Mentoring High-potential Talent

We asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invitation only nonprofit organization comprised of the country’s most promising young entrepreneurs, the following question to find out their advice for supporting — and therefore, retaining — top team members:

“How can small companies make sure that high-potential talent is getting the best possible support and mentorship?”

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

1. Prioritize It Highly

“I find support and mentorship has to be a vocalized priority, or else it goes ignored. Especially in a young company full of young people, I think it’s crucial that everyone recognizes they’re only beginning their personal growth — and that they’ve got a lot they can learn from everyone else!”

2. Ask the Right Questions

“I make a point of hiring team members who have plenty of ambition (and a few side projects of their own). When the business of the day is complete, I make a point of asking about their progress — that gives me an easy way to offer specific advice, connections and other mentoring, rather than trying to help in a way that might not be so useful.”

3. Inspire the Mentorship

“Inspire up-and-coming leaders to mentor high-potential talent. I will usually talk to my rock-star employees about spending some extra time with the new talent. It’s a win-win. The mentor feels that she is taking more of a leadership role, and the new talent gets the support he needs.”

4. Engage in Retention Coaching

“Set up monthly, one-on-one meetings with your most talented professionals and ask how you can better support them. Talk with them candidly about their challenges and share your own experiences. Being relatable and helpful on an individual level is the most effective way to get high-potentials to stick around.”

5. On-Boarding Training Program

“Whenever we hire someone, we’ve developed in-house training modules to bring them up to speed as soon as possible. We also organize one-on-one training sessions with various people in the office; this serves a dual purpose of training along with networking!”

6. Give Them That Love

“There is no substitute for real face time with your new talented employees. If you want them to develop and grow, you need to give them the attention they deserve. Make sure to meet with your team at least once per week to touch base on their progress and questions. Solicit feedback from them and do your best to improve as a manager.”

7. Measure Results Through Analytics

“I put extra emphasis on analyzing the results of the efforts that my high-potential talent gives to my organization. If you know exactly where a high-potential person is lacking or succeeding, you can apply more of your resources at that point to ensure maximum results.”

8. Suggest Leadership Positions

“Encourage them to take on leadership roles earlier than they’re comfortable. This will force them to interact with senior team members in a more productive way and will allow them to grow at a much quicker rate.”

9. Go for Company Coaching

“We utilize a coaching company to help set structure and mentor our talent. It really helps to have an outside opinion when dealing with team members (and keeping them happy). It’s been one of my best investments, and I find it is most successful when we go through rounds of growth. It keeps the support system consistent during these hectic periods.”

10. Make Many Introductions

“In addition to providing personal support to top talent, you should introduce them to other potential mentors and support them in joining relevant professional groups. This will broaden their horizons and help them to bring back fresh ideas to your company.”

11. Solicit Weekly Meetings

“Managers should individually meet with all their direct reports once a week so the employees’ voices are heard — this meeting is an opportunity for employees to voice opinions and concerns, and for managers to make sure their team has the support it needs.”

12. Invite Other CEOs and Leaders

“We have a relatively small team, but a pretty great network. We often ask those leaders and managers who we know at other companies to meet our team. While my liberal arts and consulting background is relevant for some of our team members, others need to learn from top technical folks. There is only so much that you can teach a young person; support them further by opening up your Rolodex!”

13. Create Deeper Dialogue

“Beyond typical training and mentorship, it’s important to create a deeper dialogue with high-potential talent. Provide an opportunity for open brainstorming to spurn creative ideas and let them know they are “heard” on a regular basis.”

14. Balance Out the Dynamic

“Communication is essential. You should have weekly meetings, both one-on-one and with the whole team. This gives everyone a chance to see where others are having trouble, need help, or are succeeding. It ensures everyone is working together, and it creates the opportunity for real relationships.”

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