Digital Talent Deserting You? Here Are Five Key Retention Tools

Dos and Don'ts for Keeping Digital Stars at Your Company

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Congratulations. You've hired a digital-marketing innovator who already has begun to revolutionize the way your company goes to market. Your whole organization is thinking differently about your customers and, in turn, you're becoming increasingly relevant to a whole new customer base.

But just as your enterprise's digital transformation is gaining traction, your digital leader gives notice. You're losing the one person you can least afford to lose.

Retention of digital talent begins at the recruiting phase
The demand for digital leadership talent exceeds the supply. And that imbalance will continue to grow. As a result, it may take an organization twice as long and cost twice as much to replace a digital leader three years from now.

Understand that you are competing from day one -- the day you first meet the candidate -- to keep your digital talent. And your competition isn't just from within your industry sector; it might be from Facebook or Google, digital agencies and other companies that can offer endless possibilities for a rising digital star's career growth. During the course of a search for a digital leader, top candidates will often have one or more other opportunities to entertain, sometimes right up until closing.

Is there a clear path for career progression?
Too often companies simply look to fill an immediate digital-talent hole when they recruit. That's short-sighted. A leading reason talented people leave a company is that another organization offers them advancement and a career path that they just don't see in their present situation. Digital talent brought in to lead a function without key performance indicators and business responsibility will soon get itchy.

Smart organization leaders won't let that happen. They will make it clear to their talented people that things are only going to get more interesting. Perhaps the digital superstar can lead a product line or run a business unit, expanding the digital revolution far beyond the marketing organization. Then, perhaps there will be the opportunity to become CMO. Success should lead to increasing responsibility and advancement. Now you've given your star performer every reason to stay and keep the magic going.

Unlike recruiting for more established roles, like VP-finance or VP-marketing, where career paths are clear and easy to articulate, the career path of digital talent within a corporate environment is less clearly articulated, or even thought through.

The importance of change
Developing a career path for high-potential talent anywhere in the organization is just smart business, but it is especially critical for digital talent. Digital people are all about change and working toward a vision for the future. That applies to their careers as well as to their daily work. They will constantly monitor their employer's appetite for change, and to the commitment to progress in change management.

So, in addition to developing a thoughtful career path, what else can organizations do to retain digital stars? Make sure they are regularly receiving:

Challenging assignments and projects. Opportunities to be creative and expansive in their thinking keep talented people engaged and energized.

Exposure throughout your company. Talented people feed off the energy and ideas of other talented people. Give them opportunities to work with other bright lights and their understanding and appreciation for your company will deepen.

Thought-leadership opportunities. Encourage them to help develop thought leadership that can elevate your brand among influentials while providing intellectual challenges stars need to stay engaged.

Mentoring or executive sponsorship. When an executive takes an individual interest in a talented rising star and regularly provides thoughtful advice after active listening, the star player is more inclined to continually up his or her game -- and to ignore opportunities to jump ship.

And two things you should not do if you want to retain digital talent:

Don't overhire. Bringing in a person with far more talent and experience than the job will ever warrant or the company has an appetite for is just asking for trouble. Why should they stay when a more exciting opportunity at another company is in the offing?

Don't let them get stale. Remember that this person is all about transformation. Organizations that are continually looking to innovate know that transformation is never complete. Give your digital star opportunities to help architect the future. It's what your business needs to stay ahead of your competition -- and what your rising star needs to thrive.