Monday, May 2, 2016

Tips Your Company Needs to Identify and Keep Top Performers

Most people think retaining top talent is important. Statistically, though, it's really crucial. Top performing employees are ten times as productive as the average employee. Most often, they are also serving as leaders, mentors, and innovators, making them integral to both other employees and your business as a whole. These top performing employees are also likely targets for recruiters and other companies. So how do you retain them? These tips will help your company keep up productivity and innovation by keeping your best employees on board.

How do you identify top talent?

Top talent does not necessarily mean C-suite executives and managers. Performance and individual characteristics that are valuable to your organization are what you want to look for when identifying top talent - no matter the employee's rank or title. Which employees meet or exceed the role as put forth in their job description? How are they performing when it comes to employee evaluations? Use official and unofficial management feedback channels to flag those whom you consider top talent.

What are top performers looking for at a company?

In a nutshell, most top performing employees are looking for a company with which they can identify. They want a company that shares their values. This can take several forms:

  • Business ethics. Is yours a company that employees believe is ethical? You don't need to be a non-profit organization engaging in the greater good. Do you treat employees, vendors, and customers with respect? Do you engage in socially responsible activities in the world at large?
  • Company vision and values. Do you have a well-defined strategy and vision that guides both your business and your hiring? Are your resources allocated in line with that vision?
  • Corporate reliability. People want a company that is committed to new ideas. While innovation is exciting for top performers, a stable company is also a benefit. Top performers want to be assured a company will be around to nurture their talents. While they want to be encouraged to grow, they also want to make sure they will be supported for years to come if they choose to remain with you.
Of course, don't disregard the following items, which every good employee should expect in exchange for the work they contribute:
  • Sufficient resources. Top performers, perhaps because of their high productivity levels, are less likely than other employees to think they have the resources necessary to do their jobs. Think outside the box and don't discount employee suggestions for new tools or policies that can help make work more efficient, engaging, and successful.
  • Leadership. There's a saying that employees don't leave jobs - they leave managers. Ineffective leadership at all levels and bad management of your top talent in particular can lead to a stifled, low-productivity environment. If an employee is not getting the right kind of feedback to do his or her job properly, it's inevitable they will look elsewhere.
  • Compensation. Pay is not the only reason, or even the most common reason, people find new jobs. However, both a salary and a total compensation package that is below industry standard will make it much easier for your top talent to be lured away. Show your employees you appreciate them by offering a decent level of pay and benefits, in line with what your company needs to pay to keep them and what you can afford.
One likely commonality among your top talent is their competitive nature and sense of urgency. Many desire some skin in the game, which could come as a result of compensation, like bonuses, stock options, or commission. This will help motivate them to do better based on the company's overall success.

How do you retain top talent?

In addition to having a well-defined sense of ethics, a company vision, and being committed to employees, you should have a great company culture. When you focus on building the right company culture, you'll also attract and hire candidate that fit in well with your company. This means your top talent will work well with everyone else on staff and make friends and connections in the process, and they'll appreciate the cultural value the company adds to the work environment. A positive company culture is also more likely to ensure top performers click with their managers and other leaders in the company.

Get to know your employees as individuals.
Not every top performing employee will have the same motivations, goals, or inspiration. It is important to see how they work and what motivates them. Take the time to check in with top performers and all employees to discuss career progression, personal and professional goals, and both strengths and weaknesses. Everyone has room for improvement, and your employees should feel valued as well as supported in building their skills where needed.

Don't use your top employees as a crutch to run your business.
Be sure to attain balance. You do not want to over-rely on your top performers' strengths to the detriment of their work-life balance - or your company. Have you ever heard someone say, “Oh, if Jack were hit by a bus tomorrow, this company would be in big trouble!”? Make sure your key systems and information are replicable - don't allow top employees to be the only repository of how things work, where things are, or who you are working with. It's important for your employees to know their work is supported by other people and that they support others. They should feel like they are part of a team environment, not the entire basis of your organization. While some stress can be a positive (procrastinators thrive on deadlines, and some of your top producers might as well), overstressed employees are more likely to seek employment elsewhere.

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