By Beth Miller, special to Overdrive
It’s a challenge many small business owners face: How to attract and retain a talented workforce. When a business is made up of average or below-average employees, leaders are forced to work around the clock, afraid to delegate and rarely see progress. I wanted entrepreneurs and business owners to understand the depth of this issue and how to overcome it.
My eBook, Are You Talent Obsessed? was inspired by my own entrepreneurial experience. My husband and I owned and operated a consulting business in the ’90s when one day, we were blindsided by the sudden departure of one of our top employees. The hole created by her absence caused stress and financial difficulty not only for our business, but also in our personal lives. As business owners, we began to see more of our best workers leaving and it was difficult to pinpoint why. To compensate, we worked harder and put in longer hours, until our lives were completely out of balance.
Now, as a Vistage chair, I see other entrepreneurs facing the same issues and it is clear to me where business leaders need to turn their attention in order to find lasting success. A business’s “A Players” are its top talent – but those driven, ambitious individuals will leave a good company for better opportunities if they are not afforded a nurturing work environment where they can learn and grow as professionals.
High performers are not satisfied with stagnation: not for themselves, and not for the company they work for. But it’s one thing to understand the importance of hiring “A Players” and another to attract, identify, hire and retain them. Employ these methods to become a truly Talent Obsessed business executive and set your business on track for long term success.
1. Evaluate core behaviors
According to research from Cornell University, high potentials have core values of ambition and work ethic. But they are not anti-social; in fact, the best employees can work efficiently and also build strong connections with teammates.
Additional innate qualities of your best employees include: trustworthiness, initiative, strong communications skills, and the capability to consider several points of view. Most importantly, they can self-analyze. These traits combined allow for savvy decision-making and judicious risk-taking.
2. Measure 360° assessment factors
360° assessments collect anonymous feedback from executives to subordinates and evaluate a high potential’s response to constructive criticism. A “B-Player” will take it personally or make excuses. An “A-Player” can cheerfully learn from criticism.
The results demonstrate differences in perspectives, interpersonal styles, leadership and work orientation, revealing the best candidates for leadership development and executive coaching.
3. Consider practical factors and concrete skills
When analyzing which employees have potential for leadership roles, an easy place to start are the practical factors and candidates’ concrete skills. Ask these questions from PeopleTalent Solutions:
• What is the company’s strategy?
• What positions will be critical in the future?
• What type of people do we want in these positions?
• What experience/knowledge will they need?
In short, look to the future. What kind of talent will the business need over the next five to 10 years? Will there still be a place for the high performers you see in the office? Or will you need other skills due to the direction your company is headed?
Start preparing to meet those future needs now, by identifying and developing the people who have high leadership potential.
Beth Armknecht Miller’s passion for learning, and dedication to helping others, are strands woven throughout her distinguished career, which continue to guide her work with Executive Velocity, a top talent and leadership development advisory firm. You can find more of Beth’s articles at Executive Velocity…