4 proven tactics for retaining top performers

ManagementEmployee retention is just smart business. And keeping your top performers is doubly smart.

Your best people are the ones most capable of jumping ship, and if you didn’t handle them well, they may also  be dissing you and your company after they leave.

And there are other problems caused by the loss of really good people – morale takes a hit, quality and productivity drop, recruiting costs rise, and other employees start looking around for opportunity, too.

So, how can you do a better job keeping really good people?

You're Fired!
Good management

It’s not as simple as just paying them more. First, there’s probably a limit to how much you can pay, and second, most good people say money wasn’t the biggest factor in their departure.

The common complaint from those who leave focuses on how they were managed – or mismanaged.

Thus, the common cure for low retention – good management.

Managing high performers has its hurdles. They thrive on challenging assignments. They want to take charge of both executing the assignment and delivering results.

And they’re likely to challenge you every step of the way. Here are four tactics to help you get it right.

  1. Delegate responsibilities: With lower-level performers, a manager often will be delegating increasingly demanding tasks. With high performers, managers will want to delegate increasingly demanding responsibilities.
  2. Increase decision-making:   Good managers seek opinions and input from average performers.  High performers should be brought along as decision makers and be allowed to implement their decisions so they can experience the results. A manager might ask a high performer, “What do you think?” Just be sure to follow that with “OK, run with it and let’s see what happens.”
  3. Deliver tough feedback: As with other employees, high performers should be praised and rewarded for their successes. But there’s a twist. In sports parlance, the feedback and criticism you give high performers should at times “hurt enough to get their attention but not injure them so badly that they have to leave the game.”
  4. Show bigger picture: One of the ultimate goals of coaching the high performer is to get the person to understand how personal success and achievement can be expanded into the success and achievement of the organization. That’s what truly separates high performers from average performers.

You can’t save them all

In a perfect world, you’d hit a bulls-eye with every one of your top performers and retain them all. Of course, that won’t happen. You can’t save them all; some will get away.

But is there a strategy for deciding how a company should allocate retention efforts and resources? In other words, do some top performers deserve more attention than others?

The answer is yes. That leads to another question: Which top performers merit more attention?

That depends on the nature and business of your organization. What’s important is that you take the time to ask that question, and put in place a plan that engages your best people. In the end, you want them to be responsible for their own success and, ultimately, the success of your organization.

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