Manage a Team? Here’s How to Keep Your Top Performers

Recently, Scott Rivers, managing partner of Cerca Talent+ was a featured guest writer on This is an excerpt from the article posted on June 20, 2023.

Offering competitive pay, opportunities for advancement, and treating people with respect are not the secret to keeping talented employees; they’re table stakes. Employers should consider these the bare minimum, non-negotiables, a foundation upon which to build. 

How to Keep Top Talent

As president and managing partner of the executive search and talent branding firm Cerca Talent, I have seen for myself how a robust employee retention strategy is about more than good pay and a career progression plan for employees. Once you have the basics covered, try incorporating some of these often-overlooked strategies to elevate your employer brand, attract top performers and retain your talent.

Start with Great People

You have to have great people to keep them. The most effective retention strategy begins with proactive, ongoing and intentional recruitment. Managers of the highest-performing teams know it’s essential to keep an eye on the talent market, even when they aren’t actively hiring.

Sure, you could wait until you are short-staffed and struggling to keep up, but there’s almost no chance of hiring an A+ player under those circumstances. A vast majority of managers will post a job they needed to be filled yesterday, skim the first 100 resumes they receive and interview candidates who just so happen to be looking for a job at that exact moment in time. This average approach is likely to lead to an average hire.

Highly effective managers, on the other hand, are always on the lookout for talent. That way, by the time they are actively looking for someone to bring on board, they have a pool of highly driven individuals to call on to fill the role.

Foster Product Development and Innovation

No one wants to do the same tasks day in and day out for years. When it comes to keeping employees engaged at work, the discussion tends to center around professional development, career planning and advancement opportunities, all of which should be included as key tenants of an employee retention strategy. R&D, product development and innovation should also be considered as a part of a well-rounded retention strategy.

Employees want to feel part of something bigger, something future-looking and progressive. Companies that invest in cutting-edge technologies, new product development and/or expansion into emerging markets have an easier time retaining talent.

Companies should seek to include employees as a part of the innovation process whenever possible. This gives employees a greater sense of ownership and can lead to a deeper commitment to the organization.

Failing to invest in ongoing product development and innovation can quickly lead to a stagnant work environment, and companies risk losing their top talent to competitors that offer more exciting and dynamic opportunities.

Safeguard Your Culture

A positive, high-performing work environment fosters a sense of pride and loyalty among staff, which plays a significant role in employee retention. To achieve this, managers must ruthlessly guard team culture against “genius jerks” (high-performing employees who can’t get along with others) and underperformers.

In scientific fields, it’s not uncommon for organizations to excuse or overlook bad behavior due to an employee’s unique skills, talent or other perceived value to the organization. It can be easy to rationalize or justify this decision, but it’s a fatal mistake. In keeping one disruptive employee, other high performers are likely to feel dispensable, undervalued and defeated. Rightfully so, these employees are unlikely to stick around for long.

Likewise, if poor performance isn’t promptly addressed, it can have serious consequences far beyond the losses associated with paying a salary to an employee who isn’t performing their job to a satisfactory level. High performers are likely to be especially put off when they see their company tolerating underperformance and will likely be quick to opt out of working for a company that settles for mediocrity.


In the biopharma and biotech industries, like in any other sector, retention is not a linear process. Rather, it requires constant evaluation and adaptation. As a manager, it’s your responsibility to create a cohesive, high-performing team that contributes to your organization’s success in a meaningful and tangible way.

To achieve this, you must recruit, hire, develop, engage and retain the best talent available on the market. There are countless ways to do this, but it always starts with the right foundation. Competitive pay, opportunities for advancement and treating people with respect are absolute musts. Beyond that, it’s up to you to create an environment where talented people can do their best work.

Scott Rivers is president and managing partner of Cerca Talent, an executive search and talent branding firm focusing on the life sciences and clinical diagnostics.