HR Mistakes That Sink Top Talent

Most companies today have programs and initiatives to keep top talent long-term. As HR professionals continue to deal with a skills gap in an ever changing, global workforce, finding ways to retain high producing employees is imperative to the success of everything from culture to profitability. Programs are usually organized around some sort of annual recognition, with the offer of targeted leadership-development opportunities. But even with the prevalence of such programs, most lack the ability to deliver real results.

Here are some of the big mistakes companies and HR management make that eventually sink top talent:


The modern era of onboarding is upon us, and the process is being revolutionized by cloud-based solutions that offer efficiency, streamlined processes, and compliance, all through the power of intelligent automation. Yet in all the technological advancement, there are real human efforts that make a difference. While a survey by Allied reports that 81% of companies don’t have a budget for onboarding, it’s important to be aware of some of the common onboarding mistakes that have little to do with budget:

  • New hires aren’t given clear expectations for their assimilation process into the company culture.
  • Management assumes the new employee understands his job.
  • The new hire is left to “sink or swim”. Leaving an employee to “prove” herself through the introductory period will most likely set-up your candidate for failure. Up to 20% of new hires leave a job within the first 45 days.
  • Ending the onboarding process too early. Most candidates decide if they will stay long-term at a company within the first six months, and one-third will quit within that time. An ongoing onboarding process that spans over the first six months proves to be invaluable. A study by Wynhurst revealed that when employees go through structured onboarding, they are 58% more likely to remain with the organization after three years.


Ongoing education and training is a powerful, two-pronged measure that benefits both an employee’s productivity, as well as his view of the company for which he works. The higher productivity certainly benefits the overall performance of the company, which is also rewarding to the employee.

However, one of the little considered benefits is the effect that a company’s investment has on the “good feelings” that are stoked within the employee. When you invest education and training in your employees, you are telling them that you care about them being their best, that you want to see them succeed now…and into the future! When there is no education, training, coaching, or mentoring, an employee is left to invest in himself, and the feelings of being used can easily overtake him. Retain top talent by investing in their career with continual education, training, coaching, and mentoring.


Speaking of the future…one of the great ways to sink top talent is to “play your cards close to the vest”, and not divulge your thoughts or plans on the potential future of your star employees. Sometimes there is no thought or plan that would reveal a path to further the career of your employee, and this will certainly run your talent into a dead end, left to pursue opportunity elsewhere.

The other unfortunate scenario that plays out is the manager who doesn’t want to develop a clear path or share his thoughts about the future of a talented employee out of concern that the employee might rise above him on the career ladder. This almost certainly leads to talent leaving, which also leads to the next mistake.


The number one reason an employee leaves a job is because of employee-manager relationships, and most of these difficulties begin within the first year of employment. While culture building initiatives are effective and important, there is one process that is often overlooked that will facilitate better communication between employee and management. A simple system that allows honest feedback and communication, without fear of reprisal, lead by an effective mediator, can accomplish powerful interaction that leads to productivity and harmony. Without providing an employee a method to voice his or her struggles with management, and an opportunity to fix the issues, you will find lack of engagement and high turnover.


Of course, none of us can avoid mistakes, but the key to retaining top talent is to make the effort to communicate effectively with your employees from before day one. Invest in a great onboarding program, give time, education, and coaching to your staff, help them develop a future with your company, and provide a process by which they can communicate effectively and honestly. Avoid some of these big mistakes, and you’ll be well on your way to retaining top talent.