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The Key to Retaining High Performing Employees

The Key to Retaining High Performing Employees

We've all met the star performer who resigned shortly after being promoted.

For most of us, we see situations like this as wasted potential or a massive missed opportunity (and yes, it is both those things), but the truth is managing a team involves a very different set of skills than being an individual contributor — and just because a specific role or promotion is considered the gold star of workplace opportunities, doesn't mean it's right for everyone.

Same goes for the employee with a stellar skill set who's walking around the office with eyes glazed over. If you're ready to make your employees feel switched on — even proud — to work for you, consider letting them decide what job is best for them. Not the other way around.

For most organizations, that's going to require a major change in thinking. But companies like Facebook, Walmart and Managed by Q are already making the shift and reporting big returns in terms of happier, more loyal employees and a healthier bottom line.

It all comes down to one critical question:

Would you rather keep this person in this specific role, or would you rather keep this person, period?

What gives your employees energy?

Let's assume you want to retain your best talent.

If you want engaged employees in any role, start by figuring out what energizes them.

Energy and focus are the power combo leading to a state of flow — or, in organizational psych terms, 'absorption' — that in turn, leads to a highly productive workforce.

For some high performers, the thrill of a meeting a new person, hitting a major deadline or closing a deal can be the fire that keeps them moving forward. For others, it may be more about supporting coworkers, or using a set of established tools and information that makes them feel competent and valued.

The question is, does the position they're in match up?

In the vast majority of organizations, there's an age-old expectation that employees must be promoted after X number of years. This belief is so ingrained that it's not uncommon to see leadership, management and even the employees themselves, demand a change in position without ever stopping to consider whether they would actually enjoy the new role.

Here are some questions to think about (and ask!) when weighing up a change for your employees:

  • What aspects of the job give the employee the most energy?
  • What aspects of the job drain the employee's energy?
  • What are the employees personal passions and hobbies outside of work?
  • How can those interests be utilized within their role at work?

How can you help your employees achieve work-life harmony?

As much as we hate to admit it, there is always a tradeoff between work and home.

In researching for his recent book, Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More, UC Berkeley professor Morten Hansen reviewed over 200 academic papers, piloted a study on 300 subjects, and developed a framework which he then tested on 5000 participants across industries and backgrounds. (Phew! Talk about work!)

Morten's extensive research confirmed that high-performers who leverage a deep sense of passion and purpose to skyrocket their success, experience an undeniable reduction in work-life balance.

But you already knew that.

The question is, how can you deliver better balance for your employees without sacrificing the important work that needs to be delivered each day?

And the answer is, you probably can't.

But you can help them feel excited, fulfilled and supported at work by giving them freedom and flexibility in their role.

Here are some guiding questions to help you map out some creative employee work-life harmony solutions:

  • Who can fill in for this employee if they need to take an unexpected day off?
  • Who do we have in house that would be a great mentor for this employee? (For example, coupling working parents in leadership with other working parents.)
  • How can you help your employees maintain their responsibilities without working over time? (Let them delegate energy-draining tasks or expand another employee's role to cover a different time zone.)
  • What personal or parental perks could you offer?

A little extra effort to determine what is and isn't working about a job can go a long way in helping you keep your best people. And you might be surprised how a simple shift in responsibilities can make it so much easier for them to hold their heads high.

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