How do you hold on to your top performers?

Some say that if you go to bed with one of your team (figuratively speaking) and wake up with them – as in: they are constantly on your mind – then you should fire them.

This is of course when someone in your team just troubles you, they either don’t interact well with their fellow team members, they are underperforming or they are undermining you.

However, what if they are top of mind because you are worried that may leave you(r company)?

How can you make them stay? Of course, you can’t really make them, however you can make it attractive for them to stay. So, just a pay rise then? … No.

You will have heard that people don’t leave businesses, they leave bosses…

You may find the timing of this blog odd, surely those individuals still in a job won’t be looking around for the next opportunity? Well, maybe not, however it’s my experience that in an era of high unemployment, the war for talent is at its fiercest.

Businesses are busily reorganising, restructuring and generally adapting to the new economic environment – from reducing the store estate to increased participation of digital sales, from reshaping the supply chain to rethinking home delivery options, from reducing office space to increased home working – retail businesses will see more change in 2020 and 2021 than in the last 5 years.

Those individuals with a proven track record of successfully delivering profitable change are unlikely to be out of a job at the moment, in fact, they’re probably working for one of your competitors. And here is the thing, they are being approached for various opportunities right now. So their employers will have a battle on their hands to keep them engaged with (and employed for) their current company.

When you need talented people to help you ride the waves of change the last thing you want to do is to lose your top players.

So where to start?

Well, unfortunately there isn’t a golden bullet, a one cure kills all method, however a good starting point would be: why did this individual join your business in the first place? And, why did you hire them?

Is the job that they are doing as exciting as the one they joined for? If they expected to progress, be that gaining more responsibility or a more senior position, have they attained their objective? In other words, it is worthwhile to step back a moment and assess why this person is still coming in to work each day.

In my opinion and in my experience, the best way to handle a situation whereby you are concerned that you might be at risk of losing a top performer, is to speak openly with the individual.

I just want to do a sense check and make sure that we are doing everything in our ability to give you the work environment/ opportunities/ excitement that I think you joined the business for. In most people’s career there comes a time when they want to or need to move on to pastures new. However, we value your contribution highly and I want to make sure that we secure your services for the foreseeable future. What are the elements in your current job that are still exciting, what frustrates you and what would you still like to achieve in the business? What support do you need from me to achieve those goals?’

This little monologue says a number of things:

  1. We care about you
  2. We recognise you as a high flyer
  3. We don’t want you to leave
  4. Have you thought about your career goals, what are they
  5. We want to help you fulfil these goals

And also:

  1. We’re realistic/ we’re open/ we’re human
  2. It is a partnership, let’s deal with this together

Annual appraisals are useful to keep score and to formalise all those side conversations we have with our team during the course of the year.  However, if you are worried you might lose someone you do not want to lose, you cannot wait for the annual appraisal to come around.

Is money the answer?

If the individual you address just asks for more money then that would ring an alarm bell with me. Sure people want to be paid according to their market value, however if they stay for money they will leave for money. So all you do is postpone the inevitable until such time that someone offers more money than you did. A true high flyer on an upwards trajectory will have goals and targets beyond monetary recognition, if however they just ask for money, you have to wonder whether they have already mentally checked out of your business.

Time to call a headhunter ..?