Awhile back I wrote a blog post about what I deemed the Michael Scott Effect. This often occurs in large organizations with multiple levels where high-performing individuals continue to be promoted until they effectively reach or exceed their potential and stall, working at their “highest level of incompetence.”
Well, what about the opposite “problem?"
Imagine a world of perfect selection. Every one of your hires has extensive potential or experience in every major area. You know these people are destined for a corner office in the c-level, but your organization is flat, upper management is effective, and all have 20 good years left. This is in essence, a traffic jam on your corporate ladder. Should you hire only “average” workers? Well you could, but I’d be remiss without letting you know how to help retain your company's brightest apples.
1) Saturate the position with enrichment opportunities.
If the candidate has ‘potential,’ let them grow. Give them multiple opportunities to get experience in as many areas as you think should be in their wheelhouse. When novel internal opportunities come along, let her or him take charge of piloting. The more engagement they are experiencing on the job, the less time they have to get bored and wonder what else is out there. Worst case, provide continuing educational support. It’s not always cheap, but that’s a safe guarantee that they’re not going anywhere tomorrow.
2) Maximize job satisfaction and person-organization fit.
Research has shown time and time again that the #1 and #2 factors influencing overall job satisfaction with an organization have nothing to do with the job itself, but rather the individual’s manager and peers. Get them intertwined with your greatest assets, your own human capital. As a recruiter this was my favorite lead. “Oh, you like (insert interest), you have got to talk to (insert current employee).” You can’t make everyone love everyone else, but you can facilitate targeted interactions that will build interpersonal connections.
These connections have organizational staying power, and are the most difficult to break when deciding to switch jobs. Joe Hire can get paid anywhere, but that won’t have Janet or Carl Worker waiting at the water cooler Monday morning.
And now the final soul searching question:
3) “How much time with your organization is worth the investment?”
If you didn’t know any better, you’d say that highly effective CEOs are bound by term limits. 3 years here, 4 there, and so on until retirement. They come in, fix things, and move to the next conquest, and everyone is ok with that. However, this may not be as good of a plan at the individual contributor position, where onboarding takes much longer since technical expertise is a requirement and not a luxury.
Your best bet would be to calculate an internal ROI using the position salary, revenue driven from the position, historical tenure of the high performers, and expected onboarding time.
At the end of the day, if your brightest apples are meant for another position that you don’t or won’t ever have available, they will likely end up leaving sooner or later. Your company may never be destined for a list on the Fortune 50, but don’t underestimate how powerful it could be to list yourself as farming some of the highest profile executives in the business. You won’t find yourself short of talent ever again.