I have surveyed several thousand high-performance employees at top companies around the world. These are the sort of folks anyone would love to have working in their company. I wanted to understand what motivated them to pick one job over another, and they shared six key reasons:
- Fair pay– 10 percent above or below what they would make to do the same job anyplace else
- Challenging work– projects that get them engaged and match their best skills
- Cool colleagues– “A” players want to play on a team with other “A” players
- Winning culture– an enjoyable place to work that is fair and supportive
- Personal and professional growth– getting consistent training, mentoring, and coaching to improve their skill levels, and knowing they had a career path in the organization
- A leader I respect and admire– someone with character, credibility, and a vision for the future of the company
I’d like to go in-depth on item five: personal and professional growth.
If you hire extremely talented people and do not invest in their development, they will quickly become bored and feel as though you do not value them. Unfortunately, training and development are often one of the areas small- to medium-size businesses fail to focus on enough.
When I talk to business owners, some of the reasons they give me for not making employee training a priority are:
- Sending people to quality training programs is expensive.
- Going to a training class takes them away from their work for several hours or days.
- There is no way to ensure the training will stick and be applied.
- There is no guarantee the training will improve the performance of the organization.
And my all-time favorite…
- What happens if I spend a lot of money training them and they leave and go to my competition?
To which the obvious answer is: What happens if you don’t and they stay?
If you truly believe people are your most important asset, then it is critical that you invest in the asset, so it appreciates over time.
To make sure you invest your training money wisely, simply do the things below:
- Do your research to know you are investing in the right level of training at a reasonable price.
- Make sure the training will deliver a ROI higher than the cost of sending people to the training.
- Make sure the employee training includes follow-up resources and accountability measures to ensure it is applied.
- Identify specific training areas you know will positively impact the performance of the organization
- Be sure the instructor has the expertise to deliver the program with authority.
If you follow these guidelines, it will greatly improve the chances for a successful employee training outcome. Furthermore, the second part of the equation was professional growth. If you hire a very talented person and they look out five to seven years and can’t see a place for them in the company, they will leave as soon as they can and find a different company with a strong career path.
All of the people I spoke to in my survey were high-performance employees, or what some companies call “HIPOs”; these are individuals who have been selected as the next generation of top leaders in the business.
According to Jack Zenger of Forbes Magazine, here are the 10 things you should look for in a true high-potential employee:
- Has a strategic perspective
- Inspires and motivates others to high performance
- Delivers superior results
- Fosters collaboration and teamwork
- High ethical standards, upholds values, and acts as a role model
- Deep expertise and business acumen
- Champions change
- Willing to innovate and take risks
- Powerful communicator
- Develops others
Once identified, they are sent to additional training, given mentors, assigned high-visibility projects, and directly told that they are being groomed for an eventual senior leadership position by helping them become high-performance employees. Typically, it is a two- to three-year process to prepare a high potential for the final stage of their development, which is directly shadowing the person they will replace so that they learn the job thoroughly before they take on the new role.
One of the biggest problems I see in many of the client companies I work with is a failure to do the things I have listed above. Consequently, they suddenly find themselves in a place where they have a leadership vacancy and desperately need someone to take over a senior position, yet they have no succession planning in place to make a smooth and successful transition. Oftentimes, this can severely disrupt the operations of the company and, in some cases, lead to its demise.