Barking up the Right Tree to Retain Workers

Susan Hall

I wrote yesterday about the hiring difficulties that smaller companies face, including ours. With the talent wars going on in Silicon Valley, everybody's also thinking about what it takes to retain talent.


While fellow blogger Don Tennant has been concerned that companies have <strong>undervalued their top performers</strong>, Bill Taylor at Harvard Business Review makes the point that catering to individual "stars" doesn't build a great company. He writes:

... the best companies I've gotten to know invest in stars and systems. They are determined to secure more than their fair share of the great people in their business. But they understand that what it means to be great is as much about values as virtuosity, about what makes people tick as well as how much they know.

Another great point Taylor makes: To develop great contributors, develop better managers.

People join great companies, but they quit lousy bosses. That's especially true for the most talented contributors. No matter the sense of purpose behind the organization, or the tools and resources at their disposal, great people want to do work they love, with colleagues they admire, and to be led by people who make them better. That's why, over the long term, it's just so hard to hold on to your top talent-because it's so hard to maintain the quality of your in-the-trenches leadership, especially in a fast-growth environment.

While cold, hard cash tends to win out in the marketplace, Tennant also has written that individual recognition can hold great sway. Perhaps Google can work that in, since that darned recession put the kibosh on a number of its prized perks.


Here's a different kind of perk that speaks to the value a company places on its employees. Outsourcer Cognizant reported Wednesday that it has grown to 100,000 employees with its most recent hire in the United States. In marking the occasion, President and CEO Francisco D'Souza thanked employees for the company's success. And to commemorate this milestone, the company plans to plant 100,000 trees around the world to individually honor each of its employees. I think that sends a message to workers that they are valued and part of making the world better.

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