Almost every company worth its salt has some sort of talent management program to keep its most critical people. That’s because it is often just the top five or ten percent of employees who have eighty to ninety percent of the impact on the firm’s bottom line. Some people are just a heck of a lot more valuable than others. And they’re mostly irreplaceable. 


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Talent management expert and author Steve Trautman drives this point home in a new post on his site. Companies rely heavily on their best people and need to find ways of managing this risk by transferring their knowledge into their coworkers’ heads. If they don’t, they become over-reliant on a small subset of people who could leave at any time. And that’s where the problems start. 

In this post, we look at the real reasons your business is losing its top talent – and what you can do about it.

Assuming That Top-Performing Workers Are Engaged

You may think that a worker is doing an excellent job on whatever task you’ve assigned them, but things could be very different from their perspective. Even if they’re outperforming their employees, they could be bored by their work, and there could be massively more potential under the hood.

According to data collected by HBR, one in three top performers admit not putting their full effort into their job. And around one in four plans on leaving your company within the next year. 

The reason for this is that highly talented people often have a good understanding of how good they are. They know that they have more to give. But they also know that your enterprise isn’t an outlet that will let them fulfill their potential. So they spend a lot of time courting other firms, looking for new job opportunities to see them through. 

Failing To Differentiate Performance And Potential

We all know people who are excellent in specific roles. But business leaders shouldn’t take this as gospel that they’ll be fabulous in more advanced or senior positions.

Firms often lose their top talent for promoting the wrong people. They elevate those with excellent technical skills instead of people with genuine leadership capacity.

Remember, there will be many people in your organization who suck at the grunt work but who will flourish as vice presidents. Find these people and promote them before you lose them unknowingly to other organizations.

Managing Top Talent To Lower Management Levels

 Finally, don’t delegate the management of top talent to lower-level managers in your enterprise. You might think that line managers would have a better appreciation of the best people in your organization, but they often don’t (unless they are highly sophisticated people themselves). 

Often it is the most successful and incisive people at the heads of organizations who can recognize potential and talent at the lower levels. The best people in your company should manage the best employees – that’s the only way to ensure that they fulfill their destiny. Ignore this tactic at your peril.