Originally published on 9/22/11.

6a00d8341c8ede53ef013484d13bf4970c-piAs the economy shows positive signs of rebounding (stock market is trending up, manufacturing and other industries are hiring more people then they are letting go, etc.) companies are going to be faced with a different challenge very soon – keeping their top performers motivated, engaged and committed to staying on board.  Research is overflowing with data proving that losing top performers is critically expensive to a company.  They will have to pay significantly more in hiring costs, higher salaries, bonuses, and training costs to recruit new talent.  It just makes such economic sense to spend money now to keep the top performers within your company.

As new talent comes in, it will be critically important to keep existing top performers appropriately motivated, engaged and focused on what they can do to continue to deliver strong performance. (Let us know if we can help you assess the talent you are considering before you hire them.  Hiring mistakes are costly as well.)

The Corporate Leadership Council’s (CLC) recent study of employee engagement reveals that commitment levels among top performers are critically low — so much so that one-quarter of high-potential employees intend to leave their current employer within the year.  As companies rebound from the down economy, loosing top performers will create a risk that many can’t afford to take.

When author Marcia Reynolds recently conducted research for a book she was writing, she found that top performers needed more than promises of promotions and salary increases to stay committed. To retain top talent, her research uncovered that companies need to provide:

1.  Developmental opportunities – Companies with next to zero budgets for training must provide coaching, mentoring, and networking opportunities for their top performers because they are motivated by the chance to share ideas, debate approaches to current challenges, and teach each other.
2.  Frequent, new challenges – Top performers enjoy challenges where they can learn and apply themselves to resolving new, creative and complex challenges.
3.  Acknowledge both contribution and impact – Although some enjoy being acknowledged for their knowledge and ability, top performers want to know that their contributions make an impact. Do what you can to publicly acknowledge their contributions, and provide opportunities for others to contribute as well.
4.  Flexible work schedules – Top performers enjoy autonomy and flexibility. Give them clear goals and expectations, but then trust they will complete their commitments on time; they are particularly motivated by holding themselves accountable for delivering on their promises.
5.  A creative and collaborative work environment – Many top performers enjoy working in environments with an open flow of communication. They don’t like working through hierarchies, especially highly bureaucratic structures. Provide them with regular access to key leaders in the company so they feel connected.

So, are you focused on retention yet?  What are you doing to ensure your top performers stay with you? Let me know if we can help you.

Photo by: ReSurge International