How Can You Get the Best People on Your Team, and Keep Them?

In today’s post-recession environment, businesses are operating with pared-back workforces.

Picked to the bone, the burden is placed more than ever on the best-of-the-best people who remain. A focus on results in the best cases — or simply survival in other cases — has burned out many leaders.

In places that have misidentified their leadership talent and thus have an inordinate amount of mediocre performers leading that lean workforce, the burden on the elite few is even greater. These leaders are swimming upstream against a rapid and rising current.

At the same time, compensation and rewards have become commoditized when attempting to retain or attract talent. Early into the recession, companies learned that offering competitive salaries, titles, and rewards for results in the form of bonuses and options could help retain and attract the best.

Yes, these enticements are important and necessary, but they are no longer sufficient. As a human resources executive with the good fortune of having worked in companies with great people and extraordinary leaders, I can tell you that it is imperative that the components of compensation are aligned with the strategic goals of the organization.

The 3 common denominators of recruitment & retention

Today, recruiting and retaining the best talent result is an enormous competitive advantage for those who do both well. My experience clearly indicates there are three common denominators to the companies and their cultures that excel at attracting and retaining top leadership talent. These are:

  1. A leader who seeks input from the team and knows how to inspire and motivate through communication.
  2. A team of extraordinary executive leaders who share similar values.
  3. A high-performance culture that wins.

In their book Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, & Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management, Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton highlight the vital importance of seeking out disciples deeper in your organization.

We can’t find a shred of evidence that it is better to have just a few alpha dogs at the top and to treat everyone else as inferior. Rather, the best performance comes in organizations where as many people as possible are treated as top dogs. If you want people to keep working together and learning together, it is better to grant prestige to many rather than few, and to avoid big gaps between who gets the most and least rewards and kudos.”

They go on to conclude that “rigorous studies DO imply that great people make great organizations.”

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The 4 types of employees

In his model of situational leadership, Ken Blanchard categorizes four basic types of employees:

  • Enthusiastic beginners, who are low in competence but high in commitment.
  • Disillusioned learners, who are still relatively low in competence and also low in commitment.
  • Reluctant contributors, who are relatively high in competence but low in commitment,
  • Peak performers, who are high in competence and commitment. These are your potential disciples.

Continually diagnosing where your people are in the development cycle and flexing your leadership style to meet their specific needs are steps that are paramount to your ability as a leader to develop your peak performers, those self-reliant achievers.

Ironically, though, these folks often remain below the radar precisely because they are so reliable! You can delegate to them and forget about them. These self-sufficient employees allow you to focus your scarce time on other important issues, knowing that they will take good care of the projects, tasks, and areas of your business for which they are responsible. However, these are the very people who deserve your attention most! They yearn to be recognized and challenged further. Seek them out.

Using these principles, businesses can attract and keep the best talent, even through tough times. Show your employees that you are invested in them and in their growth, and make your business a place that people are excited to work at.

David Casullo is president at Bates Communications, a national consulting firm specializing in leadership communication skills and strategy. His passion is developing leaders who have the courage and capability to change the world. His most recent book, “Leading the High-Energy Culture,” has just been published by McGraw-Hill. Contact him at .


3 Comments on “How Can You Get the Best People on Your Team, and Keep Them?

  1. Hi David,
    Thanks for highlighting the importance of nurturing the self reliant achievers in your organization.  You are so right that it is easy to overlook the day-in, day-out contributions of these people.  Organizations that do, however, run the risk of disengaging some of their most valuable contributors.  As you point out, taking the time to provide recognition, appreciation (and new challenges) is a great way to keep these people growing and engaged.

  2. Great article – it would be interesting to explore the dynamics of interaction and influence of the 4 employee types. We can all probably think of those employees with low competence and commitment who negatively influence those of high competence and commitment. Also, interesting to see the difference between perceived competence and commitment in employees Vs actual.
    It’s an all too common paradox that Leaders/firms spend too much time and resources nurturing the low competency, low commitment employees that they end up neglecting the talented employees.

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