Communicate Often to Keep Top Performing Employees

Your email dings—again. When you look to see who sent the email, it’s from your highest-performing employee. The subject line makes your heart sink—it says “resignation”. What happened? Why are they leaving? There are so many questions, but one sticks out in your mind. As their manager, what could you have done differently to keep them?

The answer is actually quite simple, according to Scott Wedel, Chief Operating Officer, Career1Source. It’s as simple as committing to having quarterly conversations with your top-performing employees.

“You have to separate the day-to-day tactical stuff with the strategic in those conversations,” Wedel says. “During that conversation, you have to ask questions like—what does the employee see in their future, what’s working for them in their role, what’s not working, where do they feel they have skills that are going unutilized, that line of discussion.”

In addition, managers should clearly communicate the organization’s vision and where the employee can make the greatest impact on the company. Wedel stresses that the conversation should be open, informal, relaxed, honest and easy.

“If there’s no alignment between where the manager and top performer sees themselves, then more conversations are needed,” he says. “Also, everyone needs to feel loved. Company leaders need to tell their top performers thank you and discuss the positive effect that employee has had on the organization.”

Managers often forget that they have a major impact on how employees view their role and themselves. A leader may quickly forget about a conversation with an employee, but the leader’s words may stick with that employee for decades.

It’s important for employees to feel gratitude from leadership on their positive impact, Wedel says. A thank you can go a long way.

Get on the Same Page

Wedel says that he often sees companies move high performers into roles that they may not necessarily want to be in—for example, putting a top sales leader into a leadership role. Although that employee may be an excellent salesperson, they may not be cut out for a leadership position.

“Everyone has to be on the same page,” he says. “Some high performers don’t want management experience; they want to remain as outstanding individual contributors because that’s where their passion is. And that’s fantastic.”

Managers also need to ask their employees about any obstacles or barriers that need to be removed to set them up to achieve even more success. The key is understanding that high performer’s motivation, according to Wedel.

“Everyone is different, so leaders can’t assume that high-performing employees just want to make as much money as possible,” he says. “They may want to achieve that promotion so they can have a more flexible schedule, or additional vacation time, or maybe something else. Are they being rewarded appropriately?”

Each employee is at a different stage in their life, so no two have the same priorities. What is that high performer focused on? Maybe they’re looking beyond their time with your company to think about their legacy. Wedel emphasizes that it’s important for managers to understand where their employees are in their individual life and career journey.