Retaining the Top Performers – A Road Map to Success


Written by Grant Heath

For businesses to survive and thrive in today’s economy, retaining top performers is imperative to the success of any company. This is particularly true when you are a service company, because your people are your product. Top performers are intangible assets who are more valuable than financial and physical assets. It is essential for companies to look at their top performers as being volunteer workers, who can easily take their talents to your competition. Therefore it is paramount to provide retention strategies to make these individuals feel valued and engaged in order to keep them.

Before addressing retention strategies, it is important to also understand the tangible and intangible cost of having to replace top performers, which can be astronomical. Losing top performers has a negative impact on employee morale, productivity, and company revenue. The top performing employees are the ones who improve your bottom line by closing more deals, writing better proposals, creating more effective business strategies, analyzing your finances more closely and many other ways. That’s not the only compelling reason to hold on to them though. Innovation, the driving force of business growth, comes from the top performers. Should they leave, you lose that direction as well as running the risk of sensitive corporate information benefiting your competitors. When you look at both the tangible and intangible costs of replacing top performers the dollars are truly staggering. According to an article from the Center for American Progress titled There Are Significant Business Costs to Replacing Employees, statistics show that the cost of replacing these employees can be up to 213% of their annual salary. For example, the cost to replace a valued employee making $100,000 can be as high as $213,000.

If you provide challenging and interesting work, opportunities to learn new skills and grow in their careers, a healthy environment for connecting with coworkers, great mentors, leadership opportunities and an even work life balance you will dramatically decrease turnover. Now that you know what your top performers are looking for, you need to learn how you can give it to them. Doing this may be easier than you think.

Here are four simple yet highly effective employee retention strategies to mitigate the loss of top performers:

  • It is imperative to keep an open line of communication. The best way to find out what it will take for an employee to stay is to ask them outright. Once you’ve asked them, encourage them to list every factor that they can think of. Your real high performers are looking for growth, development, responsibility, and leadership.
  • Challenge your employees with goals. Ongoing consistent discussions and follow up about these expectations will help to ensure that employees are inspired and positively motivated to work toward these goals.
  • Do not micromanage. Top performers will rebel if you try to micromanage them. Most top-performing employees need the flexibility and independence to make their own decisions, which will foster rather than stifle innovation and creativity.
  • Developing a company culture where top performers are encouraged to have a sense of ownership also is critical to retaining them. Employees will remain in a work environment where they feel they are contributing and building something that is bigger than them.

Top performers are the heart and soul of a business; they are the engine that makes a business run; they are the breath of life that enables a business to be something more than an idea. A business cannot excel without retaining these workers and any intelligent business leader should make this a number one priority.