Star Employee

Retain Your Best and Brightest Employees

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: We recently lost one of the strongest performers on our staff. Do you have any tips on how to retain key players without locking the doors?

A: Losing a key employee is painful, but you’re right to use this loss to spur some organizational changes to prevent it from becoming a regular occurrence. But keep in mind that you’ll never be able to keep everyone—no matter how fantastic your organization is.

Employees leave for many reasons that you can’t control (for example, when a spouse gets a job in another state or the employee wants to get an advanced degree), but there are certainly things you can do to increase the odds of retaining your best and brightest.

Remember that you’re not just competing for talent with other associations or nonprofits; your best employees have skills the for-profit sector is seeking too.

Never forget that your star employees are highly marketable to your competition. Be sure your organization:

  • Has a strong mission and values that engage employees’ hearts and minds. Many people want to work for an organization that they can be proud to call their employer because the organization is making the world a better place.
  • Pays fairly and is competitive in your market. Remember that you’re not just competing for talent with other associations or nonprofits; your best employees have skills the for-profit sector is seeking too. While money usually isn’t the main reason employees leave, people start seeking out new opportunities or listening to pitches from headhunters they might have ignored when they don’t feel good about their total compensation.
  • Recognizes good work and rewards appropriately. Do your key staffers know how much you value their work? Do you say thank you and provide recognition for outstanding contributions?
  • Provides professional development opportunities. Today’s workers (and especially your top talent) want to learn and add to their skill sets. Give them lots of opportunities to attend conferences, take classes, participate in task forces, and take on stretch assignments to cultivate their professional growth.
  • Listens to your employees. You may spot a potential retention issue just by paying attention to questions and concerns raised by your top performers.
  • Clearly outlines objectives and holds everyone accountable. When people know what’s expected of them, they tend to perform better and be more satisfied in their work. Don’t overlook the importance of accountability. Good performers want to work with other good performers, and if your organization allows poor performers to continue working, your top performers will most likely start looking for a new opportunity.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].

 

Employee Retention Performance Management