Employee Engagement

Engaging Top Performers: Your Guide to Keeping the Best Talent

Top performers in an organization are capable of 400% greater productivity than the average employee.

Engaging top performers seems to be an oxymoron for most managers as they wonder, “Do top performers also need motivation and engagement”? Simplistically, yes! And, if you go by the statistics, it is very important to engage top performers. According to a study by Personnel Psychology, top performers in an organization are capable of 400% greater productivity than the average employee. The economic costs of losing top performers are quite high. Firstly, since they bring in a sizable chunk of revenue, losing them would adversely impact the top line. Secondly, most of the top performers that leave an organization tend to join a competitor. Finally, the cost of recruiting and onboarding replacements is significantly high and not all replacements are able to deliver the same performance. Therefore, it is imperative for organizations to invest time and effort in engaging top performers. 

Why does the top talent leave?

Undoubtedly, there are multiple reasons that top performers leave an organization and disengagement, due to a variety of factors, is one of the top. One of the major causes of disengagement is the needs and fitment mismatch. Often organizations either under utilize the skills and competencies of their top performers or give them roles they are not suited for. This leads to mounting frustration due to the inability to satisfy the needs of self-actualization and self-esteem among the top performers. Invariably, there is a reduction in engagement and motivation to work. At the same time, too much interference or micromanagement can lead to a less than pleasant experience for top performers. Therefore, engaging top performers is the first step to retaining the best talent and creating a positive dent on the top line.

Engaging top performers: Where to start

The rationale for engaging top performers is now quite evident. The next line of thought definitely points towards how organizations should start their journey of engaging top performers:

  • Needs-Fitment Match

There needs to be a needs-fitment match. This means that instead of a blanket distribution of tasks without assessing the competencies and skills, organizations should make an attempt to meet the needs and expectations of the top performing employees. Since most of the top talent strives towards self actualization of unlocking one’s best potential, they need tasks which challenge them and make them work harder, instead of mundane tasks common to all. 

  • Acknowledge and recognize

Next in line is the fact that engaging top performers requires putting an end to the equalizer effect. This means that organizations should not acknowledge and reward all employees on a similar level. There needs to be significant differences to acknowledge the effort of top performers who go an extra mile. This also comes from the self esteem needs of top performers where they seek recognition and praise.

  • Say in decisions that matter

Following from acknowledgement and recognition, another way towards engaging top performers is by literally engaging them in important decisions. Organizations should attempt to include high performing talent in some major decisions, especially the ones around their area of work. Since they add the most value, it is only fair to give them a voice. Participation in decision making can be a great engagement strategy. This also adds to their self esteem needs and they feel more engaged and motivated. 

  • Competitive compensation

When the compensation is similar, you cannot expect employees to perform on different levels. While recognition and praise sparks engagement, competitive compensation can breed greater heat by acknowledging that the top performers are putting in more effort and thus, deserve greater monetary rewards and incentives. Organizations seeking to engage top performers must have variable compensation structures. At the same time, top performers are driven by the need to outperform others and create a halo for themselves. Thus, competitive compensation can help in routing this competition towards engagement.

  • Professional growth and mentoring

Finally, motivated by the need for achievement, engaging top performers must include a path of professional growth and mentoring. Organizations must personalize learning for top performers. Secondly, constructive feedback and 1-o-1 mentoring which can help with their professional growth can be an exceptional tool for engagement. Finally, organizations can facilitate on the job training for their top performers by ensuring that each new task brings along a new learning for them and dictating the same in advance. 

These are but a few ways in which organizations can commence their efforts towards engaging the top performers. The bottom line would be to recognize their contribution and extra efforts and motivate them with opportunities to further add competencies and tread the path of excellence.  

Word of caution

With the knowledge of these practices, most organizations find themselves in a comfortable position to engage top performers. However, they need to be extremely cautious about their efforts. While greater efforts towards engaging top performers can be a good thing, on the flip side, it comes with the danger of differentiation and discrimination. This might lead to the lowering of morale of average performers, dropping their performance to below average. Thus, efforts to engage top performers should be a subtle pat on the back, which is visible to all, but not in the face. A simple example could be offering similar basic compensation to all and providing top performers with higher variables or incentives based on their performance.

To cut a long story short, engaging top performers by going an extra mile is the responsibility of an organization. Since they are putting in efforts that go beyond their contractual obligations, they deserve recognition, incentives and development a notch above everyone else. Only when organizations ensure engaging top performers effective can they guarantee state of the art employee experience, satisfaction and wellbeing.

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