Keeping Top Talent

A company's employees are its greatest asset. But your best staff members may be tempted by new opportunities at any time - and in any economy. That means you must consistently give them compelling reasons to stay on board.

Managers must redouble their efforts to retain top performers, especially their most tenured staff. Keeping salaries competitive is a good start, but money shouldn't be your only retention tool. The key is to be creative. Here are some clues to ensure your star performers stay happy:

Look for red flags
Don't assume your employees are content because you don't hear rumblings. All too often, the first sign of dissatisfaction is a resignation letter. Regularly touch base with your staff to determine their feelings regarding workloads and office dynamics. This can alert you to possible warning signs that may be affecting morale.

Tailor incentives to the individual
There is no "one-size-fits-all" formula for developing the perfect compensation and benefits package. Be as flexible as you can with the incentives you offer. For example, if a key staff member has a lengthy commute, consider offering flextime. The more you can adapt to your top performers' needs, the more likely you'll retain these key players.

Build many ladders
Establish a customized career path for each employee. Some designers, for example, may not want to move into a director role if it requires managing others, but would rather pursue an advanced design position with increased responsibility. Make sure there are multiple opportunities for professional advancement that entail various responsibilities.

Create challenge
If employees feel they've hit a career plateau, they'll be more inclined to leave. Give them challenging assignments that stimulate their minds and affect your organization. Additionally, encourage your staff to attend trade shows and industry events, and support their continuing education efforts.

Keep on the cutting edge of technology
Computers and software are a creative professional's primary professional tools. Invest in the best equipment your budget allows so your staff feel equipped to deliver the best results possible.

Avoid overloading employees
Often, the superstars of an organization are the first to burn out since they're entrusted to manage many key projects and may have difficulty turning down requests. Avoid the temptation to channel too many tasks to key players. Instead offer your most creative, high-profile jobs as rewards and promote balanced workloads.

Recognize their work
Never underestimate the power of praise. Creative professionals want to work where their talent is recognized and appreciated; genuine compliments let them know their contributions are valued.

Your top performers give your firm its competitive edge. By taking proactive steps to keep your team professionally challenged and fulfilled, you'll reduce turnover and ensure consistency in the quality of your work.