People & Leadership

Top performing employees: How your business can retain them

You love top performing employees because they improve and bring more value to your business than anybody else. Here's how to keep them.

You love top performing employees because they improve and bring more value to your business than anybody else.

They have the skills to get things done, go above and beyond, taking the initiative, and you know you can count on them when the going gets tough.

Your superstars can raise the bar, boosting the effectiveness of any team they are part of. They’re the driving force of your business.

And without them, you’ll have a tougher time satisfying your customers.

Because high performing employees are so good for your business, it’s a wrench if they leave. You lose their productivity, and it costs lots of money to replace them.

It’s always good business sense to keep your top performers; below, we talk about how to retain them.

Here’s what we cover in this article:

Challenges of keeping top employees

So why is it challenging to keep your best people?

Your top performing employees know their value and may be willing to test the waters.

According to the PwC Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022, more than one-third of respondents planned to ask for a raise in the coming year, while one in five said they were extremely or very likely to switch employers.

It’s a double-edged sword.

If you give top performers added work and responsibilities without, for example, handing them an increase in pay that matches what they deserve, you’re already fighting a losing battle in keeping them.

Top performers are likely to know how valuable they are.

Their self-confidence and drive to grow and develop their careers will mean they may leave your organisation for one that gives them better pay and opportunities to grow.

Top performing employees will see new opportunities, as competitors and other companies won’t hesitate to poach them. Although job security is an influential factor, in-demand employees will still leave businesses that aren’t doing their best to keep them.

Why are people resigning?

The Great Resignation, which describes a record number of people leaving their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic, has made it more challenging to keep people.

There are several factors at work in why people are leaving jobs.

However, it’s worth noting that after long periods of working at home without adverse effects on productivity, many people have decided that a work-life balance has become more important than ever.

People have decided that no job is worth too much stress and burnout.

And they’re voting with their feet.

Why it’s important to incentivise and encourage your people

To keep your best talent and reduce staff turnover, you must keep people happy.

You need to work to understand employee needs and desires, giving them reasons to stay.

The good news is that it’s perfectly possible to motivate people to remain loyal and stay if you reward them well and provide a culture and vision that keeps them happy.

5 ways to keep top employees

1. Give them what they deserve

There’s no getting away from the fact that financial reward is vital in keeping your top performers.

If people are performing at a higher level than other employees, it’s wise to consider offering them a fitting level of compensation. Pay increases and bonuses will always be significant in keeping productive employees happy and engaged.

Also, keep an eye on what benefits you offer—it could be the difference between keeping an employee and them heading for new pastures.

Compare what you offer with your competitors—it may be worth looking at their job postings to see what kind of perks they’re offering.

2. Keep them healthy and happy

You want employees to work hard, but you don’t want to burn them out—top performers will want a proper work-life balance. For some, it’ll be more important than their level of salary.

Have conversations with your employees about what you can do to make their jobs easier and keep them satisfied. This could include benefits such as childcare support, longer annual leave entitlement and more investment in development and skills training.

Other popular ways to improve work-life balance and wellbeing include:

  • Making some days meeting-free
  • Ensuring all employees take their full holiday allocation
  • Encouraging staff to take proper breaks, and start and finish on time.

As your business grows, don’t forget how much employee happiness and wellbeing are affected by the tone and culture set by senior leaders—give your people a shared purpose to keep them invested.

Top performers are much more likely to enjoy their day-to-day work when teams are well resourced, given realistic objectives, and provided supportive managers.

It can be challenging for managers to ensure who they are managing is getting a healthy work-life balance, so make sure they get all the support they need.

3. Offer flexible ways of working

Giving top performers a choice on how and where they work can be a critical factor in keeping them happy. Recently it was reported that a top artificial intelligence executive left Apple to join Google, over its return-to-work policy.

Cloud technology means (depending on your role) you can work from anywhere. The pandemic highlighted how productivity shouldn’t be affected if you provide collaborative technology.

If your business is looking to keep top performers, you’ll need to offer flexible ways of working.

4. Build a culture of communication

You can track your high-flyers’ performance but ensure you’re doing this in an evidence-based analytical way rather than through instinct and observation.

If you have people scaling the heights, you may want to offer them more work or responsibilities to keep them engaged.

You need to make them feel wanted and that you’re investing in them. Otherwise, it’s easy to see their mind wandering to companies that match their needs more.

It’s here that cloud HR software can be useful, as you can use data to develop insights about people and their motivations, allowing you to match high performers to different roles that more match their skill set and ambitions.

In fact, performance management could be used to measure the success of high potential talent at your business, where you could use reliable, objective methods to track how well they’re working.

Think individual goals and targets, and feedback from both colleagues and managers.

Together with performance, keep an ongoing dialogue with your top performers with continuous conversations, rather than traditional annual performance reviews.

Employees can provide feedback throughout the year, and when it comes to career development, you can check in on their goals and match them to better-fitting internal roles if necessary.

5. Offer development opportunities

Talk to your top performers about how they are progressing. How can you support them to be even better?

What does each superstar look for from their short and long-term career? Are there internal opportunities for them in a dream position?

Offer them the career progression and opportunities they’re looking for.

Understanding the drive and ambition of your top performers will go a long way to giving them job fulfilment. You may want to train them for more senior positions, targeting specific levels and competencies.

You could send your top performers on internal and external training courses, providing them experience in different departments or job roles.

Areas of development you could look at include:

  • People management
  • Influencing peers
  • Learning about the business
  • Building control systems
  • Building leadership skills
  • Dealing with challenging conditions
  • Negotiating, framing, and solving problems
  • Managing former peers or supervisors.

Invest in your people systems – and your people

You can keep your top performing employees if you succeed with short and long-term recruitment and retention strategies that meet your organisation’s needs.

Your overall business strategy acts as the basis of your people strategy.

If you know the goals of your business and your financial position, you’re in the position to invest in the people systems and technology that will provide the insight and data you’ll need for today and your future.