5 Unconventional Ways To Keep Your Most Talented Employees From Leaving

Keep talented people engaged and loyal to your company with these somewhat counterintuitive tips.

5 Unconventional Ways To Keep Your Most Talented Employees From Leaving
[Photo: Flickr user b3d_]

Losing your best employees is a quick and expensive way to slow expansion at a high-growth company. And earning a reputation as an organization that doesn’t value and care for its best people can grind growth to a halt.


If you want to retain the employees essential to your company’s growth and keep them doing their best, you need to keep them engaged. Here are five nontraditional ways you can do so.

1. Throw Your Org Chart In The Garbage

You can’t manage a rapidly growing enterprise with a linear organizational chart. A traditional org chart doesn’t tell you anything about the working structure of an organization–which is how stuff really gets done. It’s important to manage the relationship networks within the organization, not just the official roles and responsibilities.

Every business unit has a handful of key players who serve as leaders, operate as centers of influence, and help others get things done. They’re often not the people with official leadership roles, and they’re not always the people management thinks are running the show.

You won’t find these people on a traditional org chart, but you can create an alternative map that identifies them. They will change over time, but if you keep track of these key players, you can make sure new employees meet them and get off to the best, most productive start possible.

2. Understand Where People Want To Go

In high-growth companies, you often have hard-working, dedicated employees doing things that they are good at right now. However, they often don’t want to be doing the same things for the next five months or five years. To keep those talented people engaged you need a system to understand where people want to go, to track their progress, and to be purposeful about managing their career paths.

At my company BlackbookHR, we discuss with each new employee what’s most important to them in their job and what drives them. As time goes on, we use those drivers intentionally to monitor where everyone is on this path. At any given time, employees can rank their feeling about each driver on a scale of 1 to 10, and we revisit the drivers each quarter to adjust things accordingly.


3. Keep An Inventory Of Employees’ Skills And Interests

You may know what your employee Andy does in his job–he’s a front-end web developer and designer–but do you know he’s also a self-taught guitarist, a video editor, a painter, and has a variety of other talents?

All employees have skills and interests they don’t use in their day-to-day work. If you can tap into those outside talents, you can benefit your company and better engage your employees.

Make a place on your company’s intranet, in a Google doc, or anywhere people can share or search for skills. Look for opportunities to tap into this knowledge network whenever possible.

4. Embrace Agile Development Methods

Agile is a development method in which products and solutions are built through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. Although it’s often thought of as a methodology for software development, the Agile process can work well for customer service, marketing, product development, product management, and other aspects of your business.

Self-formed, self-managed teams give employees ownership and leadership, while getting people to work with others in the organization. Most Agile methods break projects into small iterations with minimal planning, and at the end of each iteration a working product or solution is presented to stakeholders for review. This minimizes risk and allows the team to adapt to changes quickly. The end result is a better product, with less re-work and built-in approval from the client.

The people who thrive using Agile are the same people you want to retain in a high-growth company and this is a good way to help them feel fulfilled on the job.


5. Give Employees Tools To Own Engagement

Employee engagement shouldn’t just flow from the top down. You need to give your managers and employees the tools to take ownership of their work.

Asking employees to complete a survey once a year is not going to cut it. At a minimum, your managers should get feedback from their teams monthly, and employees should know where they stand in relation to their engagement scores.

If you don’t understand what’s important to people and manage it intentionally, you’re not going to retain your best talent. And that’s just not something high-growth companies can afford.

Chris Ostoich is founder and CMO at BlackbookHR, a software company on a mission to create more engaged and connected workplaces and communities. He is also a member of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs.