How To Retain Executive Talent

11 August 2018

How To Retain Executive Talent

Company loyalty isn’t what it once was and employees are offered a greater choice of employers than ever before. Millennials, in particular, can be eager to change jobs as soon as the next best opportunity comes along.

This landscape can make it difficult for businesses to retain their top executives. It also means that your company must be at the height of its game when it comes to creating an atmosphere that will nurture talented executives and encourage them to commit their long-term future to you. To do this, companies must recognise what it is that top-level employees are looking for in a job role in terms of benefits, working environment, growth opportunities, and company culture.

In this article, we’ll outline some of the best strategies you can utilise to keep executive talent at your company. We’ll start by looking at some of the common mistakes that companies make in this area.

These are the errors that can lead to your workforce looking for new roles elsewhere. We’ll then cover some of the benefits that top-level employees such as managers and CEOs look for. This article will also examine some of the benefits your company should be offering, as well as examples of businesses that excel at creating employee satisfaction. Finally, we’ll explore the types of company culture that individuals can thrive in.

Hiring and retaining talented individuals can sometimes be a challenging task.

Retaining Talented People: Common Mistakes

Many businesses have similar structures and hierarchies. This is one reason companies frequently make similar mistakes when it comes to attracting and retaining talented individuals. Work cultures are often comparable across industries, but organisations that stand out are usually the ones that take a different approach in how they treat those who work for them and the culture they foster. In this section, we’ve outlined some of the common mistakes that businesses make that result in talented personnel wanting to leave.

Underestimating the Importance of Engagement

It’s common for managers to assume that job satisfaction or happiness equates to job engagement. This assumption is far from the truth and leads to engagement being an underappreciated factor in retaining talent. A team filled with the brightest and most ambitious people may seem like the ideal scenario for those organisations looking to solidify a long-lasting forward momentum, but if those individuals are not engaged with the business’ ethos, they are less likely to stick around for the long term. Furthermore, a recent study by Gallup demonstrated that employees who engage with their work are up to 21% more profitable.

There is, of course, a multitude of reasons why someone may feel engaged or disengaged with their work. We’ll touch on some of these in more detail further on in the article. It’s clear, however, that disengaged workers are more inclined to seek work elsewhere. So, if you’re currently struggling to keep top executives, engagement could be a key indicator. But what exactly is engagement? It’s more than just being treated well by an organisation, although this too is important. It’s about how compelling their work is, how much recognition they are given, what their long-term prospects are like, and whether it seems like their success is tied to that of the business. Talented individuals will expect all of these precisely because they work harder and smarter than those around them. Without these elements, they will soon start looking for an organisation that can offer them.

It’s vital that companies identify potential and ensure employees are engaged with their work.

Failing to Identify True Potential

As any hiring manager knows, candidates that seem to impress on paper or with their interview answers aren’t always the ones that go on to bring true value to the business. Identifying potential isn’t an easy task, and it’s closely linked to the point we mentioned above about engagement. Even if an employee is delivering results in their current role, they may not have what it takes to work their way up the corporate ladder and continue to bring value. However, it’s easy to make employment decisions based on current results alone. This can result in genuinely talented workers looking elsewhere.

True potential is a combination of ability, engagement, and aspiration. Ability is no doubt the driving force of these three traits, as it will mean that a person can deliver the expected results and learn as they go. However, without engagement or aspiration to succeed, they may end up coasting along or failing once they reach higher levels of the company structure. Aspiration and personal drive are difficult metrics to measure. A person may seek financial rewards, recognition, or advancement, so it’s essential that your company is able to offer that. Engagement, as we’ve seen, is a measure of how connected to the business ethos an individual may feel. Without this connection, they will be unsuited to leadership roles. Identifying individuals who possess all three of these attributes can be difficult, but it’s essential to do so if you want to attract those kinds of people to your business and retain their services.

Mishandling Rising Talent

Even if you have successfully identified the most talented members of your organisation, it can be easy to alienate them or drive them to look for a role with a competitor. This can be done through mismanagement and failing to nurture those with talent correctly.

In most company structures, line managers will be responsible for the management of their direct subordinates, while senior managers will only hear feedback from those line managers. Although this streamlined way of working can be effective for the overall success of a team, standout individuals may not get the attention they need to thrive. Ideally, the progression of such talent should instead be managed across those at more senior levels.

A clear appraisal system needs to be in place, whereby employees are given structured feedback and advice from those in related senior management roles. This direct contact means that their needs can be met, their aspirations realised, and their engagement levels satisfied.

Another mistake is in shielding high-potential individuals in the working environment. Quite often, businesses will have a clear structure of development and responsibility. Such a structure can result in employees not being exposed to more demanding areas of the business until they’re deemed ‘ready’ by the usual standard. However, true talent often thrives in high-pressure situations. Those who possess such skills can adapt, overcome, and excel. Yet many managers are rarely willing to loosen the reins enough to allow this to happen. This stifling environment can leave employees feeling unfulfilled and disengaged. They may seek out opportunities elsewhere that present a more challenging and nurturing environment. It’s therefore vital that highly skilled employees are given the opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. Providing challenging projects and goals that allow for a degree of freedom and creativity are a good way of satisfying these individuals.

Identifying and nurturing truly talented individuals can boost long-term results.

What Benefits Are Top-Level Employees Looking For?

So far, we’ve looked at some of the mistakes and errors that commonly lead to valuable employees seeking opportunities elsewhere. Now it’s time to examine some of the incentives that will make that same top-level personnel commit their long-term futures to a business. Benefits come in many different forms, from the tangible to the intangible. However, many workers are motivated by the financial gains they can expect to receive. Although a great deal of this will come from a main salary, there are other side benefits that can contribute to an irresistible package that will convince your staff they are in the right place. Millennials, in particular, are driven by pay and benefits when it comes to choosing an organisation to work for but a good work/life balance, opportunities to progress, and flexible schedules can convince them to commit to a business.

Top-level Managers

These are the personnel that will report directly to the board of directors. They are the conduit between the general staff of their teams and the senior management positions. To recruit and keep these executive persons, it’s vital that the benefits package matches the engaging working environment. Some examples they may be looking for include:

A Company Car

High-profile employees will often travel a lot on company business. They may also be at the stage in life where they live outside major metropolitan areas, meaning they’ll have to commute in. Providing a quality mode of transport can be an appealing prospect in these situations. Although cars are often seen to be status symbols, the practical application cannot be overlooked. A company car makes any salary seem more attractive, given the usually high costs of purchasing a vehicle befitting of a top-level manager.

Providing a company car for your managers is an attractive incentive.

Health Insurance

Private medical care is undeniably expensive. However, it’s a useful addition to most people’s lives. Providing comprehensive health insurance to your brightest stars is not only a financial incentive but also shows that you really care about the wellbeing of your employees. The same can be said for benefits such as maternity or paternity leave. Family is often the central part of people’s lives, and employers should respect that fact rather than penalise it.


Whether it’s to spend time with family, travel, or relax and unwind, everyone needs time off. Of course, your very best employees will likely go above and beyond with the hours they work every week. Providing them with adequate compensation for this can go a long way in creating loyalty and enthusiasm.

CEO and Directors

CEOs and directors will expect to receive the same as those who report into them, as well as some other additional benefits. For example, over 51% of organisations in the US provide bonuses to their CEOs. These are the people who will be steering a company to success, and true talent at this level is harder to find and attract. That’s why fostering such talent and promoting from within is often a tactic the most successful business employ. Some of the benefits that high-ranking executives and directors may expect to receive include:


Top-level execs will spend a great deal of their time travelling to promote the business. Conferences, meetings, expos, and more will frequently be on the agenda. This time away from home can be taxing emotionally and financially. That’s why a significant travel budget can make a huge difference. Being able to travel and stay in business class is a perk that can make a huge difference to board members. One study, as linked above, showed that 34 percent of companies that offered CEO-specific benefits also provided travel for costs for spouses or companions. Again, this can make a salary seem more appealing in the long run.

Club Memberships

Networking is a big part of a director’s role, so having an appropriate place to entertain clients is essential. That’s why businesses will often provide their board members with access to a country club, golf club, or other such establishment. Often these memberships can be worth a significant amount, yet their cost is justified when put to a genuine business use.

A membership at an exclusive club can be good for networking and keeping directors happy.

Professional Accreditation

Depending on the industry, there could be a range of professional bodies a CEO needs to be a part of or accreditations that they need to have. The fees for such memberships and certificates can be expensive, so companies will often secure the loyalty of their talent by contributing in whole or in part to these.


What Benefits Should Your Company Be Offering?

Now that we know some of the expectations of your most senior staff members, it’s time to consider what benefits your company should be offering. This will, of course, depend on the individual to some extent. However, your overall benefits could be what set you apart from competitors and mean you’re better able to keep hold of valuable employees.

The Basics

There are some elements that you simply must get right for everyone. These are the things that people will expect you to provide:

  • A good pension scheme. Planning for the future is important, so a defined contribution scheme that provides a high matched percentage is desirable and builds a good employer-employee relationship.
  • A share scheme. There are a variety of share schemes available, but it’s a good way to encourage belief in the success of the business. Shares may be limited to a level within the organisation, or by how long has been served.
  • Sick pay. Health, both physical and mental, should be a priority for employers. Sick pay, private health insurance, dental coverage, and critical illness insurance give employees the sense that they’re valued and secure.
  • Life insurance. Death in service insurance means that workers can rest assured that their loved ones will be taken care of in the event of their death.
  • Maternity and paternity leave. Family should always be a high priority. Extending enough time off and pay for new parents can go a long way to demonstrate that an employee and their family are of value to the company.

Time off for important life events should be a given.

Above and Beyond

Everything we’ve mentioned above should be the bare minimum to ensure your employees are sufficiently cared for. However, there’s plenty more that can be provided to secure the services of talented individuals:

  • Transport allowance. Whether it is a contribution towards a car, a cycle to work scheme, or the covering the expenses of work trips, a transport allowance can be an attractive incentive. Higher-ranking members of your organisations may expect or seek a company car, particularly if they will have to commute from out of town. However, accommodation expenses can also be included in this.
  • Gym membership. A healthy lifestyle is desired by many people, and your business should do all it can to promote such a choice. A gym membership, or providing on-site facilities, can make a huge difference to your employees.
  • Training and qualifications. You want your staff members to grow and progress, personally and professionally. Offering a contribution system for the training and qualifications they need to improve their abilities shows you’re serious about advancing employees.
  • Flexible hours. Life doesn’t always revolve around work. Giving employees some flexibility with when they work can mean that talented execs with irregular home lives can still contribute effectively to the collective effort.
  • Free travel. Whether it’s for team retreats or a cash bonus towards a trip, giving a travel incentive, outside of business trips, can be a highly sought-after reward.
  • Sign-on bonus. Some companies offer a cash incentive for joining up with them, which can reach as high as £5000. Again, this demonstrates that you’re serious about attracting talented individuals and sends a positive message about your intentions.

Fitness and wellbeing are things your company should take as seriously as your employees.

Including some or all of these in your benefits package can really make you stand out from the crowd. However, don’t forget that benefits alone cannot make up for a poor working culture or environment. 

The Best Benefits from Top Businesses

Some benefits provided to staff by businesses are so good that they’re newsworthy. Not only does this raise the profile of a company, but it also means that people want to work for that organisation. Below is a selection of the most unique, attractive, and ingenious benefits we’ve seen:


Cloudreach won ‘top company’ awards in 2013 and 2014, and for good reason. The benefits they offer are simply fantastic. Top of the bill is an uncapped amount of days off to book throughout the year. Obviously, this isn’t a system that can be abused, but it encourages a fair an honest approach. So long as work is getting done, it’s possible to take the time out that is needed. All staff members also get their birthdays off; a nice touch that really shows awareness of what’s important to people. They also have an annual ‘kick off meeting’ where the entire business is taken to a secret location to meet peers and enjoy four days away.


Scotland-based brewers BrewDog provide free beer to their team members, which is amazing. However, even if you don’t like beer, there are plenty of other benefits in their package. With a week of ‘puppy leave’ for your new dog, as well as a 10% pension contribution, healthcare, and profit share scheme, BrewDog know how to attract the very best talent to their business. This ethos is evident throughout the branding and work culture that the company adhere to and sets a fantastic example of how to treat employees.  

Time off for a furry new addition seems like a dream benefit to most.


It’s no secret that Google has long offered some of the most attractive benefits and incentives over the last few years. The US tech giants provide up to 22 weeks of paid maternity leave, as well as between seven and 12 of paid paternity leave. They have created an understanding that family is a vital part of some peoples’ lives, and that enough means of supporting that should be a basic right. Google also try to create a positive and healthy office culture; free, high-quality food is provided, as well as gym access. Employees can also bring their pets to work in some offices, and even drink wine and beer on a Friday.

Goldman Sachs

Investment giants Goldman Sachs has offered coverage for gender reassignment surgery for nearly a decade now. It’s a move that was recently emulated by Netflix and Facebook, as well as a variety of other companies. In what is a hugely personal and daunting procedure, having the backing of an employer for such an undertaking can be a massive help. The company are also committed to promoting the progression and growth of all its employees, making it one of the most sought-after institutions in the world.

How Do Benefits Impact Employee Satisfaction?

There can be no denying that pay is one of the main drivers of employee satisfaction. A healthy benefits package can contribute towards this level of happiness, however. One study found that 18% of respondents thought that adding work-related benefits would improve their job satisfaction. Furthermore, 20% stated that improved annual leave would make them happier, and 29% believed flexible working hours would help. These are all elements that can be factored into a benefits package. Minor changes could result in huge improvements in satisfaction levels. However, as we’ve previously mentioned, engagement with work and company is also vital for securing the most talented individuals.

The numbers don’t lie; engaged and happy workers are more profitable.

How Can Your Company Offer Better Benefits?

Of course, it’s not always going to be financially viable to offer such expensive and extravagant benefits. However, sometimes you have to be creative with what you’re able to provide your employees. Start by trying to get some honest feedback on what’s important to your staff. Asking questions such as, ‘what would make you change jobs today?’ can be quite revealing. Most people will likely say, ‘a pay rise’, but others may wish for a better pension scheme, maternity leave, or yearly bonus. Once you have a clear understanding of what your staff desire, you can start planning on how to implement some of those strategies. Look at the resources you have available; it could be possible to offer large discounts or free goods and services that your company provides. Your goal is to create a company culture that is reflective of your business ethos.

How to Create a Positive Company Culture

We’ve already stressed the importance of employee engagement. It makes people more productive, happier, and encourages highly talented individuals to stay with an organisation. One way to increase participation is to create a positive company culture. This is easier said than done, but a series of small changes can make a great deal of difference. Below are some possible methods of increasing engagement.

Define Your Values and Goals

Just because a group of people work together and have a common interest doesn’t mean that they share the same values. A company that’s trying to improve its culture needs first to define what that culture is. Everyone needs to be on the same page as to what goals and values they’re working towards. Writing a mission statement is a useful way to bring this definition to life. Your leaders and managers need to know these values and be the ones to foster a positive culture, but be sure to reward those other employees who live the brand message.

Celebrate the Positives

With the day-to-day workings of a business being the main focus for most, it’s sometimes easy to forget the long terms goals and successes. You should ensure that these are celebrated for what they are. Those who have gone above and beyond to contribute to the achievements should be recognised and praised. You also want an environment where people aren’t afraid of mistakes. Accountability is a big part of this, and it needs to come from the top down.

Teamwork makes the dream work. It also makes for a better work culture.

Communicate Often

Not everyone needs to know the ins and outs of high-level decisions, but it’s still useful to update your staff members on where the business is progressing. This helps people connect with the efforts of the company and feel like they’re contributing towards something positive. Communication is vital, so you should encourage an atmosphere where people can openly discuss matters. The more input you have, the greater the clarity your culture and objectives will receive.

Put People First

One of the most important aspects of engagement is that an individual feels appreciated and secure. It’s therefore of the utmost importance that you treat your employees with respect and understanding. Your company policies shouldn’t penalise creativity or individuality, it should celebrate it. If you look after your employees, they will be happier and more productive.

Why does it Matter?

By forging a strong sense of community and a positive culture, the rewards will speak for themselves. Companies with low engagement scores have employees that are 18% less productive and 16% less profitable than those with high engagement scores. People will also spread the word of companies with a positive working culture and a healthy set of benefits. It will make your business an appealing employment prospect, meaning you can attract top execs and keep them. Your goal is to have the people who work for you invest in the company ethos and work towards its success. A positive culture can go a long way to achieving this.

Keeping Top Talent: Final Thoughts

In this article, we’ve covered the most important factors for employing and keeping the most talented executives. It’s clear that many companies make similar mistakes in this area; they erroneously equate satisfaction to engagement, fail to identify true potential, and mishandle rising talent. However, small changes can contribute significantly to changing this. One other crucial aspect is the benefits a company provides. As we’ve seen, many people are motivated by money, but they also want to feel like their employer cares about them. An environment that is challenging, engaging, and fulfilling is important, but so is a flexible work schedule, health care, and bonuses. Some of the top businesses in the world demonstrate this with their unique and generous benefits packages.

Employee engagement is one of the most crucial parts of retaining talent, and it can be a difficult thing to achieve. However, creating a positive company culture can go a long way to doing so. A clear set of values and goals ensures that everyone is on the same age, while positivity and communication are also of high importance. The best and most successful businesses put their people first, knowing that happy people who engage with their work are more profitable and more likely to stay.


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