Getting and Keeping the Best: The Battle Continues

By Steven E. Sacks, CPA, CGMA, ABC

In the years following the Great Recession, companies have decided to do less with more. How they make a decision on whom to keep is open to much debate. Are the decisions performance-based? Are they based on special favors? Are they based on the hope that someone has the potential, but is not readily apparent?

In those companies that misjudged what they thought was talent now have to settle for mediocrity lest they have to start over and replace the individuals. Studies have shown that the costs can amount to four to five times the annual salary of the replaced individual. The Society of Human Resource Management conducted many studies about the burdens to companies that need to replace their people. A leaner workforce can be exacerbated by less than stellar performers. The more competent or star workers now have to fill the gap and lead the underperformers. It is any wonder why the staying power of leaders is not what is once was?

Organizations have to hustle to keep it all together. At one point during the Great Recession, offering competitive salaries, bonuses, benefits and the like were the dangled carrots, but now they seem to have lost their allure in hopes of keeping the best performers. What is the missing piece(s)? Is it the vision and mission of the company? Is it the values and the promotion of actually “walking the talk”?

Maybe a revisit of the goals of the organization and the roles everyone plays can is the missing link. As I previously wrote, the more people you get involved in the direction of the organization the better chance you will retain and eventually attract the best of the best. There’s no guarantee, however.

The Pursuit of Talent Recruitment and Retention

Much has been written in journals, trade publications, blogs, etc. of the best ways to beat the competitors is by securing the best talent available. There is no secret sauce. In fact, the formula for recruiting and retaining the best people is a combination of leaders who know how to inspire and to share information; a “tone from the top” by leaders have no differences (read daylight) in their philosophies; and a culture that has been formed and baked into the work environment. It’s curious whether all industries can achieve this (or, if in fact, want to pursue it).

Check out the book The Talent Section and Onboarding Pocket Tool Kit: How to Find, Hire and Develop the Best of the Best. It covers such topics as the Job Market Isn’t What It Used to Be (and neither is the talent); H.R. Landscape: Lean, Flat and Stretched to the Max; and Where Is the Talent and What Is it Thinking? The topics should give any Human Capital manager professional or Chief Talent Officer food for thought.

The hierarchical nature of business separates the top dogs from the proletariat. But this dichotomy breeds dissension and can only be cured by allowing everyone to be treated like a leader. This elevation of people to roles of decision makers can only cultivate goodwill. This reduce the “us versus them” syndrome and brings out the best in all people. As a result, the best of people creates the best results. Everyone learns and collaborates together. This is not a new-fangled way of operating but it takes leaders out of their comfort zones. If leaders look long-term, they will see that this can only deliver positive results in performance, which then translates to a more robust bottom line.

Leveraging the Employees You Already Have

Much has been written by Ken Blanchard regarding situational leadership. Blanchard has identified four types of employees, each having his or her own ability to contribute to the organization. The predicate for this type of leadership is to develop people and their work groups, establish rapport to bring out the best in their people, and most important, employ a common leadership style across all units in an organization, irrespective of whether the organization is regional, national or international. Blanchard, in his thesis describes four types of workers:

  1. Enthusiastic beginners, who are low in competence but high in commitment
  2. Disillusioned learners, who are still relatively low in competence and also low in commitment
  3. Reluctant contributors, who are relatively high in competence but low in commitment
  4. Peak performers, who are high in competence and commitment. These are your potential disciples.

As a leader you should evaluate how you can use your style to meet the needs of each of these types of workers. Of course, your peak performers are the least of your concerns; you can wind them up and they go all day. It is the other types of workers on which you need to focus your attention so that you can create a roadmap allowing them to transform from enthusiastic beginner to peak performer.

By closely monitoring your people and taking the right measures to get them more engaged, you can recruit and retain the best talent, whether in good times or bad.

If you show you are invested in their success, why would there be a reason for them to leave?


About the Author

Steven Sacks is the CEO of Solutions to Results, LLC, a consultancy that specializes in helping individuals, firms and organizations meet the challenges of communicating with clarity and purpose. Visit his website at