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How To Avoid The "Free Agent" Mentality In Your Company

How To Avoid The "Free Agent" Mentality In Your Company

By | 09.20.10
How To Avoid The "Free Agent" Mentality In Your Company

Now that you’ve trained them, groomed them and equipped them for success, you may think that the rising stars within your organization are totally committed to your company. According to a recent study published in the May 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review, however, that may not be the case.

The study, which was conducted by the executive director of the Corporate Executive Board’s Corporate Leadership Council, Jean Martin, and the council’s chief research officer, Conrad Schmidt, found that high-achieving individuals often adopt a “free agent” mentality that causes them to feel disengaged from their companies.

The survey also found that this sense of disengagement has become more pervasive since the start of the current economic downturn.

Over the past six years, Martin and Schmidt researched more than 20,000 “emerging stars” and over 100 companies both in the U.S. and overseas.

Of the 20,000 high-achieving individuals they studies, a full 25 percent said that they intended to leave their current employer within the next twelve months.

Twelve percent indicated that they were actively seeking new positions with other companies.

One in three said that they were not giving their full attention to their current positions and twenty percent of those surveyed said their professional aspirations were at odds with what their current employers had planned for them.

After the investment you’ve made in your organization’s rising stars, how do you ensure that they are on board for the long haul? Martin and Schmidt suggest a number of tactics.

For starters, keep them engaged with stimulating, challenging assignments and reward them for their accomplishments. Those rewards don’t necessarily have to be in the form of bonuses and monetary incentives. You might consider allowing your rising stars to work a more flexible schedule or telecommute one day a week.

You should also keep the lines of communication open to ensure that their goals align with the company’s goals. By involving your top talent in future plans and goals you’ll lessen the chances of them jumping ship even if your business experiences tough times.

Focus on opportunities for them to advance within your organization. The promise of advancement is a powerful motivator that can increase your chances of retaining your top talent. But promises alone aren’t enough. In fact, the promise of a promotion that keeps getting delayed can actually cause your employees to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Just as you groomed your rising stars for their current positions, you should provide the training they’ll need to succeed as they move up the ladder within your organization. Martin and Schmidt found that 70 percent of rising stars don’t possess the skills needed to perform at the next level.

Don’t leave the job of managing your top line talent to your line managers. Although they may have a keen sense of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses, they can also limit the scope of their training.

By engaging your top talent and making them feel that they have a vital role in your company’s future, you can substantially reduce the chances that your rising stars will seek greener pastures – maybe even with your competition.

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