talent thievesWhen our house was robbed a few years ago, it caused us to re-evaluate how we secured our valuables. Since that fateful day, an alarm system, window locks, and security doors have been put in place to help secure our most valuable possessions. We feel safer, but we know that regardless of the measures we implement, we are still vulnerable.

Your organization is vulnerable too. And the thieves who want to steal from you are not looking for televisions and electronics. They are looking to poach your best people. Talent thieves are on the prowl and it’s important to think about your security measures.

Why the rash of talent theft? The economy has turned around and our best talent has options. Sixty percent of employees in a Manpower survey said they intend to leave their current employer. Pent-up frustration with years of low or no pay increases, benefit cuts, and few opportunities for promotion naturally lead to increased turnover in public agencies.

Competition for top talent is fierce. Your top performers now have options and the thieves are looking to steal them from you. But you can hold the competition at bay. Here are five tips for fending off the thieves so you can retain your superstars.

Pay Fairly and Competitively. Pay matters. If your compensation plan is not competitive with the marketplace, you will lose talent. But being competitive doesn’t mean you have to pay more than every other employer. It means that the pay you offer is fair and reflects what the job is worth relative to the market. Once the fairness issue is addressed, retention is more about the work itself and how employees feel working for you.

Over Communicate a Compelling Mission. When it’s clear what you stand for and your mission is meaningful, employees feel committed. How does your work impact the lives of others? How do your efforts make the world a better place? How does your organization make a difference? If you clearly define a compelling vision, employees will want to stick around to help you achieve it.

Align Work with the Mission. Each employee needs to feel connected to your mission. Harvard Business Review cited that 37 percent of employee activity is not aligned with business goals. Every job and every task must support the mission. You’ve probably heard the story about the custodian at a NASA facility who, when asked what his job was, replied, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.” From the top of the organizational chart to the bottom, commitment soars when everyone understands the value they bring.

Tell Them What You Think. In a Leadership IQ survey 66 percent of employees said they have too little interaction with their bosses and 67 percent said they get too little positive feedback from their bosses. Sixty-five percent said that when their bosses criticize poor performance, they don’t provide enough information to be helpful. Frequent, meaningful feedback, regardless of whether it’s positive or constructive, is a tool for engaging employees.  My book, Painless Performance Conversations is now being used in agencies coast to coast to help managers provide more meaningful feedback.

Ask Them to Stay. Conducting regular “stay interviews” is considered a best practice for retaining employees, and they are a lot more fun to do than exit interviews. By asking employees what keeps them interested in the work, you are telling them that they are valuable. When they feel valued, they will be more resistant to talent thieves.

The thieves are out there, plotting to steal your best and brightest. But, you can keep them at a distance by being mindful about the well being of your top performers. Believe me, it’s easier to secure your valuables than it is to replace them.

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