You Want March Madness? Try Letting Go of Your Top Performers
Let the games begin. Today is the first day of March Madness and we are sure to witness superstars in the making, historic upsets and game changing decisions.
Which brings me to a term I'm sick of: game-changer.
Lately, I feel that term is completely overused. One recruiter has called me relentlessly for the last year (until I eventually complained) peddling new candidates, at least a dozen in total. I never answered the phone. But in each voicemail he ended it the same way: "...in short, this person is a game-changer."
Really? Every single person you represent is a game-changer?
It's not just people. It's also products. This week an email from a software company declared itself a "game-changer" for HR executives. Another was a game-changer for sales and marketing pros. Even a magazine declared "TECHNOLOGY IS A DIVERSITY GAME CHANGER" in its headline.
Enough. I realize it's simply the newest fad term. But when using game-changer to describe people, it's clear that in most cases it's an exaggeration. In my experience, there's a big difference between playing the game well and being that individual who literally changes the game...who reinvents the rules, creates new ways to win, and ultimately makes the competition compete differently. When you find people like that, you better hang onto them because they are the future MVPs of your organization.
In most companies, we often refer to them as High Potentials or Hi-Po's. Other companies have different, flattering terms, but it all means essentially the same thing: the future leaders and lifeblood of the organization. And understandably, there's been a lot of attention paid to how to retain, how to develop, and how to engage a company's Hi-Po's. Despite all that attention, there's one key element that is often overlooked:
It turns out that, when most managers find a game-changer, they don't want to give them up. What a shock. Human nature dictates that we hang onto our best people. But, research shows that's a sure-fire path to being a low-performing company.
In a new research report i4cp will release in April, the best companies do something that goes against the very instincts of most managers: they force their best people to rotate throughout the company. Now "force" might be too strong a word, because what they really do is incentivize this to happen by measuring each manager's track record of moving people in the organization, and they reward the best ones for doing so. If you want to be a top manager in a top company, you better be good at moving your top talent. It's a simple equation.
The report goes on to show that mobility is directly correlated with higher retention, higher engagement and ultimately better market performance by the organization. High-performance organizations don't just pay lip service to it. They embrace and clearly define what they mean by mobility. And they think out of the box. They don't confine themselves to thinking of mobility as only within the organization. They often are rotating Hi-Po's to suppliers, distributors and even customers.
In fact, some of the best companies will say that talent mobility is just simply "part of our culture." And for those companies, it's OK to use the term game-changer. Because they truly are changing the game of what it means to be a valued high-potential.