7 Ways To Retain Your High-Performing Employees

This Asking For a Friend question comes up so frequently in our leadership development programs, particularly now with such a focus on retaining high-performing employees.

“I worry that I’m not giving enough attention to my really high-performing employees, you know, the ones that seem like they don’t need my help. I’m so focused on the employees that are struggling. How do I ensure I give my high-performers what they need too?”

Retaining High-Performing Employees- What They Yearn For Most

We’ve been listening to so many frustrated high-performing employees over the years, and their complaints are remarkably similar. They yearn to be seen and noticed for the hard work they are doing.

They wish for more “wows.” And, they desperately want to have an advocate and supporter.

Here are 7 relatively easy ways to support your high-performers.

1. Say, Wow! Thank you.

“Wow” is a great secret weapon for retaining high-performing employees. It’s more than okay to be impressed.

Your high-performing employees are not going to slack off because you were wowed. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore… particularly from top talent.

A big “Wow” followed by a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” from someone a high-performer respects will trump almost any token of appreciation you can offer.

2. Acknowledge How Hard They’re Working

No matter how easy they make it look, it’s not. Your high-performing employees are juggling a lot they’re not bothering you with (and may even think you don’t understand).

They would love to tell you some stories. And the stories are worth hearing.

Pull up a chair and listen.

A bonus for digging a bit deeper here, this conversation helps to ensure that their hard work is focused on what will have the biggest impact on the team’s results.

Your high-performing employees want clarity and reassurance that their work is having a strategic impact.

3. Have Them Show You What They’re Doing

Think about the last time you figured something out that you were wildly proud of. What did you long for most?

For me, I know it’s someone to share it with. Ask for details and if you’re amazed, show that. Side benefit: this is a remarkable way to uncover best practices.

Some of the biggest turnarounds I’ve been a part of began by asking a few high-performers what they were up to.

4. Ask them for their I.D.E.A.s

If you want to retain your high-performing employees, one of the best things you can do is ask them for their ideas.

We heard so much frustration in our research for Courageous Cultures:

49% said they were not regularly asked for their ideas. 67% said their manager operates around the notion of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Your top talent has ideas to improve the customer experience and productivity. They know what could make things easier for their peers. Ask them.

5. Remove Roadblocks

Just because they’re not complaining, doesn’t mean they don’t have a list.

Every time I’ve asked this question I’ve been surprised by some of the easy “asks.”

No, you can’t fix everything.

But, if you can fix a few small things getting in the way of your highest performers, can you imagine the ROI?

6. Help Them Envision Their Possible Future

Help them see beyond the obvious next steps, looking around corners and expanding their peripheral vision for their career.

Our Developmental Discussion Planner works remarkably well for having these important career conversations. You can learn more about that and download it for free here.

7. Advocate and Support Them

Find ways to lift them up and advocate for them to your boss, your peers, and their peers.

Be sure you know they have their back.

Your highest performing employees likely do a lot on their own, and might not ask for help– even when they need it the most.

If you want to retain your high-performers, re-recruit them by showing them just how important they are.

Related: How to Make It Easier to Get Better Insights