Hold On to Top Employees By Making Them Marketable

Last Updated Nov 10, 2009 9:24 PM EST

When is the last time you gave serious thought to keeping your top performers engaged and happy? If you answered "before the recession," you're not alone. Many managers have faced more immediate concerns about keeping their companies afloat, and this paired with the fact that there aren't a lot of jobs out there right now means that employee job satisfaction might have slid down the list of priorities.

A recent article from the MIT Sloan Management Review warns managers that once conditions improve, the number of executives leaving their companies for new opportunities historically spike.

Elizabeth Craig, John R. Kimberly and Peter Cheese write in "How to Keep Your Best Executives" that now is the time to get serious about employee retention strategies. They list three keys to keeping employees satisfied and happy within your company:
  • Assign challenging work and the opportunities to keep taking on higher levels of responsibility.
  • Provide outlets for learning skills outside of employee's area of expertise and for refining general business skills.
  • Offer networking opportunities, both inside and outside of the company.
Though these seem like common-sense strategies for keeping employees engaged, the authors write, "Too few companies understand this. We found wide discrepancies between what executives want in the way of professional development and what their companies are giving them."

Why the reluctance? Giving employees these enhanced skills and opportunities inevitably makes them more attractive to other companies. However, the authors say this is worth the risk:
Our research shows that executives intend to stay longest with those companies that offer the greatest opportunities to enhance their employability. On balance, a company will keep more talent by helping its executives grow than it would by denying them these opportunities. And as a bonus, its executives will be more valuable to the company itself.
Image courtesy of Flickr user miquelsi, CC 2.0.
  • Stacy Blackman

    Stacy Sukov Blackman is president of Stacy Blackman Consulting, where she consults on MBA admissions. She earned her MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University and her Bachelor of Science from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Stacy serves on the Board of Directors of AIGAC, the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, and has published a guide to MBA Admissions, The MBA Application Roadmap.

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