Leadership Blog

Posted By: Eva Grabner | on June 23 2015

How to hang onto those top performers

In a day and age where there are many highly qualified people on the job market, I have noticed some clients becoming complacent. The cost of turnover is often way underestimated. The obvious costs are recruiting and training costs but there is also lost opportunity, lower morale, weaker customer relationships, and other similar intangibles that are harder to measure.

The cost of turnover is even higher when you lose a high performer; that Superstar, the one that is a shining example of the attitude and skills that strengthens both your culture and bottom line. This loss is incalculable.

High performers may be hard to keep for as long as you would like, however, there are many things that a smart leader can do to keep them for as long as possible.

To find and keep the right person, the process starts when you are recruiting them.

Having the right skills for the role is important but you also need to find out what motivates them, what do they love about what they do and what are their short and long term career goals. Dig deep because when you find that employee that is a good fit for the role and has the right motivation, you have maximised the likelihood that that employee will become more successful and stay longer.

Are you an ’employer of choice’ or is your department leading the way within your business?

That’s your number one priority as a leader. No one, especially high performers, likes to play on a losing team or to go down with a sinking ship. Average employees will, mostly, stay and suffer, high performers will leave far sooner . If you’re faced with this kind of turnaround challenge, don’t let your HR manager talk you into doing an employee satisfaction survey. Invite them to step up and help you right the business. Take decisive action to address the most important factor holding your team back from high performance. . If you don’t know what that is, then find out – fast!

Provide a sound induction process.

Everyone remembers their first few weeks on the job – bad or good. This process will set the tone and lay the foundation for retention. Make sure your new employee is ‘mentored’ on day one, that their tools for the job are ready and waiting and a full welcome induction process is performed.   Give them the right introduction to your company, and their job, to be successful.

Competitive salaries and benefits.

Not all employees are after that fat pay-check. When you interview them you can find out what motivates them. Often-times your hands are tied with regards to how much you can compensate them financially, however, there is always room for negotiation with regards to flexibility, work environment and vacation time.   Use the salary as a base and build up from there.

Empower and trust them.

Give your high performers the opportunity to use their unique strengths every day. That is why you hired them. Many of the best ideas float up to the top from down below if that is allowed and encouraged. If it isn’t, high performing employees will most likely become bored or frustrated, and this will quickly lead to disengagement and lower performance.

Provide career development opportunities.

Have regular career discussions with employees, allow them to explore options, provide information about opportunities, and help them make connections. Help them achieve their career goals by clearly understanding what these goals are. Goals change. Never assume that an employee retains the same goals that he or she had last year.

Build a direct relationship with each employee.

Get to know your people beyond their work skills, find out about their lives, their interests, hopes, fears and wishes. Show them that you care, and that you’re looking out for their best interests and want them to be successful. Take the time to have regular one-on-ones, with no interruptions and provide your undivided attention.


In creative, informal ways, acknowledge how much employees’ various contributions mean to you. Top employees will often say on exit interviews they never really felt appreciated. Acknowledgement and praise is cheap, use it purposefully, publicly and often.

Deal with under-performers promptly.

High performers dislike working with laggards. Train, coach, counsel and performance manage the laggards consistently and fairly; you might be surprised to find out what they are capable of.

As Richard Branson says so well

Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to

He has it right. Do you?

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