5 Ways to Retain Top Talent

We’re fortunate at The Ken Blanchard Companies to have dozens of talented people who’ve been with us for 10, 20, 30 years and more! These long-term employees bring value to our organization in so many ways. They have developed deep, trusting relationships with our clients and associates. Because they know our business inside and out, they’re effective and efficient. They’re a wonderful resource for newer employees, who can call on them for knowledge and support.

I don’t think it’s an accident that we have so many long-timers at our company. Over the years, our leadership team has made an ongoing effort to connect with our people, listen to their feedback, and meet their needs. As a result, many of them have fallen in love with our business and stayed for the long term. We value their contributions and are honored they’re part of our team.

It’s no secret that the cost of losing good people is high. A recent study showed that replacing an employee can cost a full third of that employee’s annual salary. With an average turnover rate of 18%, those expenses can add up quickly.

If you’d like to attract employees who will stay engaged and committed to your organization, here are five suggested best practices.

1. Recognize People

According to a Pew research study, 57% of the Americans who quit their jobs in 2021 left because they felt disrespected at work. Don’t let this happen in your organization. Treat people with respect by telling them you appreciate them and why.

What if you grew up in a family that didn’t openly express appreciation for one another, and acknowledging people makes you feel uncomfortable? My advice is to “fake it till you make it” and do it anyway. Catch people doing things right and give them detailed, specific praise for their accomplishments.

While it’s important for companies to pay people well and provide benefits, don’t underestimate the power of recognizing people for their contributions. After analyzing 1.7 million employee survey responses, A Great Place to Work found that the most important driver of good work was recognition (37%), not promotions (4%) or more pay (7%).

At Blanchard, we bake recognition into our culture with our People’s Choice Awards. The awards tie into the values our company seeks to live. The Dream Team Award, the Authenticity Award, the Most Values-Led Player Award, and the Unsung Hero Award are just a few examples.

2: Partner with People

One of the most effective ways to retain your best people is to be there for them over the long term. That means regularly setting goals with them and giving them appropriate direction and support, depending on their development level on each task.

Goal setting is an ongoing process, not just something you do once a year at performance review time. Meet with each of your direct reports at least twice a month to listen to their concerns and ask how you can help them succeed in achieving their goals.

3. Keep Showing Up for People

One mistake a lot of managers make is that once a direct report becomes good at their job, the manager disappears on them. Don’t ghost your people. While it’s great to give self-reliant achievers autonomy, everybody needs acknowledgment. Keep showing people that you’re behind them by giving them clear, specific feedback on their work. And if something goes wrong, help them get back on track. Whatever you do, don’t become a seagull manager who flies in, makes a lot of noise, dumps on everyone, and flies out. That’s a management style I hoped would go out of fashion by now. Unfortunately, it’s still around.

4. Help People Grow

If a company is going to retain top talent, it must provide growth opportunities. Recently, our company offered a series of meetings to help people explore career development at Blanchard. On an individual level, help your direct reports grow by giving them a stretch project—something they haven’t done before—and let them know you’ll be there to provide direction and support if they get stuck. Not only will this empower your people, it also will benefit the organization by building skills and bench strength.

5. Let People Be Human

Organizations are made up of human beings—at least until AI and the robots take over! Human beings function best when they have a work-life balance. If you want people to stick around year after year, don’t pass judgment on them when they take time for themselves and their families. In fact, encourage them to do so.


Many research studies suggest that there are very real benefits to being in a successful long-term relationship: couples who stay together are healthier, wealthier, and happier. I think the same thing may be true for organizations. Start putting these five practices to work today to keep your top talent for the long term—and let me know how it goes!