How to develop top talent so they want to stay

Coaching conversation

Why do people leave?

Research tells us that people choose to leave their job when they don’t receive enough career and development opportunities. A recent workplace learning report showed that 94% of people would choose to stay with their current organisation for longer if they were provided with career development. So, one way to avoid the costly problem of losing talent is to ensure you have a stretching development programme which engages your best and brightest.

In our recent webinar we explored four ways that can help you implement this:


1. Identify your top talent

Have you identified your best people?

An assessment centre is one of the best ways to discover the people in your organisation who demonstrate the most potential. You might have someone highly capable of being a future leader but perhaps you, and they, are not yet aware of it.

The great thing about assessments is that they provide really objective data, not just about whether someone is ready for progression now, but also whether they will be ready in future.

Information gathered from the assessment also provides direction and clarity about what to focus on in subsequent conversations about people’s individual development.


2. Listen to what your top talent wants

Once you’ve identified your best and brightest, it’s time to design and implement a programme which is tailored specifically to them, their wants, and goals. The way to do this is to simply ask what kind of career development they want. Ask them what they enjoy doing, and how they like to learn. You can then design a solution that meets what they want now, rather than make assumptions or revert to what’s been offered previously.

To highlight the importance of listening to your top talent wants, take the development requirements of the Millennial generation, for example. They form one third of the current working population and value working for organisations which prioritise their learning and development.

We know that to nurture the best of your millennial employees, you’ll need to think about:

  • using coaching and mentoring
  • creating opportunities for collaboration
  • integrating digital learning into face-to-face programmes
  • encouraging them to take ownership of their own development too
  • conducting audits to ensure your promise, and their expectations, are being met
  • making development part of your employer brand


A 2018 Deloitte report states that ‘43 percent [of millennials] envision leaving their jobs within two years; only 28 percent seek to stay beyond five years’ unless ‘offered the realistic prospect that by staying loyal they will… develop faster and more fully than if they left.’

Finding out what your top talent want is crucial.


3. Involve line managers in talent development

Line managers of your top talent play a vital role in their development and so they need to be involved and engaged in the programme from the start. Think about how you will communicate the programme to them and be specific about the ways in which you expect them to support their direct reports through what is potentially going to be a demanding and stretching development programme.

The more line managers can understand what their direct report is going through, the better they will be able to support them, coach them and provide them with good quality feedback to help them meet their goals.


 4. Help your talent with their identity

One of the most common challenges people face when looking to progress through an organisation is a transition in their identity from being an individual contributor to their first line manager role, on to a leader of leaders, then perhaps even a strategic leader.

For example, when moving through these transitions, people will need to shift from valuing personal achievement to valuing the development and success of their team and from self-sufficiency to developing strong-meaningful relationships. This isn’t easy, so within your development programme you should consider how to support your top talent with ‘letting go’ of ways of working and thinking that were suitable for one role, but not for others.


A case study of top talent development

Looking for an example of how this all works in practice? Take a look at this case study with global business Mott McDonald where we helped them to identify and develop 180 future leaders from 17,000 employees in over 120 countries through its ‘Emerging Leaders’ programme.