Gone are the days when your most talented employee was sequestered in an office or research lab, unknown to other companies who might want to hire her. Today, her LinkedIn profile is robust and she updates it regularly. She tweets and shares her thoughts on a variety of websites. She's discussing industry trends on online professional forums. People are following her. Her professional network is global and grows every day, and it includes people from your fiercest competitor. She is known to many and discoverable by all. If she works for you, you had better be scared of losing her--unless you're giving her the four things she demands of you, her employer. (None of them is about compensation or perks, by the way.)
1. She demands that you give her opportunities to acquire valuable new knowledge and skills. She knows how fast the world changes, how unexpectedly disruptions occur, and she is concerned about the possible obsolescence of your company and of her career if she overstays in a has-been company. She wants to be cutting edge, and if your company falls behind, she's out. Look at her LinkedIn profile's "Skills & Endorsements" section: Are you helping her grow in the way that is important to her?
2. She demands that you give her opportunities to complete projects with objective, measurable results. For her career, she knows the difference it makes to "have been involved with" a project versus having "achieved a 10x improvement." If her job has become one of doing the same thing every day with no specific and measurable achievements, she has plateaued in your company and will leave. Look at her LinkedIn profile's "Projects" section: Are you helping her add new projects that demonstrate her ability to get things done and meet greater and greater challenges?
3. She demands that you give her opportunities to branch out, make lateral career moves, be more adaptive, and never be pigeonholed. Being pigeonholed, being valuable only as long a current skill-set or type of job is in demand, risks obsolescence and limits opportunities in a global market that demands diversity of experience and the ability to be resilient and to adapt to new challenges. Look at her LinkedIn profile's "Summary" section: Are you helping her develop career breadth in addition to depth, so that she might have multiple options in her career direction?
4. She demands that you give her opportunities to develop her professional network. She wants to make connections in order to stay informed real-time, to have people to reach out to when she needs advice or information to do her job better, to help anticipate disruptions that will require her to pivot her career, and to know when it's time to leave your company.
Yes: She will leave your company.
Paradoxically, she will leave sooner if you fail to give her these four things that she demands of you.
(If you want to better understand how your top employee thinks, read The Start-Up of You. If you want to learn how to better manage her, read The Alliance: Managing Talent in the Networked Age.)