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"There has been a seismic shift in the war for talent. Those that don't understand that shift and change their approach to talent management are going to fall into a newly opened crevasse from which they may never escape." George Bradt, executive onboarding expert and author

In the war for talent, fierce competition for top minds is the enemy. Leaders who don't have the heart or gumption to act as generals will lose. Those who take the offensive will triumph. It's that simple. The key to victory: striking a balance between developing direct reports so they can perform while ensuring they're not so good that your competition wants them.

Developing the Other Side's A-Team

Scared of losing your best people? You should be. The cost of turnover is between 50% - 200% of annual salary. So, let's say you have 10,000 employees and 11% annual turnover. Your average cost of replacing an employee is about 70% of salary - a conservative estimate.

At an entry-level salary of $30,000, you need to replace 770 people at a cost of $22,500 each. That'll cost $17.3 million. And that's just your entry-level people. Add $11.6 million for middle management, and it adds up to a big pile of "You can't afford to lose 'em."
So don't. Research indicates that employees want - crave - development opportunities. Provide them - but not so well that your competitors reap the benefit. You have to balance your potential loss against their possible gain. How?

  • Inquiring minds want to know. Give your people a workbook, but do not provide the answer key. It's pretty basic, but it can work at the entry-level. Give them the training they want. Just don't supply the answers. Indicate that they are forthcoming and employees should just resume business as usual in the meantime.

  • Give them what they want. The evidence is clear; employees want training and development. Fine. Just don't teach them anything that your competitors can use.

    For example, Apple, Google, Intuit, TurboTax, and other giants love the Go Game. It's a fun "textured," customized scavenger hunt that they use to learn team-building, collaboration, strategy, creative thinking, problem-solving, etc.

    It started off so promisingly: but collaboration, strategy, creativity? No, you are entering the danger zone. Your competitors can make something of that. Instead, leverage the idea of the game. Just hide random objects around your neighborhood. Your people will have fun, get out of the office, and learn very little beyond reading street signs - which is not an in-demand skill in most companies. Win!

  • Promote them. You have no doubt heard of the Peter Principle. Embrace it. If you promote people a step above their skill and aptitude level, you create the "sweet spot" of retention. If they apply for an equivalent position, they will be woefully under-qualified. And working for you starts to look better and better.

  • Hire for fit. Most hire fails occur because of bad fit. Avoid this by onboarding people who share your philosophy of "Stay here, it's fine." Jo-Anne Youngblood of Tulsa, says, "There is nothing wrong with being an average (mediocre) employee... Stop trying to force people to get to the next level....As long as I am meeting the requirements of my job, than that is good enough."

    Truer words.... Find this lady, and hire her. Now.

The only way to win the war for talent is to retain your employees. Ensuring they're mediocre and of no interest to your competitors - that's your secret weapon.

Your other secret weapon?

Disregard everything you've just read - except for that nagging voice that said "this can't be right...".


Larry Hart

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