How to retain star performers in three steps

Would you spend months choosing exactly the right car, pay top dollar, then leave it in a laneway with the windows down and the keys in the ignition?

You wouldn’t leave a car to be stolen.  But businesses invest even more in headhunting star performers, only to see them quit after six months.  You lose the opportunity to get value from their talents — and you lose productive time while their replacement gets up to speed. That’s why smart businesses stay ahead of competitors by putting time and money into retaining top talent.

At easyEMPLOYER, we work across sectors from pharmaceutical to hospitality.  Here are the strategies that we’ve seen businesses use to hold on to their stars.

1. Foster a positive environment

Is your top performer a tall poppy in their team? Employees with talent and drive can set a new standard and raise the performance of everyone around them. Or they can feel resentment, and be pressured to drop their game. The top performer will either decide to fall down to the average standard — or look for a way out.

You won’t always be able to move your top performers to another section.  But what you can do is make sure they have:

  • a supportive manager who encourages them to do great work
  • peers who share their drive. Even if their day-to-day colleagues aren’t on the same page, perhaps there’s a company-wide working group that could connect them with other strong performers.

2. Communicate opportunities

Your top performers know their value, and need to see a pathway to promotion. As a manager, you know that there are plenty of opportunities for top performers — but do they?

Don’t let them wait till the exit interview to find out. We see companies losing top staff to a promotion with a competitor, and it’s not until they sit down with a senior manager that they discover the opportunities right there at home.  It’s frustrating for everybody, but by that point, it’s too late.

Here’s a different approach.

  1. Talk to your employees about their ambitions. At the very least, every manager should know what their team members see as their next step.
  2. Communicate current opportunities. Not everybody reads that company-wide email broadcast.  If you think there’s a job a top-performer should apply for, tell them.
  3. Communicate career pathways. Sometimes, the openings may not come up very often.  Here, let them know the typical progression — and point to other leaders who’ve made that journey.

3. Find stretch assignments

Give top performers a chance to put their talent to work. Here, the word ‘stretch’ is key.  Find work that is just outside of their comfort zone, but within the outer limits of their capabilities.  Stretch them, don’t break them.

As much as you admire their talents, don’t put top performers on a pedestal. Realistically, they are not going to excel in absolutely everything they do. Particularly if they’re younger, they may be stunningly good in technical aspects of their job, but still developing soft skills.  We’ve seen top performers praised for their work then, when they eventually make a mistake, they fall hard. Disillusionment sets in.  They look for the exit.

Instead, have a balanced conversation with them.  Let them know the value that their abilities add to the company, but also show them where they need to grow.

Sooner or later, even with the best strategies, most star performers won’t stay with your company forever.  But what we can do is stop losing good people too early.

See how easyemployer clients are managing their staff to entice them to stay longer: easy roster notification, shift swaps and more.  It all adds up to total peace of mind for your employees.

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