How to keep high performers: 7 tips to build an internal talent pipeline

John McNamara
Published on 7th May 2019
4 min read

Do you struggle to keep high-fliers in your organization? A staggering 70% of HR leaders have trouble keeping top talent.

It’s a problem. Especially considering high-performers can be up to a staggering 400% more productive than an average performer.

Yet, with the famous ‘war for talent’ raging on, it’s an employee’s job market. High performers know that if they can’t get what they want from their current employer, they can go elsewhere to get it instead.

As a result, HR and People teams know that building an internal talent pipeline is vital to keeping high-performers.

What is an internal talent pipeline?

An internal talent pipeline is a pool of candidates within an organization who may be ready to fill internal positions throughout company. It specifically matches internal prospective candidates with upcoming roles.

Unlike a staffing strategy may look at the projected staffing needs for a business, an internal talent pipeline will look to fill the projected roles from within the organization.

As a result, employees are more likely to remain within the organization, driving business growth.

The best companies who build effective internal talent pipelines are People Companies

It’s no surprise that successful fast-growth organizations are often the best at keeping top talent.

Of course, it’s easier to retain top talent when your company is doing well. Employees want to work for the best. However, it’s also the fact that fast-growth organizations are more likely to be what we call ‘People Companies’. These are organizations that know how vital their workforce is to growth, and the huge advantage of attracting – and keeping – top talent.

These People Companies have swapped many traditional HR processes, for a more ‘People’ focussed approach. Often, they’ve automated many HR process to focus on what really matters: their people and building great experiences for them.

Let’s look at how they do this when it comes to keeping top talent; here’s seven tips to successfully building an internal talent pipeline.

1. Use People Marketing to keep top talent

You might have consumer marketing techniques in place to attract and keep customers, but do you have employer branding and People Marketing strategies in place to attract and keep internal talent?

Understanding how you build an environment in which people love to work is vital to retain the best. The best People Companies use techniques from marketing and apply them to HR and People strategies to ensure they’re building workforce experiences that resonate to keep the best talent.

Read more: What is People Marketing?

2. Identify employee goals early

As soon as a recruit has settled into your company, it’s important for managers to sit down with them and identify the goals that they have for their personal development and their career.

This will help to establish an employee’s ambitions early on in their career, paving the way for a solid development plan to be created in support of this which can help to maintain engagement and motivation.

Read more: How to successfully identify and develop high potential employees

3. Swap annual appraisals for continuous conversations

The days of annual appraisals are over. Progressive People Companies know this, and instead have continuous conversations.

They provide regular feedback throughout the year and capture feedback in a much more frequent and iterative manner. Career development is a huge part of this, and managers should be continuously checking in on employee goals to ensure they’re matching the right internal candidates to potential roles in their pipeline.

Read more: 5 ways to reinvent performance management for the better

4. Use data for actionable insights

In a People Company, leaders get insight on what drives their workforce through People Science. They use data to develop stronger insights about their people and motivations, building an effective pipeline that matches employees to roles that match their skillset and ambitions.

This can be used to make more informed evidence-based People decisions – and used for predictive purposes, so that managers can start to make more strategic decisions about their talent pool.

Read more: How to know your employees as well as you know your customers with People Science

5. Advertise roles internally as well as externally

This one goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway. It’s vital to ensure that your talent is offered the same opportunities as external recruits by also recruiting internally for any roles.

Show that you recognize their strengths and their potential, and don’t exclude them from applying for promotions by choosing to solely focus your search outside of the business.

Read more: 7 tips for an effective succession planning strategy

6. Develop and reward employees

This one’s the big one. Make sure you’re continuously offering development programs and opportunities to employees, tailored to their career objectives and goals.

This doesn’t just mean creating a company-wide development program and marketing it internally. It’s understanding individual employees’ drive and ambitions, and matching opportunities to keep them fulfilled in their roles.

Train your employees, targeting particular levels and competencies. Send employees on internal and external training courses and provide them with experience in different departments or different job roles.

Individual development programs should include people management, influencing peers, learning about the business, building control systems, building leadership skills, dealing with challenging conditions, negotiating, framing and solving problems, and managing former peers or supervisors.

Read more: How to use recognition to boost employee engagement

7. Understand what employees want

Just 12% of employees we polled as part of our recent research said they’re asked on a regular basis what would improve their experiences at work. Almost half (47%) had never been asked at all.

Vital to building an internal talent pipeline is putting employees at the heart of your talent planning and tailoring different approaches to each employee. What may be useful for one employee’s development won’t be for another.

Read more: 7 steps to create employee experiences that really drive productivity

It’s a long game

Building an internal talent pipeline means that HR and People teams always have their finger on the pulse, knowing what talent is lacking, what is needed and who might be best internally to fulfill vacant roles.

Creating a talent pipeline is a long game that takes significant planning backed up by data and analytics, but getting it right early on is well worth the effort to ensure sustainable talent and ultimate growth of the company.

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