You use your connections, recruiting software, and interview skills to land the perfect candidate. Then, a year or two later, he or she leaves, following another great opportunity. It’s a recurring nightmare (and occasional reality) for recruiting and staffing professionals everywhere.

What can be done about it? The short answer: pay attention to all top performers. The long answer involves five ways of encouraging that helps to keep great employees sticking around:

1. Make expectations clear. I can’t tell you how many highly qualified people have left jobs because they were constantly being told to do one thing and criticized for not doing another. Handing off a job description is one thing, sticking to it is much harder. Making sure an employee knows all of the unwritten expectations is important too.

2. Provide necessary tools, time, and training. I’m always surprised by the assumptions employers make. They think, for example, that someone who has worked with Excel spreadsheets knows all about working with other spreadsheet programs. Or that someone with 10 years of experience in Human Resources will automatically understand how his or her new company manages human capital. Imagine trying to recruit these days without recruiting software – it would be frustrating, wouldn’t it? Don’t frustrate employees who are trying to do good work.

3. Regularly communicate the employee’s standing with the company. It’s not enough to have an annual performance review. You need to let an employee know when and under what conditions they can expect to be considered for a promotion or – and this can be hard – that as of now, you can’t foresee a promotion in the future. Good employees always appreciate clarity and honesty, even if it’s not exactly what they want to hear. It reaffirms their trust in you and the company.

4. Listen and answer. This is an expansion of my point above. Make sure this employee knows that he or she can always have your ear and will always get an honest and considered response. He or she may have a suggestion for improving workflow that makes you nervous, for example. Explain why, in your mind, the plan won’t work well, then listen some more. Then keep the conversation going until 1) it becomes clear to both of you what the best course of action is or 2) you agree to disagree. The point is: by listening and explaining, you show that you value that employee’s input and open lines of communication for all kinds of other ideas. And if they’re a good employee, they are bound to have some good ideas.

5. Be flexible. I don’t want to advocate for the whole “Results Only Work Environment” movement, but the core truth it’s trying to address is this: employees who have proved themselves are, with very few exceptions, capable of managing themselves. If they want to take a half day to help an aging parent and catch up on work at home, don’t even think twice – you know it will get done. Such an attitude toward a good employee promotes trust and openness and encourages the good work ethic he or she already has.

 Another way to summarize all this: communicate with your employees. I’ve posted before about the importance of listening – all that I wrote there is pertinent to this topic as well. Listen, communicate clearly – over and over again. Remember that the #1 reason that employees leave their company is because of a poor manager.  Don’t become that “poor manager”.There’s no better way to keep a top-notch employee happy at your company than to truely listen to them.

For ongoing thoughts about Talent Management and other employment-related topics, subscribe to this blog.

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