today’s high-performing employees are its HiPo employees for tomorrow. This misidentification is preventing those with the strongest potential from progressing further in the organisation and in their careers.


What is needed is for companies to adopt a clearer definition of the key attributes employees need to have in order to progress to more senior roles. Ideally, these could encompass the desire to assume senior positions (aspiration), manage and lead others effectively (ability), as well as having the commitment to realize their career goals with their current employer (engagement).

Only a third of organisations use valid assessment methods to identify HiPo talent. Rather than relying solely on subjective manager nominations, companies should adopt a systematic process for identifying HiPo talent by implementing objective talent assessment tools to gain and measure each candidate’s motivations, skills and capabilities.


Our research has also revealed that less than half of HiPo employees are highly engaged and do not see their current employer as the place to realise their career ambitions. Companies therefore need to be proactive about engagement and act to mitigate flight risk among HiPo employees by evaluating their engagement and their longer-term commitment to the organisation.

HiPos value recognition – but only one in nine organisations tell these individuals they’re HiPo and just 11 per cent of businesses ask their HiPos to make a reciprocal commitment to the company in return for the investment in their careers. By not informing these candidates and asking for their commitment, companies are losing out on an opportunity to improve engagement.


To be fair, most “effective” HiPo programmes provide opportunities for incremental skill building. However, they fail to prepare HiPo employees for realistic future roles. The best organisations carve out clear career paths for their HiPos and allow them to learn new skills as well as apply existing skills in different roles by exposing them to high-impact work assignments and experiences.

Whilst re-engineering a HiPo programme may not be easy, the right kind of tweaks and moves can improve the success of such initiatives by a factor of 11. Needless to say, there are long-term business benefits of developing excellent leaders, which can be seen in the revenue and profit growth of your company.


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