Right this minute, a savvy recruiter is getting ready to contact one of your top employees.
How will he respond? Hopefully, your employee will tell the recruiter that he is not interested in moving right now, but thanks anyhow.
Or…will he agree to an interview?
I had a colleague who was absolutely revered by his organization. He was the best I ever saw in someone who engendered loyalty from his team. One day, I asked him what his secret was.
He laughed it off and said, “Just treat people well!” And then he paused and gave it a little more thought. “You need to care about them.”
Caring about your people (especially your high achievers) is caring about what is most important to them.
You may be surprised to learn that money is generally not what is most important to them. A recent study by Glassdoor reported that compensation and benefits were among the least important factors in workplace happiness, and that they fall in importance as income rises.
I have never had a high achieving client tell me that they needed to change companies because they wanted more money. Money does come into play after a person has already made the decision to leave and is deciding where to go, but money has never been the primary driver in any client’s decision to move in the first place.
(I should note that of course this assumes you are paying a fair wage. Please don’t see this as license to shortchange your employees!)
What I do hear most often from high achievers who are seriously thinking about leaving their companies are things like: no line of sight to career growth, lack of valuable feedback and support to help them grow, and wanting a job that has more meaning in a place where they will feel valued.
Take the time to learn what is important to each of your people. But here are two very important areas to get you started…
A strong sense of meaning in work is a powerful motivator for everyone, especially high achievers. People want to know that what they do serves a greater purpose and has a positive impact on their organization and company (if not the world).
Create that sense of meaning with your group by having a strong and inspiring vision comprised of your team’s shared values, purpose, and mission. Help individuals “connect the dots” from their work to the higher organizational vision as well as to the corporate mission and goals.
Make sure your people feel valued, especially your high performers. Help them see how their work contributes to the company’s success.
Interestingly, even though money in itself has not been found to be a primary factor in workplace happiness, I have found that money does play a role, just not in a way you may have thought.
High performers are highly motivated and driven to make a positive impact on their organization and company. When they share with me any unhappiness about compensation, it’s because they see it as a reflection of their company’s perception of them. Their dissatisfaction is less about the exact amount of money that they make, and more about a larger problem of not feeling appreciated or valued.
There is of course another powerful way to make your people feel valued: tell them! Don’t reserve feedback for only those things that they need to improve. Tell them what they are doing well also and express appreciation for their hard work. A little acknowledgement goes a long way.
When your people are connected to a strong sense of meaning in their work, feel valued, and know how they contribute to the company’s success, they will be happier.
And it will be much more difficult for another company to lure them away.
Development and Growth
A critical component of professional development and growth is feedback. Feedback is important to everyone in order to improve and advance in their careers. Even your top performers want to know where they stand and what they can do better.
A study done by SAP and Oxford Economics reported that feedback was a large contributing factor to job satisfaction. Yet, one of the top complaints I hear from my clients, all of whom are high achievers, is that they get little to no meaningful, actionable feedback from their managers.
This makes me a little crazy.
Some leaders think that their high performers “should” already know that they are doing a great job. Others have a hard time identifying what their top performers need to improve, or are afraid of de-motivating their employees with “negative” feedback. And some leaders just are not very good at providing meaningful, actionable feedback.
But here’s the deal…
Although your top performers may know they are doing a great job, they still want to hear it from you. A high performing director once said to me in frustration, “I just want to know where I stand with my boss!” I’m sure her manager would have been very surprised to hear that, especially since he was in the process of recommending her for promotion!
Even top performers have things that they can improve that will help them in the arc of their career. When framed in that context, talking about areas of improvement can be a huge motivator.
The good news is that providing meaningful, useful, actionable feedback is an easily learned skill. If you need some help, give me a call!
Leaders must care for people before they can develop them. (John Maxwell)
Beyond providing useful feedback, take the time to understand your high achiever’s career aspirations and look for points of intersection between what new skills will help your organization now and what will help your employee grow in his/her career. Keep your eyes open for challenging assignments that will keep your top performer engaged and help him/her learn, grow, and gain visibility.
Care about your people’s development and growth. They do.
It’s Your Job
Leading with a meaningful, compelling vision and working with your people to improve and grow are important parts of your job as a leader. I would even say they are mandatory.
It is said that people don’t leave their company, they leave their boss. That is not necessarily because they don’t like their boss (although that is sometimes the case), but more often because they don’t believe that their boss is willing or able to move the organization forward and help them grow.
Take the time to understand what is important to your employees. Build a culture where work has meaning and individual development and growth is the norm. Retain your best people by showing that you care.
Leaders want to do the right things to retain their people, especially their best people. But for various reasons, leaders too often don’t take the time.
But just remember… recruiters WILL take the time.