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Improve retention: Raise the visibility of your most overlooked talent

Most people want to be offered new challenges as they move through their career. If you don't offer such opportunities, those people will go elsewhere.

4 min read


Improve retention: Raise the visibility of your most overlooked talent

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Want to spend more time on your business and less time in talent search? Want to invest fewer dollars in bringing new employees up to speed? You need to improve your retention. But how?

Across the board, studies show that all generations — including millennials — wish their leadership took more notice of them and their accomplishments. In my corporate training program, “The Invisible Leaders: How to Find Them and Let Them Shine,” we delve deep into visibility — what it means and why it matters. If you want to drive up your retention numbers and unearth the overlooked talent in your organization, read on.

1. Provide positive feedback to your overlooked talent

We all want to be seen — even in some small way — for the good we do. Even the very shy appreciate a verbal pat on the back that shows appreciation. Your genuine thanks gives both recognition and confirmation that they’re on the right track and meeting expectations. Most of us need that check-in to affirm for ourselves that what we do means something to someone. Make it a point to be that someone.

2. Recognize your hidden leaders’ strengths

Visibility and recognition are like a snowball. Start by recognizing your hidden leader’s strengths among a smaller group. Soon, members of that group know who to ask when trying to solve a particular problem or who to ask for an opinion when brainstorming new ideas. It’s a natural progression. They then recommend that person when others ask them for advice. On it goes, and the overlooked leader’s hidden talents become more and better known. You can easily start that snowball growing within a small team. While each of us may have different ways we wish to be consulted (off the cuff in person, via email with time to reflect, etc), most of us appreciate and feel valued when colleagues reach out to get our thoughts.

3. Create opportunities for the overlooked leaders

Most people want to be offered new challenges as they move through their career. Those challenges can come from within their existing organization, or they can go elsewhere to find them. Help build people’s reputations for the great work they do, and they’re more likely to stick around — and advance — through your company. Opportunities come to those who are known, so make sure your overlooked leaders get the recognition they deserve.

4. Value different skill sets in your hidden leaders

Sometimes, people are overlooked because they don’t meet the organization’s current definition of a leader. If your company only tends to promote aggressive, outgoing or “loud” styles, it might be time to have some top-level conversations about more diverse leadership approaches. Studies show the most successful companies have a broad mix of personalities at the table: collaborative, assertive, low-key, team-oriented. Work toward broadening the acceptance of more approaches in your organization and change the perspective on your hidden leaders.

5. Make hidden leaders’ accomplishments known

If people and their accomplishments are known, they organically become someone who is top of mind when a new opportunity or challenge arises. Whether we’re talking about the option to consult on an interesting project or lead a new initiative, the same holds true — others will reach out when they know something about your hidden leader and their skills. Giving recognition means that those small chances will come more often, and more people at the table will know all about their abilities when a formal talent review is happening.

Build recognition for your overlooked leaders throughout the whole organization and you’ll be sure to improve retention. Everyone wants to feel valued, and you will reap the rewards of making sure that those who are typically overlooked get the thanks and praise they deserve. Don’t make them go seeking acknowledgement elsewhere — look around your team and start your plan to help build positive reputations today.


Joel Garfinkle provides corporate training, webinars and keynotes. He is recognized as one of the top 50 coaches in the US and the author of seven books, including “How to Be a Great Boss.” He recently worked with a large international firm seeking to improve retention and promote within. Using the techniques he outlines on raising visibility, the firm was able to recognize and advance a number of new executives from within the ranks, reducing talent management costs and raising retention. Subscribe to his Fulfillment at Work Newsletter to receive a one-minute read full of best practice articles, famous leader profiles and two-minute inspiring video clips.

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