How to Nurture Your Top Talent


For businesses that have identified the ‘top talent’ – the people with the capability to steer your organisation towards future success and create long-term, sustainable growth – holding on to these individuals can be quite a challenge. After all, the very things that make them so valuable to you can also make them very attractive to your competitors. And if they feel that they are not getting enough opportunities for growth and development from you, they are likely to seek them elsewhere.

The impact of developing top talent
Frequently the people you have identified as ‘top talent’ are very influential. The work they do, and the way they do it, often effects how others work and behave too. So when you invest in these people, you are not only helping to develop and retain them – you often create a positive rippling effect across your organisation’s culture. If these people are not developed, they may become dissatisfied and disengaged. This too can impact on others, but not in a positive way.

Developing top talent in a digital age
Technology is fuelling the pace of change in a world which is increasingly complex and unpredictable. In this world, agility has become a prized attribute as it helps us to identify, focus, and act swiftly to address both challenges and opportunities. It is helpful to apply agile principles to how we nurture our top talent. So, rather than focusing on long-term development programmes, it is helpful to think about a series of short-term interventions which can be tweaked and adapted in response to ever-changing needs.

Get creative
You have probably invested a lot already in identifying and assessing top talent, so it makes sense to build on that investment with targeted development opportunities. Your top talent may have high expectations from your organisation. It helps to be creative when it comes to talent management activities. Consider career pathways, job rotations, and other ways of providing challenging and broadening experiences. Offer flexible opportunities for day-to-day working and for personal development.

Think holistically
These days, development and career progression can be likened to a rock wall, not a ladder. It’s not just about hierarchical moves – it’s important to think more holistically about how your leadership talent gains experience. Moving across functions or business units is a key consideration. Many of the organisations we work with specify that to reach a certain level their leaders need broad experience to support a more holistic approach to driving the business forward. It follows that top talent development won’t fit the traditional classroom model; providing experiences and challenges that disrupt and inspire will likely come from a blended methodology that really enables your leadership talent to flourish.

What engages top talent?
Top talent will be most engaged, and you will get the most from them, when they are closely aligned with your organisation’s purpose and values. More and more, people want work to provide meaning as well as money. Provide opportunities for your top talent to contribute to your organisation in meaningful ways. This can increase their loyalty and help them to become powerful role models for others.

Support from both HR and line managers
Line managers are of course critical to nurturing your top talent. Ideally, they will have ongoing performance conversations and ensure that top talent receives support on a day-to-day basis. However, it is critical that line managers themselves receive support from HR to ensure that top talent is nurtured in a consistent way across your business. HR can also ensure that top talent has the opportunity to move across business units – not every line manager is keen to lose a star performer to another part of the business.

Stretch your talent
Top talent often appreciate disruptive and challenging opportunities. Working on a growth project or being part of a thought-provoking business simulation can really take individuals out of their comfort zones, develop new skills, and inspire new ways of working. Make the most of this by encouraging top talent to share their new-found insights with other colleagues. This helps to inculcate this valuable learning across your organisation.

The power of coaching
Coaching is a powerful tool for helping your top talent to identify and achieve personal goals in line with your business strategy. It can be particularly beneficial if you take a ‘programmatic’ approach where groups of people are coached in line with a key strategic challenge during a fixed time period. This can accelerate the impact of coaching both for your top talent and your overall organisation.

Let top talent fail
Although many organisations want to become increasingly innovative, many are also risk-averse. A culture of caution can hinder innovation and prevent your top talent from developing the agility they need to drive your organisation forward. It is important to encourage experimentation, to allow failure without fear, and to celebrate learning from mistakes. Rather than blaming top talent for errors, encourage them to learn and move on. This is particularly important if you are keen to hold on to people with a strong entrepreneurial or creative streak, who do not always fit comfortably into traditional, corporate environments.

Future-proof your business
The future success of your organisation relies on the effectiveness of your future leaders. Neglect them and your business will suffer. Nurture them and they will be more likely to engage others, focus on customers, and drive innovation.


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