Every business leader is struggling to build bench strength in each department so that when a critical role opens, they’ll be ready with a deep enough talent pool. You don’t want to leave your organization vulnerable to that end result of employee turnover in customer-facing positions—customer turnover. Many of these customer-facing positions are filled with emerging leaders, most often Millennials, who would gladly stay another year (or two or three or more) if their needs were met in their current job

Ultimately, they want a career, not “just a job,” and that requires staying. Emerging leaders want to be developed. One essential way employers can keep their emerging leaders is attention to micro signals. 


Employee levels of engagement and motivation are subject to constant fluctuation in response to micro signals that your company sends:

-Small indications of whether the company is committed to employee growth
-Whether the company really believes in serving a higher purpose
-What kinds of behaviors are rewarded
-How much can be learned from working there
-How much feedback are they receiving

Be aware of what micro signals you are sending in your organization, especially in the areas of autonomy, mastery, and purpose.


Autonomy means self-direction. Give people room to experiment in their roles and learn on-the-job learning. The people who are the most skilled in their fields generally achieve that stature by doing things no one else has done before. By definition, this kind of top talent cannot be trained in the traditional sense. Wise employers push down decisions to the lowest possible level in their organizations. Most often, those closest to the decision have simple, inexpensive solutions. Letting them implement their ideas imparts a sense of autonomy. Organizations can attract and foster top talent by providing relevant infrastructure and ample room for experimentation and growth. 


Mastery means getting better at things and creating small psychological wins. Give tasks that are just hard enough to be challenging but promote growth. Talented people seek out opportunities to grow, and they will be attracted to organizations that provide opportunities to do so. Retention also becomes a less of an issue, because if people are developing more rapidly than they could anywhere else, why would they leave? If companies are truly serious about attracting, retaining, and developing high-quality talent, they need to view themselves as growth platforms for talent where people can develop themselves faster than they could elsewhere. This can create a self-reinforcing cycle as talent creates more opportunities for growth and the company gains a reputation for growing top talent. 


Purpose is the precursor to motivation. People who find purpose in their work—especially top talent—find the highest level of motivation. Connecting with a cause greater than yourself drives the deepest motivation. Help your emerging leaders connect their work with a larger purpose through relationship building and understanding what they value. For example, if your company makes nuts, bolts and screws, make sure that your employees see photos of the schools, hospitals and bridges they are helping to build. If your organization wants to be a good corporate citizen, give your employees a chance to wield a hammer, read to a child or fill backpacks. Hands-on experiences give meaning to days that are too-often filled with back-to-back meetings. 

Emerging leaders are the future of your organization, and they’re also of critical importance to the present. They want a career with your organization and will stay if you give them opportunities to work autonomously, if they can master a wide array of skills, and if they have a sense of purpose. Making sure you provide these three things will build your organization’s brand as a people developer (or emerging leader developer or Millennial developer), and you will build your bench strength and shore up retention concerns.

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