Are you losing employees to your competitors?

I believe in the idea of a meritocracy, where high performers are handsomely rewarded, low performers quickly exited and new blood is sought out. Any business can change into a culture of high performance given enough time and organisational will to let the wrong people go.

Top performers are always in demand, they are contacted with other employment opportunities on average 4.3 times per year (Qualtrics). The key question is – how do you keep your high performers?

Be the steward of a rockstar culture

High performers want to work for high-performing leaders. One of the earliest lessons I learned in the headhunting game, was that people don’t work for jobs. People work for people. People don’t quit their jobs. They quit their leaders. B and C players don’t mind working for other B and C players. In fact, they prefer it, because it allows them to fly under the radar.

High performers will keep you honest. If you want your team to be high performing, you better bring your A-game and be constantly improving. High performers will keep you accountable and will call you out on your bullsh*t. They will make you a better leader over time but you need the stomach for honesty.

Compensate aggressively

While money may not be the number one thing keeping a high performer on your team, it is certainly a high priority. The problem I see with many rem structures is that when performance is not directly tied to revenue, companies don’t offer enough variable compensation to truly motivate high performers.

If we know that top-performers will leave an organisation for a 15-25 per cent increase in annual salary, then why are most organisations insistent on giving three to five per cent annual salary increases? Instead of giving everyone a paltry increase that will satisfy no one, give your high performers the 15 to 25 per cent increase; funded by not giving increases to the low and middle-of-the-road performers.

Fair compensation, tied to performance, shows high performers that you believe in and value them, and keeps them from being lured into “the grass is always greener” mentality that so many workers have in today’s economic boom.

Provide challenge and a career path

High performers have an innate need for self-actualisation. Even if they’re highly compensated, if you don’t provide a career path, they will have a wandering eye. High performers get bored easily, and while average and low performers are more interested in long-term stability, true top-performers find monotony, punctuated by an occasional Hawaiian shirt Friday to be a fate worse than death.

High performers want to blow past the basic goals and to be handsomely rewarded for it, and have the opportunity to be challenged more. Along with challenge comes a clear career path. They want new job titles, new skills and new responsibilities.

With the rise of the internet, and specifically social media, we have a world where the divide between the best and the rest has never been more profound. We know who the best are, and good headhunters can easily find them.

Conversely, these high performers have more open access to salaries, market worth and employer reviews than ever before. They know what you’re paying and competition for talent has never been higher. It will keep increasing over the next 12 years as 40 per cent of the current workforce retires.

Headhunters have their sights set on your high performers. Don’t give them a reason to leave. When they call, you want your high performer to say, “Thanks but no thanks, I’ve got too good of a thing going on here to give it up.”

Kara Atkinson, recruitment expert, www.karaatkinson.com

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