Employee engagement is one of the biggest challenges in talent management.
But meeting that challenge is worth it.
Keep your best workers engaged and you’ll keep them working for you.
In this period of low unemployment, top workers are leaving
every day for new opportunities.
And your competitors are doing their best to get more to
Top performers are the backbone of every successful organization.
When those employees leave, you lose essential knowledge about your operations, the investment you’ve made to train them and the relationships they’ve built inside and outside your organization.
The costs of turnover
Why is employee engagement so important? One reason is that the costs of replacing a star employee are very real. In addition to the institutional losses, there’s the hard-dollar cost.
The average cost of replacing an entry-level employee in private industry is about 50% of the departing worker’s annual salary.
And it can be much higher for others – 150% for mid-level
employees and a whopping 400% for specialized workers.
Those departures wreak havoc not only on the bottom line, but on the rest of your team’s productivity and efficiency as well.
That’s why every organization should place the highest priority on engagement – motivating, nurturing and rewarding top employees.
You need your stars to feel valued if they are going to stay with you for the long run.
Why do they leave?
We all know the saying, “Employees don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses.” And everyone will recognize some of these management styles that tend to drive top employees away.
These folks are easy to spot. They’re constantly asking
whether employees will hit their deadlines or quotas. They want to see work
before it’s finished and ask for repetitive progress reports.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting projects done
correctly and on time, but for great staff who consistently get things done and
done well, constant oversight feels (correctly) like a lack of trust.
Feeling they are not trusted, despite proving themselves
over and over, is going to drive top performers to look for a new job.
They know they are trustworthy and don’t want to waste time
soothing a manager’s unfounded anxiety.
Sure, every organization includes workers that do need
But the really good performers just need you to set
expectations, outline the assignment and get out of the way. If they need help
or aren’t going to hit a deadline, they’ll let you know.
The invisible manager
So, does that mean top performers should be left alone
entirely unless there’s a problem?
No. There’s a line between trusting proven performers to get
the job done and keep your organization successful and adopting a “hands-off”
approach that makes them feel ignored.
First of all, if “hands off” really means a manager is
trying to avoid doing their own job, top staffers are going to spot it right
But even if that’s not the case, when a manager tells hard
working employees, “If you don’t hear from me, you’re doing fine,” that might translate
to, “You’re doing OK, so I’m going to ignore you and spend all my time managing
the lousy workers.”
That’s not an engaging message of value or worth for top
employees who want more than just “you’re doing fine.”
Good employees will always want to know where they stand and
how their efforts are advancing the organization’s strategic goals.
Don’t lose your top workers by leaving them guessing.
Constant communication and regular feedback are key for even your most self-directed
Pushing employees to produce by yelling and screaming at
them, sometimes called baseball bat management, just doesn’t fly when top
employees have so many other opportunities.
Some of these managers will insist they are motivating
workers by acting like a tough coach. You know the difference and so do your
The “Do it or else!” management style always does more harm
than good. Managers who try to rule by threat are always going to push your
The great equalizers
Consistency can help morale at times, and it can buy some
degree of legal protection as well. But when managers treat good and bad
employees the same, they send the wrong message.
When an employee goes the extra mile – like coming in on a
Saturday to close a profitable account – managers are asking for trouble if
they treat that person the same as everyone else.
When bad employees are treated the same as good ones, top
staffers will start to wonder why they should try so hard if they can still get
paid for slacking.
In fact, workplace studies have repeatedly shown that too
many managers spend too much time trying to raise up poor performers.
They should be putting extra effort into recognizing people
whose performance makes a difference.
High morale and productivity follow when managers spend most
of their time supporting the top 50% of their performers.
So, find a way to recognize and reward top employees or be prepared to replace them.
What are top performers looking for?
Great employees want to work hard, and they want to be
recognized for that hard work.
And to do their best work, they need to know exactly what
they’re responsible for and how they’ll be judged.
When good workers don’t know those things, they’ll leave for
an employer that can tell them.
So, what do they want?
To start, they’ll want a detailed description of the position
you’re considering hiring them for.
Even during the initial interview, candidates should get an
accurate idea about what to expect from the job.
That includes work schedule, overall responsibilities, job
priorities and accountability.
Expect big changes down the road? Make sure they also know
how their responsibilities might shift to support those changes.
Once they are on board, share company information regularly
so employees understand how they contribute to the big picture — and so they
can be thinking about how to improve their teams’ workflows and procedures.
One of the most useful strategies for retaining top
performers is asking for their input.
Your best employees are on the front line every day, and
they see things that might slip under your radar.
To keep top workers engaged, create an environment where
questions and opinions are not just welcomed, but encouraged.
That’s because when employees ask questions, it means they’re concerned about results.
Even top performers are going to have questions, so it’s important for them to know they can always ask you for clarification.
And, perhaps most importantly, they need to see how they
will be able to grow and advance within the organization.
Rewards and Recognition
Employees who do a good job each day view recognition as verification that their performance matters.
Of course, each top employee will be motivated differently,
so it’s important to tailor your recognition efforts to the individual.
Here’s one way to determine the best recognition techniques:
- Write down what you think motivates your best workers, leaving
room for write-in answers.
- Check off the items that motivate you, then distribute the list to
- Analyze the overall results for insight into what will motivate
most employees – such as time off – but also look for ideas that might appeal
to specific workers.
And this exercise can help you gain perspective as well, by revealing how different your own motivators might be from the ones that energize your top employees.
If appropriate, meet with top employees and devise a plan
tailored to meet their motivational factors.
You can’t make every employee’s job perfect.
But you might be able to improve employee engagement in some ways – like providing more flexible schedules for those with family responsibilities.
Here’s a checklist to use when considering ways to tailor
your workforce to accommodate changing lifestyles:
- Determine the core business
requirements for your department or area first: What is it you need to achieve?
- Talk with staff about what they
- Develop possible flextime
strategies and seek feedback from your workers.
- Decide who will be covered by the
policies and check to ensure the policies don’t unfairly or illegally
- Draw up written procedures for
implementation and evaluation, including regular reassessment.
- Get support from upper management.
- Present the changes in a manner
that shows you’ve taken the lead in responding to the need for work/life
A great way to recognize employees is with “spot rewards”
like movie tickets or inexpensive gift certificates that managers can hand out
at random times during the workday when an employee’s exhibiting exemplary
Little things do mean a lot. Employees love perks not
because of the perk itself but because of the recognition that goes along with
Low-cost rewards that improve employee engagement can be almost anything. A short list includes:
- tickets to sporting events and shows
- free beverages and snacks
- gift certificates for meals
- a free lunch
- free car washes, and
- holiday family parties or picnics.
But there’s one more perk that pleases everybody: time off. An extra day off to reward an outstanding job goes a long way toward lifting an employee’s opinion of his or her company.
Finally, managers who excel at engaging and retaining high-performing staff are the ones who develop detailed short- and long-term growth plans for each employee.
So, how to design a development plan that will best nurture each top employee?
Identify each top performer’s strengths and talents and establish
goals that take advantage of those strength or address any skill gaps.
Develop work plans that allow employees to learn from
co-workers, other departments and managers, including cross-training
And schedule regular meetings to talk with them about their goals and ask what they enjoy and don’t enjoy about their work.
Then offer help, whether that be involving them in a new project or setting up a meeting with HR to discuss how they can prepare for a promotion opportunity in the future.
Ask for feedback
Here are three questions to ask your top performers:
- “Can you tell me our organization’s top three goals for the year?”
To analyze the level of engagement of top staffers, you need to
make sure you’re all on the same page.
- “If you were competing against our company, what would you do?” You may be surprised to find that top performers know exactly what
a company’s weaknesses are.
- “What could we change to get things running smoother?” Giving top staffers the opportunity to speak freely might yield
some great results. Top employees will be grateful that you asked and are bound
to have good ideas.
And provide performance feedback frequently.
Top performers aren’t waiting a year to judge themselves and
the old once-a-year review just doesn’t cut it anymore.
Want to lose a star? Surprise them with complaints about
their performance when it’s time for their compensation review.
The post Employee engagement: How to keep your top performers appeared first on HR Morning.
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