Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business is Down

Emma De Vita reviews Sylvia Ann Hewlett's new book

During these brutal economic times, organisations are slashing spending on 'talent' just when they need their star performers most.

Charities are no different. In a new book called Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business is Down, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a Columbia University professor, argues that it's wrong to assume that during a recession valued employees will be so grateful for their jobs (and scared of losing them) that they will happily work through the night if necessary. When redundancies are made, they are the ones who stay, absorbing the extra work foisted on them. The overwork and extra stress make them demoralised, demotivated and desperate to leave.

How to prevent this attrition? Hewlett lists eight "pragmatic interventions". The most pertinent to charities is "give employees meaningful non-monetary rewards". A simple 'thank you' is the way to do it. "Simply acknowledging hard work and heroic effort is a huge step in the right direction," writes Hewlett. Some tips, however: make sure the 'thank you' is personalised. Second tip: public recognition is a good idea. And third tip: a slap-up breakfast or lunch will always make someone feel special. So long as it's not at McDonald's.

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today.

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