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How to Keep Your Top Talent When Everyone Else Wants Them

March, 2019
Adam Richardson

March 2019

Written by Adam Richardson (, Managing Director and Owner of AR Resourcing. Adam has 19 years’ experience recruiting professional and technical disciplines across the built environment industries.

Keeping your employees at the moment is a battle. There is a shortage of candidates in almost all sectors of the economy in the UK and the chances are recruiters are approaching many of your team members. Paying everyone top whack would likely break the bank so what do you do to minimise cost and disruption to the business?


Most managers will instinctively name one, or maybe a handful of employees whose resignations would result in real disruption to the business. While losing other individuals may be an inconvenience it is those star performers that you should invest disproportionate effort in holding onto as replacing them will be the most time consuming and costly. 


While salary is not the be-all and end-all for many employees, when top performers move roles they almost inevitably end up on a higher salary. Paying your star employees in the upper quartile of salaries compared with direct competitors makes it considerably harder for recruiters to turn their heads.

What was upper quartile a year ago may, however, now be mid-market. With such a shortage of good candidates, the packages for top performers are inflating more quickly so it’s worth benchmarking salaries annually or whenever you sense you are out of kilter. Your recruitment consultant should be happy to help you with this.


Companies that put Personal Development Plans (PDPs) at the heart of their retention strategies generally find it is an excellent investment. To achieve its potential each PDP needs to be bespoke so that it reflects the individual’s motivations as well as meeting the needs of the business. Developing a PDP should consist of four phases:

  • Research – discuss with the employee what their aspirations are; discover what they enjoy and about their gripes; understand what matters most to them… etc
  • Reciprocity – discuss with them how the organisation plans to develop so they have a context for their own aspirations.
  • Reconciliation – form a plan (with targets and rewards) together so the individual can see how their aspirations can dovetail with the organisation’s plans. This will likely include commitments about training and personal development.
  • Results – monitor performance against the targets articulated in the PDP to ensure the individual gets the rewards they were aspiring to and so that you can see they continue to be motivated.

An employee who can say “My employer knows what I want and we are implementing a plan to achieve that” is rarely unhappy and that makes it much harder for a recruiter to engage with them.


Star performers tend to be ambitious, highly motivated and target oriented. If they can see a clear path that will enable them to achieve their potential and the employer has a track record of honouring commitments, then moving employer becomes a risk. The lower the likelihood of the employer being able to meet their needs the more open they are to approaches.


While you can and should use your recruitment consultant to benchmark your offering against the market you should also do your own research that goes beyond remuneration packages into flexible working, company values etc.

One of the most effective ways to do this is to conduct an entrance/exit interview whenever an employee leaves or a new one joins. In either case:

  • find out the employee’s motivations for leaving and for joining; and
  • ask who else they interviewed with and where those employers performed strongly and why they ultimately fell short.

If you ask the right questions and listen carefully you will get some very useful feedback that you can use to further improve your retention strategies.


Frustratingly whatever you are doing today is unlikely to be good enough tomorrow as your competitors will be evolving and improving as they look for an advantage.

But remember: while keeping your best employees is both a lot of work and costly, it is nonetheless cheaper and less time consuming than replacing them.

About the author:

Adam Richardson - Managing Director

Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the construction sector.

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