(Part 1 of 3)

Helping shape your attraction and retention strategy

Many of the companies we advise want to know how they can develop and retain high performance workers—and for good reason! All too often, they see talented people underperforming or handing in their resignations. This is far from ideal, given the time and resources needed to replace top talent. And if underlying issues within the workplace are not addressed, companies find themselves right back in the same position: A bright worker, sensing limited prospects for growth, seeks greener pastures long before his or her potential within the organisation is fully realised.

Breaking this pattern, or even just improving retention and work culture, begins with an understanding of who high performance individuals are, and what motivates them. Once this is clear, it’s easier to balance individual development with organisational growth—two things which are, after all, closely related.

So who are these “high performers?”

High performers are people who not only work effectively within existing systems and methods; they see ways to change and evolve the way things are done. New solutions to old problems jump out at them, and their insights have the power to shift the landscape. In other words, it’s in their nature to look beyond the status quo and drive change within the organisation.

Because of this, many high performers end up in leadership roles. Even if they don’t have the title to prove it, others look to them for a sense of direction and “what comes next.” In fact, without high performers, an organisation might continue indefinitely in the established way of doing things. This can be dangerous in an age of constant innovation.

So if organisations benefit from the vision and direction of high performers (or at least a certain number of high performers, as we’ll discuss in another post), the question becomes: What do high performers want in return? What keeps them happy, growing, innovating?

Although the almighty dollar is always a factor, our experience has shown it’s not the only one—or even necessarily the most important. What high performers really want is to contribute at a high level. To be stretched, challenged and professionally developed. To feel that their own evolution is aligned with that of the organisation, and that growth is mutual.

One big piece of this equation is, of course, the opportunity to learn new things. High performers are innately curious. They are interested in exploring new territory. If a company is willing to invest in the individual’s learning, he or she is more likely to see that company as fertile ground over the long-term. We’ve seen that newer or younger talent have no qualms about moving on if their development needs aren’t being met, and we’ve also seen established executives pack up for the same reason. Companies who invest in this way develop a reputation for taking care of high performers, and such a reputation can be enormously helpful—for retention as well as recruitment.

Challenge. This is another important element. While some people prefer close supervision, high performers welcome the chance to work with a higher degree of autonomy. They can often handle multiple priorities when given the chance. They can leverage resources (including teams) to achieve an outcome. Being presented with such challenges keeps high performers on their toes, where they like to be, rather than comfortably settled into the status quo.

Finally, the importance of feedback mechanisms should not be underestimated. Most of the high performers we’ve worked with crave regular feedback. They actively seek it out, and when it comes, they act on it. The simple act of giving and receiving feedback builds not only trust, but the perception that an organisation is interested in developing individual talent. This drives high performers to innovate and perform at a higher level.

In the next two posts, we’ll go deeper into the how value is added by high performers; how organisations can assess talent and recruit the right number of high performers; and what high performance teams look like in action.

*This is part one of a three-part series on high performance teams. For part two, please click HERE and for three, HERE.

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