How to Keep Peak Performers

by Marshall Goldsmith

Is your company competing for top talent? Do you participate in hiring decisions or developinghow workers are gaining more power leaders? If so, pay attention! The workforce is changing dramatically–in two years, there will be more members of the Millennial Generation than Baby Boomers. The work environment requires increased global savvy, virtual skill, and technological knowledge.

Rapid change is the order of the day, with global mergers, acquisitions and shifts–and the resulting talent and leadership challenge will likely determine the success or failure of your organization between now and 2020.

As they consider opportunities to advance their careers, talented ‘high potentials’ share five concerns.

1. To what degree can I trust you to develop my talents and skills? One talented manager asked for training, and was told that there was no budget for it. Despite the company’s message of valuing the development of people, if training isn’t in the budget, that statement isn’t credible. When it comes to development, do your actions match your words? Will you use skilled coaches and mentors to help talented people leverage their strengths as well as identify and overcome blind spots?

2. To what extent will this job challenge me? Most satisfying jobs combine leveraging individual strengths with a strong learning curve–neither so flat as to lead to boredom nor so steep to lead to anxiety. One fast tracker remarked, ‘Please help me anticipate routine, not make me discover it as an unpleasant surprise.’ Peak performers seek challenges that prepare them for leadership positions.

3. How do you honor requests for ‘next steps’ in my career progression? With flatter organizations, the path upward requires lateral moves. People want to know how a lateral move will round out their skills and prepare them for taking larger roles. Help them see the big picture.

4. What opportunities will this job really lead to? People now expect to have several different careers (not just jobs), and they want to know how the skills they develop in this position will translate into other positions–and to other careers. As top talent is more likely to organization-hop, you must address this issue or expect that the best and brightest will eventually leave.

5. How much will you support my living a balanced life? People are interested in work-life integration issues.

What accommodations do you make for unforeseen family issues? What transfers or global assignments can they anticipate? People may not ask these questions directly, but your answers will determine if they employ their talents with you or with the competition.

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