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Rewarding, Engaging, and Retaining Key Talent

  • ID: 1303623
  • Report
  • August 2010
  • 65 Pages +
  • American Productivity & Quality Center, APQC
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In 2009 and 2010 the analyst conducted a Collaborative Benchmarking study, Rewarding, Engaging, and Retaining Key Talent, to learn how best-practice organizations engage their top talent. 3M, Infosys, and Schlumberger were identified as best-practice organizations and studied via surveys and site visits. This best-practice report details the research findings regarding the strategy, processes, practices, and measures that the best-practice organizations use to engage and retain critical talent. It also includes an in-depth case study of each best-practice organization.

In spring 2009, APQC talked to members and clients about their key challenges and issues in HR. One clear need for best-practice information emerged at the forefront: how to engage and ultimately retain employees, particularly amid an economic downturn.

During a downturn, employees tend to suffer from disengagement and fear as they witness rounds of layoffs and high unemployment rates. Employees are stressed out because they are expected to do more work with fewer resources. In addition, loyal customers become scarce, so everyone has to work harder to generate profits. And employees often take financial hits—via a reduction in salary, a withdrawal of their traditional retirement matching program, a suspension in pension benefits, and/or unpaid short-term furloughs—as their employers struggle to manage labor costs.

Secondary research conducted in spring 2009 revealed that many high-potential employees are planning their exodus once the economy improves and organizations begin hiring again. With little loyalty to employers that have not visibly appreciated them, such employees will jump ship for the first better offer that comes their way.

Clearly, organizations need help fulfilling employees’ sense of job security, career growth, and appreciation for a job well done. Consequently, the analyst undertook a Collaborative Benchmarking study to learn from organizations that exhibit exemplary practices for engaging their key talent.

Three organizations were then selected for the “best-practice partner” designation:

- 3M,
- Infosys, and
- Schlumberger.

In studying these organizations, the APQC project ream uncovered 15 best practices that fall within the following categories:

- strategy,
- processes,
- practices, and
- outcomes and measurement.


1. Partner with line managers and the business on employee engagement, with championship from senior leaders.
2. Integrate the employee engagement strategy with the overarching talent and employment branding strategy.
3. Integrate engagement with the selection strategy.
4. Integrate engagement with the recruiting and employment branding strategy.


5. Gather employee feedback from multiple listening posts.


6. Provide meaningful and challenging work opportunities to all employees.
7. Customize key talent management practices, where appropriate, to maximize engagement and retention.
8. Use virtual collaboration and social media to create a sense of community between employees and the employer.
9. Train employees in order to increase their engagement and magnify engagement efforts. That is, provide training and development from the point of hire, train managers and leaders to be engagement experts, and continuously develop high-potential and leadership talent.
10. Create a rewards and recognition culture.
11. Reward your employees based on performance, not tenure.
12. Take a comprehensive view of the work/life balance.
13. Retain key talent in creative ways during times of reduced business activity or organizational changes.


14. Hold leaders responsible for employee measures.
15. Link employee engagement with business outcomes.

The bottom-line advice from this study is eye-opening in its simplicity. That is, engaging key talent involves 1) listening to employees, gathering their feedback, and acting on it and 2) paying attention to job satisfaction through regular performance management, regular recognition, fair compensation and benefits, and the opportunity for employees to develop themselves personally and professionally.

The full report based on this study, Rewarding, Engaging, and Retaining Key Talent, elaborates on the best practices listed in this article, providing examples of each practice “in action” at the best-practice organizations. The report also includes an in-depth case study for each best-practice organization.
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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- Project Personnel and Copyright

- Sponsor and Partner Organizations

- Study Methodology

- Introduction

- Key Findings and Lessons Learned

- Case Study: 3M

- Case Study: Infosys

- Case Study: Schlumberger
Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown
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Note: Product cover images may vary from those shown