Finders Keepers: Retaining Top Talent

The holy trinity of engagement: Passion Productivity Profit

After all the effort and expense an organization goes through to acquire and develop top talent, how do you ensure your Key Performers remain for the long run — that they don’t get raided or head for greener pastures?  The best way to reduce your recruitment costs is to hire the right people and then keep them.

Nearly 100% of our executive searches conclude successfully—and if you follow our process, yours will too. But that’s not where the story—or your job—ends. In other words, you’ve found the talent; now you need to keep it.

Keeping top talent is no small feat. Competition for the best and brightest is fierce. After all the effort and expense of acquiring a top performer, the last thing you want is for that person to abandon you for another suiter!

The new hire’s first 100 days will be your bellwether. To ensure you get off to a solid start, the search chair should follow up with both parties—the new hire and the ultimate hiring authority—to make sure objectives have been met and promises have been kept.

For guidance during those crucial first 100 days, read The New Leader’s 100-Day Action Plan: How to Take Charge, Build Your Team, and Get Immediate Results by George Bradt.

But honestly? Talent retention starts way before those 100 days. You should be focusing on talent retention even before the hire, during the recruiting and interview process. That means considering the three C’s of talent retentionchallenge, communication, and compensation—right out of the gate.

When it comes down to it, the most important thing you can do to keep headhunters at bay is to keep all the promises you made to the new hire while you were courting them—even the ones that weren’t documented.


If you want to keep your executive talent, you need to provide a stimulating and challenging environment. That means doing the following:

Conveying the company’s goals, vision, and mission: Key executives need to know where they fit into the big picture. That way, they can position and plan for their own success. To achieve this, you must put measurable performance goals in place, with a formal review process to gauge performance at realistic intervals. Even better, ensure these company goals line up with any personal goals an executive might have.

Expecting excellence: It’s no surprise that top executives want to work with the business equivalent of a Peyton Manning or Michael Jordan. Healthy egos thrive in an environment that not only recognizes excellence, but expects it. You can encourage these types of executives to join—and remain—at your firm by making your company a magnet for exceptional employees. When you earn a reputation for top-level performance, you can bet that top talent will want to join you, and that your current staff will never want to leave.

Allowing creative license: When executives are challenged to reach tough goals, their satisfaction increases. But when they’re allowed to find their own ways to reach them, it goes through the roof. Sadly, opportunities for this type of creativity quickly disappear as the new hire is absorbed by your company’s “system.” Don’t let that happen!

Giving them room to fail: To really flourish, key performers need an environment where they can fully apply their talents and creativity to their job—and where they won’t be punished if something they try doesn’t work. And take comfort: These folks contribute a lot—brain power, education, experience, creativity, energy … the list goes on. They’ll be right more often than they’re wrong!


Good communication is what enables you to spread your company’s goals, vision, and mission; convey your expectation of excellence; and encourage creativity—thereby increasing retention. That means doing the following:

Having two-way dialogue: Successful communication requires allows for a two-way dialogue. Don’t just talk to your talent; listen to them, too. Rest assured: The best performers will go where they will be heard. If you want them to stick around at your company, then you must actively listen when they speak—during the hiring process and beyond.

Giving positive reinforcement: What’s the main reason people change jobs? They don’t like their manager. But the second main reason is a lack of recognition. Yes, financial incentives are important. But for many, honest praise is even better than a raise. A pat on the back may well be the most effective talent-retention strategy going—and it couldn’t be easier to do!

Giving people the power to make decisions: Everyone wants a voice and a responsive ear at work—none more than top talent. Indeed, for these executives, involvement in key decisions is mandatory. If you don’t involve them, they’ll be gone in a heartbeat.


In addition to using compensation to attract top talent to your company, you can also use it to retain them. Here are two compensation tools to consider:

Over-the-top rewards: If an executive’s performance really blows your socks off, an over-the-top reward is in order. Cash, gifts, an invitation to dinner, airline tickets, a weekend getaway, a fishing trip with the boss—all these rewards will help foster a long-term relationship.

If an executive really rocks performance-wise, it’s often due at least in part to an extremely supportive spouse. So if you decide to reward that executive, recognize their spouse, too. Send them both on a relaxing getaway or invite the pair to dinner. Trust us: A spouse who feels appreciated is less likely to encourage their partner to jump ship for a new opportunity!

Long-term financial ties: Long-term financial ties make it expensive for executives to leave before you want them to. As such, these may well be the most important component of any compensation package. Consider staggering payouts or associating payouts with loyalty and longevity. Just be sure the incoming executive views these ties as a positive incentive rather than restrictive handcuffs!