I see it happen all the time, even in good companies. Surprisingly, it rarely has to do with money. More often than not, it’s due to indifference, apathy, or neglect on the part of a leader or manager.
Why the neglect?
Because most leaders and managers focus the majority of their time and energy on the low performers. It makes no sense when you step back and look at it, but leaders are either trying to correct mistakes, deal with behavior issues, or simply get wayward employees back on track with the results they’re supposed to be producing. As a result, they fail to give their winners the time and energy they deserve.
If you want to keep your winners, make sure they feel acknowledged and appreciated. Here’s how.
1. Identify your winners.
Almost every company has the salesperson who regularly makes his numbers but leaves a trail of angry customers and disgruntled co-workers in his wake. And almost everyone knows the manager who gets the short-term results but drives good employees away with her abrasive personality. Clearly, there is more to winning than just producing results.
Performance consists of two distinct components — what employees do and how they do it. Many employees excel in one area or the other. Top performers excel in both. They produce outstanding results while demonstrating total alignment with the values and culture of the organization. They get things done AND do it in a way that respects, supports, and empowers others.
2. Show your appreciation.
The biggest mistake most leaders and managers make is taking their top performers for granted. Partly because they are absorbed in putting out the ongoing fires caused by problem employees. And partly because the winners are so busy getting things done that they rarely make waves.
To show your appreciation, recognize your top performers on a regular basis, both publicly and privately. Tell them how much you appreciate their hard work and ability to get things done, and hold them up as role models to other employees. Send them handwritten notes, small gift cards, or other incentives. They go the extra mile for you, so go out of your way to make them feel wanted and appreciated.
3. Remove their roadblocks.
For top performers, nothing is more frustrating than a lack of information, resources, or management support. Check in on a regular basis to make sure your best performers are getting everything they need from you and their co-workers to get the job done. At the same time, make sure their needs are getting met in the areas of training and professional development. Look for ways to give them new assignments and special projects that will broaden their skill sets and enhance their value to the company.
4. Get inside their heads.
When top performers leave to go to another company, it’s rarely for more money. Far more often it involves dissatisfaction with something in their work environment. To keep your best people from jumping ship, get inside their heads and find out what really motivates them and what they enjoy most about their work.
Do they want increased authority or responsibility in their current position? Do they want more opportunity for professional development? Do they want to lead a team, department, or division? Perhaps they would like to have more time off to spend with family. Or maybe they want to get involved in some type of community service on behalf of the company.
Check in regularly to assess their morale. Ask questions like, “What do you like most about working here? What do you like the least? If you could change one thing about your work situation, what would it be?”
Obviously you can’t make everyone happy all the time. And it may not be feasible to provide what your superstars say they want. But an honest effort on your part to understand and meet their needs will help your winners feel wanted and appreciated. And that can make a big difference the next time a competitor comes calling!