jim_morris_captionedToo often, employees who are struggling to meet minimum performance standards get a disproportionate amount of managerial attention in an organization and the high performers are left to work with little or no support. This situation is unavoidable to some degree, but when the energy and talent of high performers is unleashed, remarkable results await. Tapping into an employee’s passion and potential isn’t easy; there are as many approaches as there are employees, and one approach doesn’t work for everyone. Here’s what we know about the fundamentals of employee motivation, especially high performing employees.

  1. If they can prove they are capable of it, make room for your high performers to make an impact on the business. Remember why you hired people instead of using machines in the first place; you need their creativity, judgment and knowledge. Since you need these three attributes, it follows that you want to create a work environment where they can bring those assets to bear as often as possible within the constraints of the business.
  2. Next, high performing employees by nature are motivated to work hard and well. Remember they do what they do for their reasons not your reasons. Don’t impose your own values or motivations on them. Respect them for who they are and why they chose to work for you. Instead, of trying to change them, understand what is important to them. Know what makes them tick and why they are there.
  3. Listen to their feedback and be courageous. High performing employees are like high value customers; sometimes they take more attention and energy than the others, but there is value to be gained from their criticism. They will have ideas about how to make things better; listen to them, even when doing so is difficult or counter to your own ideas. You may not be able or willing to implement their suggestions, but hear them-out, and when you disagree, tell them why, honestly.
  4. Give them context (the big picture) if they want it. Tell them what your goals are for the organization over the long term? Be as transparent as you can be about your business, financials and all. Develop a mission statement, and then work with your employees to craft a vision and/or a strategy for how you are going to accomplish the mission.

And most importantly,

  1. Don’t try to “keep” your high performers, try to grow them. Be part of helping your high performers achieve their own goals in life. If you do, one of two things will happen, both of which can be beneficial for your organization: First, their satisfaction with life and their careers will make them better employees and; Second, they will move on when career or life opportunities dictate, and they will be a great referral source for the next high performing prospective employee you want to hire.

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