How to Keep Your Top Performers from Quitting

Losing one top performer is tough, but if good people are consistently leaving your team, you already know you have a problem. When key players decide to quit, continuity is interrupted, historic knowledge is lost, and the company suffers the high cost of filling the vacancy. Some estimates suggest replacing highly skilled employees can reach a whopping 400 percent of their annual salary.

keep top performers from quitting

To increase retention of your best performers, you'll want to take the time to focus on identifying any potential warning signs and/or shortcomings on your end. Once you've determined where the problems lie, you can put solutions in place that will make valued employees think twice about leaving.

Warning Signs Your Employee May Have A Foot Out The Door

There will often be signs when top performers are considering a move. If your employee is exhibiting any of the following behaviors, you'll want to take action—ASAP.

  • Frequently asks for extra days off (could signal lots of interviews are scheduled)
  • Shows lowered levels of productivity
  • Seems generally disengaged
  • Quality of work takes a sudden nosedive
  • Makes fewer contributions during meetings
  • Avoids social interactions at work
  • Suddenly increased activity on LinkedIn

Bottom line, if your top performers are becoming apathetic, it’s not a phase—it’s a red flag you can’t ignore.

Identify Why Your Top Performers Are Quitting

If your key employees start buzzing off to greener pastures, you need to identify why they’re leaving so you can put your energy and attention into ways to keep them happy. Some of the most common reasons essential staff quit include:

  • Not feeling valued or recognized for their higher quality and/or productivity levels
  • Expectations of the job are not being met
  • Lack of autonomy and/or feeling micromanaged
  • Discovering they received a lowballed salary offer 
  • Limited promotional opportunities and/or inability to grow professionally
  • Higher expectations leading to being overworked

Any of these reasons can lead to unhappiness and a lack of engagement, and if your most valuable personnel are feeling one or more of these sentiments, you probably won't have them as a part of your team for much longer. The good news is, by getting to the root of the issue, you've won half the battle. Now you can seek solutions.

Ways To Motivate Your Top Talent

It’s time to take an honest look at yourself and your management style. As a Forbes article notes, “employees leave managers, not companies.” Get to know your employees and learn what types of motivators make them tick. What do they value? Are they inspired by extrinsic or intrinsic rewards?

People are often driven by opportunities to/for:

  • Flexible work hours with room to work independently
  • Promotion and advancement   
  • Consistent feedback (even the best employees need some guidance)
  • New challenges and responsibilities that allow them to stretch their wings
  • Take on a mentoring role for other employees 
  • To share their expertise with others (i.e. publications)
  • More money or tangible benefits

And remember, even a simple “thank you” for their efforts can go a long way. Top performers want to succeed. Put solutions in place before the employee even considers leaving—don't wait until they have one foot out the door, or worse, it's too late because they've already accepted another offer. Schedule regular conversations where you can learn exactly what they’re looking for, want, or need.

Bottom line: be proactive, stay engaged, and be aware of what makes your most valued staff members tick. Incorporating this kind of active communication into your management toolbox will take you a long way toward improving your retention rates. Show your employees you care about them, want to know what matters to them, and are working toward meeting their needs, and their energy—and loyalty—will increase exponentially. 

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