Identifying and Retaining High Performers
Studies have shown that one high performing employee can deliver as much productivity as up to four average employees.
As a Hiring Manager, it‘s vital to know how to identify these individuals, how to attract them to your organisation, how to manage them and most importantly, how to retain them.
How do you identify a high performer?
Over the years, researchers have tried to identify the key traits of high performers, with numerous demographic information linking high performance to gender and social expectations. Artificial Intelligence has been used to try and pre-determine high performers from their career background; but of course, the reality is that high performers are individuals that cannot be identified from normalised data analytics.
A high performer will be self-motivated, empathetic and driven. They will want to align an organisation to their life, their needs and their goals. They will ask questions around flexibility, autonomy, and trust. Not because they want to take advantage of these things, but they want to be able to continue to perform in all aspects of their lives whilst not being restricted to the traditional norms of a 9 - 5 work environment. They will expect to be paid at the level that they are worth, but it will not be the motivator that keeps them within a business.
What are high performers looking for?
A high performer will need to know they are trusted to be creative. They will want to have the authority and autonomy in their roles to do this and be respected for looking for options. They may come back to an original option, but the creativity will build innovation within an organisation, and that is what will motivate them.
They may not want to necessary lead others, but they want to be a driver and motivator of others. They will seek to be in a role that challenges their interests, builds their capabilities, provides them learning (and they will seek this out within and outside of an organisation’s structure) and they will want to network. They will seek out a mentor, they will look for someone to aspire to be like, and they will look for others that they can access to learn from and understand things that they wish to learn about.
High performers generally want to have a family and a career, and not work in an environment that requires them to prioritise one over the other. They will surround themselves with people that are also high performers, which means that they may have a partner that also is in a high performing career and they want to share in the parenting and life duties that predominantly use to be left to a full time “homemaker” role. This is an important new area of focus for organisations, so they can understand how to support a high performer across all aspects of their life.
Lifelong learning is vital to a high performer and they will want to be supported in this. A key difference, however, is that they do not always rely on their organisation to actually provide this. High performers seek out learning to suit their own current priorities and needs but will seek an environment that provides them time to achieve this.
A high performer will not excel in an organisation that blocks their performance. They generally don’t always want to stand on ceremony and be rewarded in a very outward way, but they would need to work for a leader that is not seen as a blocker, or someone that does not provide the visibility of their skills and capabilities within an organisation.
How should you manage high performers?
Retaining top employees requires managers to truly understand the best practices for dealing with high-performing employees.
1. Allow flexibility, not micromanagement.
Trust top performers to get the work done, as these self-starters crave the autonomy to operate in the manner they prefer. That flexibility extends to managers staying open to learning from top employees as they discover more efficient, innovative ways to get things done.
2. Give consistent, constructive feedback.
High performers are always looking to improve. Actionable feedback is essential.
Establish regular meetings, whether it be weekly or monthly, to review their work, offer feedback and to discuss their goals. The frequency is not as important as the consistency.
3. Give them what they need to succeed.
Use your one-on-one time to learn how you can best support your high-performing employees. Use email or internal messaging for regular reporting.
Focus on learning about their obstacles, resource needs or changes that might impact their priorities, so you can help provide your top performer with what they need to succeed.
4. Tell them how they can contribute and benefit.
Assigning special projects can help keep high performers interested and motivated. Don’t forget to tell employees what new skill they will learn by completing the task. Letting people know you’re looking to challenge them with a task can motivate performers to stay.
5. Provide opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Lack of growth is often a top reason why high performers leave.
Help them identify a career path at your company that’s aligned with metrics and your HR policies. That way, you’ll have support internally when the time comes for their promotion.
Encourage their learning with opportunities for online courses, conferences, networking events or connecting with high performers at other organisations.
By demonstrating that you’ve developed their upward trajectory, you can keep them engaged in their current role.
6. Group your top performers with like-minded employees.
A major reason why people stay at companies like Google or Amazon is the ability to work with other high performers. If you can’t build a high-performing team, match the employee with a senior mentor who can inspire them.
Also, invite your best people to help with recruiting and interviewing potential candidates. They can learn new skills while assisting in identifying top talent.
7. Recognise and reward them.
Delegate important assignments to your high performers. Let them know you recognise the value of their contributions by highlighting their achievements and rewarding them for their hard work.
As an organisation, if you are wanting to look at how you are recruiting and retaining high performers, the challenge will be looking at how you build a culture and work environment that can support these base needs. Trust in their capabilities, respect their commitment and expertise, and understand their life needs - these are all key to becoming an organisation that attracts high performers.