How to Retain Top Performers: Praise, discipline and leading by example are key
Praise can help you retain your best performers, but it must be detailed and relevant. Saying, “You’re doing a great job,” isn’t specific enough. Here are seven “openers” to help you make your praise specific:
• “Your work really makes a difference because…”
• “I’m impressed with the way you…”
• “You’re doing top-quality work on…”
• “You should be proud of yourself for…”
• “You have an effective way of…”
• “We couldn’t have done it without your…”
• “One of the things you do that adds to our department’s success is…”
Praise is an inexpensive way to encourage employees and let them know you appreciate their efforts. Do it often and make it work for you by being specific.
Every manager is faced with a discipline problem at one time or another, but did you know that how and when you address it can have an effect on your top performers? If you’re trying to build a staff of top performers (and most employers are), it’s imperative that you address performance issues, and, if necessary, terminate employees who don’t meet job requirements. Most top performers want to work for top-performing organizations, with top-performing managers and with other top-performing employees, or at least with other employees who are doing a good job.
If you allow substandard performance or behavior, the poor performers will eventually drive out the top performers. The poor performers will stay as long as you’ll keep them because they’re comfortable. After all, you allow and reward (by giving them a weekly paycheck) their substandard performance, so there’s no reason for them to improve. If you don’t exhibit leadership and take steps to address this issue, eventually you’ll be left with a staff of mediocre and poorly performing employees, not the type of staff you need for your organization to be competitive and successful.
The first step in dealing with any employee discipline issue is to talk to the employee as soon as the performance or conduct becomes a problem. When you meet with the employee, identify the problem, why it concerns you and clearly explain your expectations of future performance or conduct. Set a timetable for improvement and a date for a follow-up discussion to evaluate whether the performance or conduct has improved. Then hold the employee accountable. If the performance or conduct improves, make sure you tell the employee. If it doesn’t, it’s time to take the next step in your progressive discipline procedure.
It’s your job as a manager (or business owner) to enhance your organization by keeping your best-performing employees and terminating those who don’t perform.
Lead by example
Many surveys on employee motivation cite the fact that employees appreciate managers who care about them. Effective leaders understand that caring about employees is as important as caring about the work. They understand a happy staff is a more productive staff. They understand they can’t make everybody happy, but that there are things they can do to create a more productive work environment.
Three things that set effective leaders apart from those who are less effective are:
• They’re facilitators. They realize that no one is ever what they could be until they are doing what they should be doing. They try to provide employees with work that matches their skills, talents and interests.
• They’re courteous. They never look down at or talk down to people. They do not have one set of behaviors for people they consider important and another for those they consider less important. They listen to what others have to say, even if it’s something they don’t want to hear.
• They’re decisive. They don’t waffle. Employees need direction and a good leader has to be decisive. Leaders are generally remembered for one of two things: the problems they caused through indecision or the ones they solved through clear direction. The decisive leader sometimes has to go out on a limb. It’s not easy, but that’s where the fruit is.
Yvonne Harris Jones is president of Yvonne Harris Jones Enterprises, www.yvonneharrisjones.com.