Build Trust Today or Lose Talent Tomorrow – 3 Tips to Keep Your Top People

dear-boss-i-quitIf you ask organizational leaders to name their top five challenges, there’s a good chance that retaining key talent will be on the list. Every person and role in your organization is important, but there are mission critical jobs and high performers that contribute substantially more to your bottom line success and it’s those people you can least afford to lose.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an increasing trend in voluntary turnover and the rate of unemployment for people with college degrees is about half the national unemployment rate and is decreasing. There is expected to be an ongoing talent shortage well into the next decade as Baby Boomers retire, technology and job specialization increase, global competition for talent rises, and education systems struggle to keep up with the demands of business.

Not only is competition for talent going to increase, the Hay Group reports that 20% of employees plan to look for a new job in the next two years and another 20% plan to leave within the next five years. The reasons cited for jumping ship? Of course the chance to make more money somewhere else is always high on the list, but there is a growing discontent among the workforce after years of low to no pay increases, increased pressure to “do more with less,” and low levels of trust with organizational leaders who have shown little to no regard for their employees.

Building and nurturing high-trust relationships with key talent is essential for keeping them on your team. Here’s three tips to help you build trust and retain talent:

1. Learn the skill of building trust – Yes, you can learn to build trust. Most people don’t give much thought to building trust. They think it “just happens” over time like some sort of relationship osmosis. The fact is that trust is built through the use of very specific behaviors and if you incorporate those behaviors into your leadership practices you will have high-trust relationships.

2. Foster a culture of engagement – High performers are more willing to stay in jobs and organizations where their needs for autonomy, relatedness, and competence are being met. All people, especially your top talent, thrive on being in control of achieving their goals. They want to continue to develop their competence and expertise and establish meaningful relationships with team members.

3. Ask them to stay – Unfortunately, most leaders don’t ask their top performers to stay until they’ve submitted their resignation and are walking out the door. You can build trust with your key talent by engaging in courageous career conversations. Ask your top people what it will take to keep them in your organization and try to find creative ways to provide them opportunities for growth, learning, or expanded responsibilities.

Managing high performers can be just as challenging, if not more so, than managing poor performers. In most cases of poor performance, you can identify specific job skills or personal attributes that need to be improved and put a plan in place to work on those specific issues. When it comes to high performers, you’re constantly having to be creative and find new ways to keep them engaged and growing which can be absolutely exhausting!

Regardless of whatever talent management and retention strategies you employ, building a foundation of trust is critical to the success of keeping your best performers. You can choose to build trust today or lose talent tomorrow.

24 Comments on “Build Trust Today or Lose Talent Tomorrow – 3 Tips to Keep Your Top People

  1. Trust in the workplace is KEY. Unfortunately there’s not a lot of focus on building the trust. It does take time build but it is well worth the time spent. Teams are more productivity and there’s less turn over in work environments where there is trust.

    • You’re right on Trevia. Most people don’t intentionally think about building trust, but once you put a concerted focus on doing it, you’ll quickly see the benefits.

      Take care,


  2. Great tips!!!! Fostering a ‘sense of belonging’ , a Performance Management system which minimizes subjectivity and values clearly linked to behavior also helps a great deal to retain your best.

    • Thanks for your comments Antoinette! Having an effective performance management system that facilitates giving people honest, constructive feedback on a regular basis is key to keep your best folks,

      Take care,


  3. 1) Recognize that the problem is, mostly likely, YOU.

    You wouldn’t believe how many requests I get from managers asking for training programs for their people to “prevent job hopping.” And the problem is never the manager, it’s always the employee.

    I’ve taken to carrying a small, handheld cosmetic mirror in my briefcase. If I think the manager can handle it, whenever I get a request like this I slide the mirror across the boardroom table at them. “There. Let’s begin with that.”

    • Leo – I love it! What a great way to frame this issue. I do believe that managers have to take a look in the mirror to see if they are doing/not doing something that is causing their best people to leave the organization.

      Thanks for adding your insights,


  4. I truly believe a key factor in good employees leaving organizations relates to the fact that they often do not feel valued in the organization or with their immediate supervisor/manager. Managers need to be aware of not taking their staff for granted and regularly let them know how much they and their effort are important and appreciated. Sometimes the fear is “spoiling ” the employee or building them up too much stops this from happening. More often then not, as in most relationships, it’s simply a matter of not being conscious to a very important human need i.e. being respected, liked and feeling part of a team.

    • I agree with you Ed. Most people aren’t complaining about getting to much recognition or appreciation in the workplace!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  5. Really great post Randy! I just wrote a post about how managers need to work more on being facilitators and supporters. If you hire really great people and give them the support and latitude they need to do their best work and the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them, you’re well on your way.

  6. Thanks, Randy – A great article! We’re striving to help individuals and organizations foster cultures of trust, engagement, open communication. And thanks for the reminder of your ABCD Trust Model, too! In a prior career as a business analyst (where I had no actual authority, but where I had to gain influence), I discovered that my customers and team trusted me most and asked me back most often when I proved I was good at what I did, treated the work and the people with integrity and compassion, and when I did what I said I would do. I’m finding that the same rules apply all over the place; to my growing business, to my employees and team members, to my clients, (and even to my kids!). Thanks for the reminder and relevance!.

  7. I like this article a lot. i think trust is key to any relationship that one places value in. Your employyes, or associates are your greatest asset. I am self employed, but realize that trust is something my organization must have in order to attract new top talent, and grow to the next level.

  8. So true, Randy. Great post. I have witnessed this phenomenon and agree a shift is underway, which is going to bite a lot of leaders and organizations who have failed to foster engagement and trust through the downturn.

    In our efforts to help clients drive workplace performance, we also talk about how important trust is for activating accountability. Without trust, efforts to promote accountability result in fear and cynicism.

    • Great input Travis. Holding yourself and others accountable is a key component of being a dependable leader.

      Thanks for adding your insights,


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  11. So true ,yet top performers are still taken for granted in most companies I have been involved with, a sad reality as there seems to be the mindset that the top performers will continue on their path, as they are self motivated , hard task masters on themselves ( more so then their managers ever could be) targets are usually set to a stage they are un achievable, salaries are never reviewed and they are all surprised when they lose good staff. You are far better to pay the money for good people , never cap a commission , yet so many do. The smart businesses never cap a commonisdion scheme and they gear it to ROI / win , yet so many just don’t get it

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