Benefits, Talent Management

Bonuses Are Nice, But Do You Really Know What Drives Your Top Talent?

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Retention has become a big deal and a top concern for many organizations.

This is acutely true around high performers and employees with very in-demand skills.

And, as with many people issues, one of our first responses is to put more money on the table. Just look at the steady growth (beyond the brief recessionary dip) in the use of retention bonuses over the past 10 years (courtesy of WorldatWork‘s annual salary budget survey):

WorldatworkchartIt’s about the overall employment experience

Not that there’s anything wrong with offering additional compensation to people who bring a lot of value to the organization. It’s necessary and smart in most cases, but it may not be sufficient.

Recent research (Retention of Key Talent and the Role of Rewards) produced by WorldatWork in cooperation with Loyola University’s Dow Scott and Hay Group found that while rewards play an important role in retaining key talent, organizations are best served by attending to the overall employment experience of these individuals and by using a broad tool kit of retention methods, including a proactive process for their development and advancement.

With that in mind, I really appreciated a recent strategy + business article titled Retaining Top Talent: Yes It Really Is About Them by Susan Cramm. In it, she suggests five questions to help leaders get to know their top talent in a conversation that can pave the way for finding assignments and opportunities that will build their capabilities in alignment with their longer-term goals.

5 questions to help know your top talent

The questions are:

  1. What are your proudest accomplishments and biggest disappointments? Why?
  2. What activities energize you and drain you?
  3. How would you force rank the following rewards: financial gain, power and influence, lifestyle, autonomy, affiliation, intellectual challenge, competence, recognition, other?
  4. If you died tomorrow, what would you want your legacy to be?
  5. What is your five-year career goal? If you don’t have one, what’s your “best guess”?

Cramm notes that over the past 15 years, she has yet to meet a leader who could answer these questions about one of their key employees.

She also shares the feedback she receives, time and time again, from the employees who have participated in these conversations. They tell her that it is the first time any supervisor invested the time to get to know them and to actively sponsor their career development.

Are your leaders taking the steps — beyond putting additional dollars on the table — that will truly make it hard for your top talent to leave?

This was originally published on Ann Bares’ Compensation Force blog.

Ann Bares is the Managing Partner of Altura Consulting Group. She has over 20 years of experience consulting in compensation and performance management and has worked with a variety of organizations in auditing, designing and implementing executive compensation plans, base salary structures, variable and incentive compensation programs, sales compensation programs, and performance management systems. Her clients have included public and privately held businesses, both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, early stage entrepreneurial organizations and larger established companies. Ann also teaches at the University of Minnesota and Concordia University. Contact her at abares@alturaconsultinggroup.com.
  • John Ludike

    Redirect part of retention bonus pool funds to employee referral scheme which is performance based and save money as well as improve retention and productivity.