How to Keep Top Performers Engaged in the Organization

How to Keep Top Performers Engaged in the Organization
Top performers are generally self-driven. However, apart from the inherent attributes, there are a lot of extrinsic factors that provide impetus and motivation to excel. 

The strength of a team is each individual member, yet there are occasions when the team achieves remarkable results due to the exemplary efforts and performance of some of the team members. Every organization has a few employees who invariably stand out due to their performance, irrespective of the job they perform. 

Assign any task and the resultant output is always class apart from being ordinary. These employees are the top performers not only because they exceed the targets consistently, but also because of the quality, wholesomeness, and finesse with which every task is performed.  

Every manager likes to have top performers in their team as they add a lot of vibrancy and liveliness to the entire team. They also act as silent motivators for other members. While it is wonderful to have such top performers in the organization, it is a herculean task for managers to keep them engaged.  

I am reminded of a story where a little girl once met a magical genie. She got so mesmerized that she requested if the genie could stay with her forever. The genie agreed to stay on the condition that he should be kept busy always. If he is idle, he will disappear. 

It took little time for the genie to fly away, as every work that was assigned got completed in the blink of an eye.     Now the top performers in the organization could be compared to that genie. They are efficient, smart, and quick, but also get bored easily if not kept engaged. 

Who is Top Performer? Distinguishing Potential, Performance and Performer

Even before recognizing top performers, it is important to understand what constitutes top performance.   High-performance score or rating cannot be the only criteria as there are whole lot of other parameters/traits that need to be considered to recognize top performers. Apart from goal fulfillment, performance standards like quality of work, ability to complete a task with no/minimal supervision, constantly finding ways and means for improvement, adding another dimension in terms of creativity and innovation, teamwork, etc., are equally important. 

Another aspect is to have a clear distinction between a high potential employee and a high performer.  Potential is the innate skills, abilities, knowledge, and aptitude possessed by an individual to perform tasks in the current role as well as in a possible future next level role; whereas performance is how all these attributes are used to deliver results in the current role. High Potential (HiPos as it is often referred as), is having all the essential ingredients. High performer is when it is put to optimum use.  

What do Top Performers Want?  Knowing the Obvious and Beyond

Top performers are generally self-driven. However, apart from the inherent attributes, there are a lot of extrinsic factors that provide impetus and motivation to excel. That is why work, workplace and work culture should take care of those things in the organization, not just for the top performers, but also for all those employees who aspire to do great work. 

If we consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, top performers can be presumed to be at one of the top layers. They would prefer to remain there and if for some reason dwindle down, they choose to look for other opportunities. What top performers want is to learn and grow with the organization; perform tasks that are difficult and challenging; take risks, receive rewards, get recognized; ultimately do everything that creates excitement and pays them well.   

What Can Organization Do to Keep Top Performers Engaged?  Realizing What Works and What Does Not

Top Performers are an asset to any organization due to their immense contribution to the overall success.   They are goal-focused and excel in any task, but like the genie in the story, they need to be kept constantly engaged, otherwise retaining them will be a perennial challenge for the organization.  

A formidable task for organizations is to have bouquet of engagement initiatives as a workplace becomes great due to the combination of all these which enhance the employee experience. The two most important things however are Relevance and Balance.   

Compensation is important for a few whereas recognition and experience for others. Some aspire to find learning opportunities whereas others want position and power.

To attract and retain top performers there should be something of relevance for everyone. Challenging tasks provide enormous learning opportunities. But if challenges continue for a long time it leads to burnout. 

Providing independence in work is fine, but too much of it may disturb the dynamics of work relationships. Therefore, a sense of balance helps in maintaining optimal satisfaction. 

Finally, organizations should realize that top performers need not necessarily be outstanding performers all the time and in all the tasks. Ideally, they might be top performers in most situations, but not necessarily retain the same level of performance all the time. 

Organizations should be cognizant of this and not consider top performers as a scientific constant attached to a person. Instead, companies should strive to create an environment where there is scope for everyone to flourish and move towards individual best.    


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