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How do you retain star performers?

The war for talent

Finding great team members is often referred to as the war for talent and with good reason.

Have you tried hiring a paraplanner lately? Not only are you competing against market forces (as there aren’t enough of them), but the outsourced paraplanning firms are growing and hiring, and they offer some pretty attractive benefits, such as home-based working.

Attracting and retaining great people is one of the keys to building your business. I would spend more time on this issue in my consulting work than almost any other.

Recruiting great people is one thing, but retaining them is another. Clearly the two go hand in hand. You’re unlikely to attract great talent by accident. They’ll spot any over-promising a mile off in most cases. However, if you do fluke a great hire, unless you can deliver an attractive work environment you’re unlikely to keep them.


Because star performers have options. They can pick and choose between employers. Clearly they want to get it right before joining, but if they do get it wrong they won’t be hanging around for long.


So how do you retain talented people?

It’s primarily about fulfillment. Good people want to keep growing, learning and developing their skills. Generally that’s how they’re wired anyway, but it also keeps their working life fun and interesting. Here are a few ideas on how you might keep your top team fulfilled:

1. Career path planning

It’s important to be having conversations about their future on a regular basis.

  1. What directions do they want to travel in careerwise?

  2. What aspects of the job are most interesting to them?

  3. How could you get them doing more of what they love and are good at?

  4. What areas would they like to develop further?

  5. What parts of their job do they like least?

  6. How could you get rid of some of those aspects of the job – via outsourcing, or moving tasks to other team members who like to do them

If high performers can see a future with you they are much more likely to work hard and stay with you.

Make sure you are not making assumptions about the direction they want to go. Really listen.

For example, don’t assume all paraplanners want to grow up to be advisers. Some do. Some don’t.

2. Use your coaching skills

When you speak to your clients you ask lots of interesting open questions. This approach lets the client discover for themselves what an exciting or secure financial future might mean to them.

Why not apply those same skills to your staff? Ask them George Kinder’s famous three questions, or any other open questions you use with clients. The aim is to help your star performers uncover what nirvana looks like for them. This might take many conversations over a number of months or years. As they progress new exciting opportunities will open up for them and for you.

Use your coaching skills to help your top talent keep peeking over the career horizon. It shows you care and also keeps people engaged.

3. Progress them faster

I’m a fan of progressing people a little faster than might feel comfortable for the owners and the individual too. I don’t mean throwing them off the deep end to see if they can swim. I mean giving them more responsibility in the areas that they want to move forward in, accompanied by a scheduled programme of training and close mentoring.

Sometimes rapid progression allows both parties (employer and employee) to discover new talents and abilities. It’s great to have people in their stretch zone.

Don’t limit people unnecessarily and don’t make any failures a big deal. You can set this up by letting your talented team member know that you want them to try things. If they get stuck or it doesn’t work, you’ll sort it out. No biggie.

The majority of life’s learning points arise from what might be deemed as failure. Don’t let these situations go to waste. Stretch people, and then use any challenges or mistakes as teaching opportunities.


Money makes the world go round

One last thing, it is about the money.

Top performers know they are top performers and want to be recognised. That means paying them more than the rest.

So if you believe someone is a star, be prepared to pay. Top performers are worth 300-400% more to you than average performers. Paying at the higher end of the salary band for someone great is a smart investment. That could be salary and bonuses, unpaid leave options, home working, or even equity in the business at some point.

It goes without saying that the money alone won’t keep a top performer, but it’s an important issue to get your head around.


Business got talent

As part of your planning for growth I’d encourage you to have a talent management plan. Get specific about what you can do to retain and develop the talent you’ve got.

Let me know how you go.


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