Three rules to managing top talent

Top talent is not solely managed by big monetary rewards

The general view in business is that top-end talent is highly motivated by compensation, and that big monetary rewards are key to their management. There is a grain of truth to this – but only a grain. Here are three essential rules for managing top-end talent.

1. Treat them as individuals, not as members of a class: top-end talent doesn’t want to be treated as a member of a class – even if it is an exalted class. Each member of the top-end talent class spends their life striving to be unique. It is discordant with them at a very deep level if you treat them any other way.

2. Provide opportunity continuously: the biggest enemy for top-end talent is blocked opportunity, especially on the way up. If they are motivated to become top talent they want to take on big challenges – and the sooner the better. Managing top-end talent requires leaning aggressively into giving them as many opportunities as you reasonably can. The way to win their loyalty is to be the provider of opportunities that enable them to keep growing and learning.

3. Give pats on the back: because top-end talent is highly driven and intrinsically motivated, their managers can mistake them for being indifferent to praise. It is just the opposite. Talented people spend all their time doing really hard things. To do what they do, they have to flirt regularly with – and experience – failure. For this reason they need regular pats on the back. But it has to be done in a fashion consistent with the first two rules: it has to be individualised and tied to the opportunity that has been taken on and successfully completed. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2017