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3 Keys to Retain Your Top Diverse Leadership Talent

July 2017: Vol 40 No 7
Dwain Celistan
Communicate, challenge and compensate.

There is an abundance of data that demonstrates diverse leaders can add quantitative value to organizations. In the U.S., that means seeking out women and people of color for leadership roles, as well as candidates possessing traits that are not as readily ascertained visually—veterans, different physical capabilities, or varying gender and sexuality, for example. Many organizations are embracing this perspective, but beyond the early steps of identifying the need, successfully attracting, selecting and onboarding diverse top executives, credit unions must also invest effort in retaining this coveted talent.

Retention is critically important in order to reap higher rewards, and like the hiring organization, executive recruiters have a vested interest in the success of the new leadership hire and their performance. When a recruiting firm like DHR International is selected to find an executive, the goal is to secure the “right” person technically who is also a cultural fit with the organization. This upfront approach with clear objectives has worked consistently well in attracting top talent to the client organization and their successful placement. Below are a few best practices to retain them.

Communicate their value to the organization. By definition, top talent performs at a high level. They drive volume, profit and results, live the values, engage their team members, reinforce and encourage a safe work environment, and more.

Other than the annual review or bonus discussion, in many instances this talent has limited reinforcement of the value that they provide to the organization. Your best team members need positive reinforcement and constructive criticism at all levels, including specific examples. This enables them to build on their strong skills and know that their value is recognized.

Best practice: Provide opportunities for more frequent feedback sessions throughout the year. When appropriate, combine these frequent feedback discussions with perspective on career planning and future assignments. Thus, these persons are not treated as “just another member of the team,” but as top talent who are favorably impacting the organization.

Continue to challenge and create opportunities to add value. Your top talent can use their skills beyond their current assignment in many instances. Recall, they are identified as top talent because they perform at a high level and in a manner consistent with the mission, vision and values of the organization.

Best practice: Provide them with opportunities to showcase their abilities. One of my clients included a diverse leader on important, high profile committees. Another provided their top talent with increased exposure to the board of directors. A third accelerated promotional opportunities based on their performance.

Maintain competitive compensation levels. Compensation levels for top talent have been increasing over the past few quarters. This has moved faster than typical annual raises. Thus, many organizations are finding themselves behind the compensation curve.

Best practice: Ensure compensation is aligned with performance and the marketplace. Two organizations I recently worked with boosted compensation levels early and opted to do so outside of the normal schedule. This reinforced the diverse leaders’ value and also raised the stakes for possible extraction by other organizations. While compensation is not the primary reason for employee loyalty, it is complementary to the other best practices mentioned above.

Finding the right diverse talent is only the first step. Top leadership talent must be retained to build the business in a mission-driven and culturally appropriate manner.

Dwain Celistan is an executive recruiter with DHR International(), a top five global search firm. He leads the Global Diversity Practice and has consistently maintained over 70 percent of placements with diverse executives.

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