Employer Branding

How to Keep Your Best Employees

You have a red hot performer, she is excelling at all the key performance indicators, loved by your clients – WOW!

So, what is the problem?

The problem, as often articulated to me is, that you are afraid of losing her. You cannot pay anymore, you are afraid your competitors are buttering her up. So, what do you do?

The reality is we have all been there. We have hired well, the candidate has proven to be successful and has delivered in bucket loads. She is at the maximum earning power and we get terrified that she will start looking elsewhere.

You are desperate to hold on to her. She is everything you want – bright, successful, dynamic and clients love her!

The mistake I have seen many make is to leave her to her own devices – “she is doing great, she doesn’t need any coaching, she is a free spirit (etc)”. That attitude normally has one outcome – she leaves!

So, how do you motivate your star performers to stay with you?

Firstly, you don’t avoid the obvious and not address it with her. Spend time with her, let her know how important she is to you. Tell her why you want her to stay and how important she is to the business. And, above all, acknowledge to her that other opportunities with your competitors will arise for her. Don’t be silly and pretend it is not the case – you know it and so does she!

Spend time coaching her to develop new skills, learn new techniques, expand her knowledge, and share the experiences you have had.

However, do not make promises you cannot fulfill. Don’t fall into the trap of promising more money at some time in the future because:

  1. you are making it all come down to money, which is dangerous, but, even worse:
  2. you have made yourself a hostage to fortune and if you cannot deliver, you have left the door wide open as now you are someone who does not keep their promises.

Keep in mind – people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. That, fellow employers, is not one of those cute one-liners – it is an absolute fact and there is a load of research to back it up.

The managers who do not accept this, I am convinced, do so because to believe otherwise would demand of them to completely fulfill all aspects of their role as managers.

Support the development of their career:

Another area to really commit to is supporting her in the development of her own career. You should make it clear that you are not expecting her to sign up to the organization for the rest of her life – after all, have you? Demonstrate that part of your commitment to her is to help her achieve her goals – irrespective of whether those goals include staying where she is or not.

Show her that you care and are interested in her. Demonstrate how valuable you are as a mentor in her career. Work with her to map out the next couple of years – what she needs to do, to learn, to study, to experience, everything she needs to do to achieve her overall career goals.

I have seen managers stand off doing this on the basis of “I’m helping her to leave”. That is nonsense. You are demonstrating real care, fulfilling your duty as a manager and being the mentor that you promised when you took her on. The managers that stand out in all our memories are the ones that you learned most from, and if you fulfill that role, you will be a true mentor.

Coach your star performers:

The other area I mentioned earlier is coaching. Far too often I have seen managers spend an inordinate amount of time on poor performers to the detriment of the top performers – and then rationalize it on the basis that “they are doing fine” – big mistake! So often the high achievers will never, ever say they want coaching, but in reality, they do! They get irritated that the “boss gives all his time to those producing nothing, and ignores me who is producing so much” (maybe not in those words, but the sense of it will be). Don’t get caught out – continuously coach your high performers!


So, the challenge is to all us managers – be outstanding! Be a brilliant and committed manager and spend time dedicated to improving the skills and the growth of your best people. They need you too!

Look for opportunities where she can shine. Coach her to support and help her to map out some long-term career goals and then do everything you can to create the environment that will help her achieve them.

Remember, this is one smart lady and she will recognize she is growing and developing, and she will also recognize that you are committed to her growth.

Will this guarantee that she stays with you forever? No, but you have certainly increased the odds in your favor. I know that I was once in that situation, and because of the manager I had, and how he coached me, I stayed a lot longer than I would have without him!

So, what are you going to do today for your star performer?

By John Murphy

John Murphy is founder of JohnMurphyInternational, a specialist online coaching business. John specializes in advising and mentoring entrepreneurs and senior executives on how to build their business and be effective as a leader and manager.

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