High Performing Employee Retention Pitfalls Part I

In my previous blogs this month, I discussed why retaining your high performers is essential to your business’s success. I believe it’s important to first explore why many employee retention programs fall short.

No matter how much time and effort you spend fine-tuning your retention programs, it’s difficult to achieve 100% effectiveness. Therefore, I believe it’s important to have knowledge of these issues to mitigate their effects. Although the following reasons may not be true for your business, I do believe they are a good overview of potential problem areas. 


Assuming Your High Performers are Engaged

Odds are that your MVPs have received plenty of positive feedback. Great! It's important to acknowledge and show recognition and appreciation. On the other hand, you’re giving them a confidence boost that can work against you. Now that the employee knows they’re valuable, and perhaps has the documentation and awards to prove it, there’s little reason for them to put up with things they disagree with. In fact, they may be less motivated to weather storms in the business and try to find solutions. Any issues they may have with the organization, leadership, or peers, now become excuses for them to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Even involvement in certain retention programs can cause your high performer to raise their expectations of the company and their desired career path. If the company is unable to fulfill those expectations, they’re likely to look for better opportunities. The risk is even greater if the company experiences an unexpected downturn in business that limits opportunities to work on special projects or receive promised pay increases.


Assuming Current Performance Ensures Future Capability

This touches on some aspects I mentioned previously. Not all individuals identified as “high performers” are able to adequately adjust to the demands of much bigger roles, no matter how much they’re “trained”. Therefore, it’s critically important to define the characteristics you’re looking for in your high performers being considered for formal retention programs. For example, you may find that not all high potential employees will have high levels of aspiration. Placing individuals in a role that they never really wanted can be disastrous for productivity, engagement, and can have “knock-on” effects throughout the whole organization.


Delegating the High Performers' Development Downward 

Businesses often consider this an effective and economical way to drive people development. The truth is that even if it is economical, it isn’t always the best idea. Yes, direct managers should know their people and their gifts. Giving managers and individual business units this development responsibility can sometimes decrease the scope of the high performer’s development unless talent development is involved in the process. You might never find out that your high performer working in the Finance department has great potential elsewhere in the company. Additionally, you run the risk of managers keeping these high performers around for their own benefit. Not sharing or communicating their potential talent across the business is certainly not what’s best for the greater good of the business or the employee’s long-term growth and success.  


In part II of this blog, I’ll discuss the final 3 common pitfalls experienced by businesses' talent retention programs.

If you’d like help to develop a way to minimize these risks in your retention programs, contact me