What to give top talent when pay rises won’t cut it

A range of non-financial perks may be required to keep star performers happy
Younger workers enjoy public plaudits more than alcohol
The signs are unmissable: covert phone calls, new suits, a flurry of doctors appointments. But by the time your brightest employees are interviewing, there’s little any manager can offer to persuade them to stay. Salaries, bonuses and room for promotion have always been the surest ways to retain top talent, but as the labour market continues to tighten, what else should you be offering?


Although not appropriate for more senior employees, managers could tap into Generation Y’s penchant for publicity by leveraging social media to offer public recognition for top performers. A 2010 study in the Journal of Personality indicated that young people enjoy self-esteem boosts more than drinking, sex or receiving a paycheck. Constant indulgence should be avoided, but especially talented individuals are likely to expect and appreciate praise via public channels.
Consider posting public messages on the Linkedin profiles of high performers, tweeting praise from the company’s account, or using an internal system like Globoforce’s Social Recognition software, which allows fellow employees to add their congratulations to any messages left by bosses, and prevents the self-conscious from feeling embarrassed.


Facebook and Apple’s controversial egg-freezing programme may have caused a storm last year. But offering long-term lifestyle benefits may make it easier for workers to plan their futures around their current position and imagine their career trajectory at a company in tune with their personal lives. Indeed, a CareerBuilder survey of US workers found that 51 per cent said that a more flexible schedule could persuade them to stay loyal.
Historically, the City has sidelined lifestyle benefits in favour of high salaries and big bonuses. But some large firms are coming to realise the value of non-financial incentives. Deloitte has introduced its Time Out initiative, which includes a facility offering employees a four week block of unpaid leave every year, for any reason. “We have found this simple and straightforward approach incredibly successful,” says partner David Barnes. “The scheme has proved popular with employees using their Time Out to travel, spend more time with family and, in one case, to umpire at the Wimbledon Championships.”


“Overreliance on pay and promotion as motivators leads to an organisational culture that is very transactional and disengaged,” Susan David, co-director of the Harvard/McLean Institute of Coaching told the Harvard Business Review. Instead, David recommends exposing talented individuals to new experiences and teaching them new skills.
Inviting top performers to strategy discussions, quarterly meetings and feedback boards will allow managers to gauge their suitability for more senior roles without giving them more executive powers immediately. More than positive feedback alone, you will signal that they are a good investment for your firm, and encourage them to see their future with you.

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