How to Retain Top Talent Without Derailing the Organization By Fast Tracking

Most people would not choose to build a house on a weak foundation. Why then do leaders risk the company’s future on an untested, inexperienced employee?

To keep them motivated?

To ensure they stay with the company?

But at what cost – to the employee, the employees who work for them and the company.

Yes, if you want to retain your top employees, you must…

1. Give them a reason to stay
2. Find a way to motivate them
3. Reward them.

But, if you reward too much, too fast – it can be dangerous for your entire organization.

In order for companies to retain top talent and stay competitive in today’s market they are engaging in fast tracking. This means they are moving selected employees quickly to or through managerial levels in an organization.

Five Reasons Why Fast Tracking is a Dangerous Strategy for Increasing Employee Retention

1. Skills can be learned quickly; experience takes time. In order to be an effective leader, your managers need to gain experience in:

Correctly identifying and solving problems
Framing and making good decisions
Dealing with the myriad of people-related issues that confront every manager in every organization
Organization course correction
Role-based leadership

2. Many times, when your organization engages in fast tracking, a new manager will set a new initiative in motion and then leave the position before the impact of the initiative is realized. They are missing the day-to-day experience of interpersonal behaviors and interactions that come with any transition—the intangible. It’s these subtleties that are often missed. And it’s these subtleties and the way you handle them that hones a good leader.

3. Each managerial level brings new challenges and requires different skills and behaviors. Moving too quickly through an organization runs the risk of missing critical experiential learning. Experience is accretive and it is difficult to learn vicariously. What you learn today you use as a framework for how you behave and react tomorrow. Short changing this learning cycle can result in a leader derailing later.

4. When leaders derail because a company engaged in fast tracking in order to retain top talent, it creates a disastrous domino effect for the organization as a whole. We all know that the number one reason people leave a company is because of their immediate supervisor. We also know that poor decisions and poor problem solving skills can result in service and profitability deterioration for a company.

5. Fast tracking creates a winner / loser environment within the company. Unless you want to build a highly-competitive, stressful environment and internal culture that makes your employees hate Mondays because it is the start of a work week, creating winners and losers is not a good long term strategy.

Why Companies Engage in Fast Tracking Even Though It’s Dangerous to the Health of their Organization

Companies need to grow talent internally and insure smooth management transitions. And the reality is that some industries are disproportionally affected by talent shortages (such as healthcare) and may have no other choice than to promote an employee who is truly not ready to handle the position.

(This is a common practice for technical and clinical staff promoted to management).

So what should you do?

Seven Tips for Retaining Top Talent Without Hurting Your New Manager, Employees and the Company

1. Develop a succession plan for your company. This means get committed to a process or structure of internal management and talent development.

2. Identify individuals within the organization who have the potential to move into leadership positions. You should be identifying multiple candidates for each position. Don’t be afraid to take some risks in candidate identification. Not all high potential candidates initially present an outgoing and aggressive demeanor (and remember these qualities do not necessarily ensure a good manager.)

3. Provide the identified individuals with opportunities to take on additional projects to demonstrate their skills as well as their ability to learn and grow. The projects should create the opportunity for the candidates to “live” with the consequences and take responsibility for their actions and decisions.

4. Provide new managers with an internal mentor and an external coach to insure support during the transition process. This support should be for at least six months to one year. This process is referred to as: transition integration”.

5. Give all new managers a personality and job performance assessment. This is a valuable tool in identifying emerging leader attributes and potential risk areas. Now you will be able to enable early intervention and prevention and give the most effective support to the new manager. This is better than the”sink or swim” approach to learning that new managers are often thrown into.

6. Provide all candidates with self-assessment tools and learning opportunities. Do this both within the organization in the form of added responsibilities and through outside learning opportunities such as conferences and executive education programs, professional memberships.

7. Monitor your new manager’s progress (through the supervisor and mentoring and coaching support) and review your succession plan each year. Evaluate the success of the current program and the individuals in the program. Improve where necessary and identify and support new leadership candidates.

Be aware that some candidates simply may not be interested in this more protracted and performance based approach. They may feel threatened or choose to leave. That’s OK too. The risk of promoting too quickly and the derailment that could occur is not worth the harm an unprepared manager can bring to the organization.

Talent is to be developed, not anointed.