Saturday, March 29, 2014

Keep your best: The care and feeding of top performers

We have all seen the surveys and studies that tell us why employees leave. What those studies don’t tell us is that sometimes, turnover can be a positive thing.  
A certain amount of turnover is good for any organization, Peggy Pedwano, human capital strategist at Halogen Software, told us in a recent interview. “It’s important to continually be bringing in new staff with fresh ideas and perspective,” she said.  ”And turnover is great when the employees who leave are low performing, or aren’t a good cultural fit.”
The challenge, she said, is to stop employee turnover among high-performing and high-potential employees and to keep turnover rates of other employees at a healthy level.
How to do that? Pedwano offered some ideas:
Know who your best people are
Before you can determine if employee turnover’s a problem, you’ve got to identify the people you want to hang on to:  high performers.
Not as simple as it sounds, Pedwano says.
Are managers fairly and consistently rating employee performance? It’s not uncommon to have managers inflate performance ratings. And managers with reputations as “hard markers” aren’t hard to find.
Thus, companies may need to do some rating calibration to ensure the rating scale is being consistently applied.
Pedwano’s sugestions: Ask managers to think about each employee’s potential for promotion. You may also want to gather 360-degree feedback on candidates, conduct interviews, or ask employees to evaluate their peers in order to put managers’ assessments in perspective.
Know what’s important to each individual
Once the “keepers” are identified, employers need to determine what’s important to them as individuals.
The list often includes such things as salary levels, opportunities for development and career advancement, and flextime/telecommuting opportunities. But those things can also change over an individual’s career.
So it’s important to stay current with high performers on what motivates and engages them, and what demotivates and disengages them.
“Then you can work to satisfy their needs — ensuring, of course, that the actions you take are good for the business overall,” Pedwano says.
Continually train managers and leaders
An employee’s relationship with his/her manager is a key contributor to employee engagement, satisfaction and retention – that’s a given in today’s workplace.
The problem, Pedwano says, is that “Being a manager requires a whole host of skills that just aren’t innate to most people. Everyone has areas of strength and weakness.”
So ongoing, progressive training for all managers and leaders is key to continual improvement in management/leadership knowledge, skills and experience.
Hold regular stay interviews
One practice that’s been shown to help stop employee turnover is holding regular stay interviews – not just with high performers, but even with those who regularly meet expectations.
“Stay interviews help you uncover what makes your top performers ‘tick and stick,’” says Pedwano. “They’re the opposite of an exit interview.”
In a stay interview, managers find out what motivates employees to work and put their best foot forward every day. And once managers have that knowledge, they have the tools to retain their best and brightest.
Stay interviews can be done on a formal basis, or the information can be gathered informally through regular manager-employee interactions or one-on-one meetings, according to Pedwano.

The only hard-and-fast rule is that they be held regularly.

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