Retain your best people with talent management

Retain your best people with talent management

In today’s fast-paced marketplace, shorter product life cycles, intense competition, extensive unpredictability and demanding customers are compelling companies everywhere to become highly responsive to change.

At the same time, in today’s knowledge economy, people are a company’s most valuable asset; thus, losing talented employees can be extremely expensive and disruptive.

Obviously, there are many reasons why people leave — money, work hours, lack of interest, etc. Often enough I hear many blame it on every little detail possible but themselves, when in reality there’s a famous saying: “People quit their bosses, not their jobs.”

In fact, in this column earlier I shared a finding from a Gallup study that sheds light on worker-manager relationships: it found that about 50% of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job simply to get away from their manager or boss.

One reason why I think this problem remains unsolved for many companies is that too few managers and bosses realise that applying a talent management strategy to keep top people is one of their more important job responsibilities.

We often see the terms “people management” and “talent management” used interchangeably; however, the former implies basic personnel administration under the main responsibility of the Human Resources department. Talent management is the approach used to attract, recruit, develop and retain talent in which line managers up to C-suite executives must take accountability.

To be specific, talented people need to be groomed and guided by the executives — not the HR department — who best know the organisation’s mission, direction and strategy, and what is needed to fulfill its goals. This is why line managers, bosses and executives are the main factor that determines whether an organisation can successfully retain its top talents.

So what can they do in practice? If you’re a regular reader you’ll know that I’ve written numerous times about talent management, but for any managers who are just starting to come to terms with this responsibility, I’d like to suggest a few simple talent management strategies in this article.

First, it is indispensable for every organisation to define its talents. Don’t just call anyone who has the potential to go further “talent” because then you might think that you have plenty of talents in your workforce — no need to seek more. In reality, though, there are at least three types of workers in any organisation: talents, high performers and employees.

Simply put, define your talents based on their potential to help your organisation to grow and develop and those who are eager to be a part of the organisation’s success and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. After defining who these people are, you must identify their position in the organisational value chain so you can make sure that it will always be filled with talented members.

Now that you have clearly identified the different types of people in your workforce, you should also understand that as talents are special and can contribute greatly to sustainable organisational success, they need to be treated, managed and developed differently from others.

It is also important to note that when you want to evaluate your talents, you cannot and should not be evaluating them based only on past performance; instead, evaluate their learning ability as well as their willingness to learn.

This is because generally, the process of performance appraisal only measures one’s ability to perform assigned tasks. It can be used reasonably well with most groups, even “high performers” — those who do their jobs well but show little commitment to the overall success of the organisation or have limited willingness to learn.

Lastly, in order to retain talents, managers must go the extra mile in trying to understand each and every talent individually. Make sure to value them as they are, lead and engage them, provide them with meaningful work along with learning and development opportunities. Most importantly, ensure that your top talents realise you are doing all this not just to prevent them from leaving but also because you genuinely care for them.

Last but not least, it is critical to keep in mind that talent management is not a one-size-fits-all and off-the-shelf strategy. Taking tips and techniques from the textbooks or articles you read (yes, this one included) and immediately applying them without considering your context — organisational culture, direction and objectives — might do more harm than good.

Truth be told, when talent management implemented merely because you see others doing it, think again! Following such logic without a thoroughly considered strategy will not bring about sustainable results. As well, your talents might eventually feel misused and that could lead to higher turnover in the long run.


Arinya Talerngsri is Group Managing Director at APMGroup, Thailand's leading Organisation and People Development Consultancy. She can be reached by e-mail at or

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