While in New York this past week, I visited a store that specializes in paper products made from repurposed elephant dung. Another store nearby displayed products – everything from bracelets to clocks – made completely from recycled vinyl records. Reusable, recycled, renewable and repurposed are all words we hear often about precious natural resources. It begs the question: what about the sustainability of people?

If we are to have the talent we need to be competitive in the future, we must focus on the sustainability of people. Our talent needs to individually be holistically healthy to position our organizations for future success. There is not an endless supply of talented people and that is why it is important to sustain the current talent. An organization’s cultural health is dependent on the holistic health of the individuals in the organization.

Sustainable talent is physically healthy. Wellness is a popular benefit in many organizations now. Fitness centers, personal training, nutrition counseling and on-site medical clinics are highly sought after perks among job seekers. Leaders must juggle competing priorities, stressful schedules and endless demands. Encouraging good physical health ensures that our organizations are stacked with available and capable talent to produce healthy organizational results.

Sustainable talent is mentally healthy. Investment in the mental health of our talent pays great dividends. Rested minds are more innovative and creative. Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly effective people is to “sharpen the saw.” Mentally healthy people read, study, listen and observe to refine and perfect their craft. Promoting time for rest and renewal invites the opportunity for mentally healthy talent.

Sustainable talent is emotionally healthy. Access to employee assistance programs, programs and activities for spiritual development and emphasis on healthy relationships inside and outside of the marketplace enhances emotional health. Emotionally healthy leaders manage day-to-day stress better and are more able to inspire other talent. Emotionally healthy people make better decisions for the organization.

Organizations that want to sustain, not just retain talent understand the mind-body-spirit connection and nurture all three. Sustainability is defined as something that is able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed. Retention is simply just holding on to something. Retained people can be warm bodies. Sustained talent is competitive advantage.

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