How to keep your bright sparks motivated

Are your employees losing their zing? Here's a Career Masterclass in keeping them motivated.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Create their perfect job. Most bright sparks have a career plan, so work with it. Ask them how their role could be adapted to help them achieve their goals, then bend the rules for them.

Hook them up. Introduce them to the CEO; let them shadow you while you meet the MD; get them a mentor. Being around senior people will show them what they could become.

Quality not quantity. High-flyer finishing tasks faster than you can set them? Resist handing them more of the same; you want to stretch their skills, not their capacity. Give them a project to lead or let them loose on an ongoing challenge.

Say it straight. Tell them how quickly you expect them to progress, then decide on the steps to their first promotion. That should keep even the most restless bright spark focused.

Encourage autonomy. When handing work to your star performers, give them an outcome-focused brief, then leave them to it. Micromanaging could be the final straw for them.

Set them free. Can't offer your coasting copywriter the stimulation she needs? Suggest a secondment to an ad agency. If you can't spare her, allow her time to work on creative ideas.

Make it official. Start a talent programme to give stars a flow of interesting work, extra training and accelerated progression. Make it tough to get onto, tough to stay part of and highly prestigious. Overachievers will not be able to resist.

Show it matters. High flyers want to 'make a difference'. Talk about their role in terms of its impact on customers or more widely on society, rather than purely financial outcomes.

Surprise them. Every now and then, apply extra pressure - a last-minute client lunch, an unexpected presentation to deliver, inducting a new recruit. Make your message clear: in this company, every day could hold the chance to impress.

The Mind Gym: Relationships is published by Little, Brown at £12.99.

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