Keeping your high performing employees is always important and has gained even more importance this year.
Many have dubbed this period starting in 2021 (and lasting until who knows when) as “the great resignation”. More of the US work force are actively looking at what’s next for them than any other time. A recent Microsoft survey of over 30,000 workers found that 41% of employees are considering quitting (Inc. Magazine, The Great Resignation is Here and It’s Real, Aug 26, 2021). Reasons cited in multiple articles included covid burnout, bad bosses, employee resentment after taking the brunt of the pandemic while the execs maintained or increased their own compensation, not wanting to go back to the office, or being fearful of perceived risks of going back to the office– such as Covid or crime in the sometimes very sparely populated urban office areas.
The impact on companies that don’t respond to these perceptions or have treated their work force poorly during the last 18 months could be devastating.
One potential company reaction is to increase recruiting efforts. We see a LOT of “we’re hiring” in every channel – from LinkedIn to job boards to billboards. It’s a smart first step you can take immediately, even if you’re not currently hiring because, well… chances are you will be.
Another set of actions could be researching what companies like yours are doing to keep their employees, then talk to – and listen to – your employees. Implement at least some of the ideas they give. Many studies have been done on what drives employee’s job satisfaction. A good resource is: https://www.glassdoor.com/research/employee-satisfaction-drivers/
So, what does this have to do with your stars? They’re high performers because they love working at your company, yes? Well, maybe. Let’s review what has high performers … perform.
- Motivation: High performers are highly motivated. By what, you ask. We’ll get into that later, but it’s almost always self-generated.
- Talent in their job area: Many high performers have exceptional talent: Brains, administrative skills, leadership, persuasion, political prowess, or physical abilities.
- Lots of experience: The “rule of thumb” for mastery is performing something for 10,000 hours. For some jobs that can take 5 years or 20.
- Aligned intentions: They are aligned with the company values.
- Life-long learners: Many high performers were “average” to begin with and just got better and better. (There is a motivation factor to this as well.)
- Reliability: High performers keep on showing up and performing.
The great news is that high performing people are known for being great producers, and they are first in line for what ever compensation the company gives including pay, titles, promotions, and importantly both management and workers listen to them. High performers are almost always aware of their value.
The not-so-great news is that other companies often know who they are too. They are likely the first to leave when the company is doing poorly or headed (in their view) in the wrong direction.
What has high performing talent actually “be” motivated at their job? In my experience it’s almost always a combination of two things: 1) Challenging, meaningful work and 2) being appreciated for their work. These are not universal, and employers would be wise to inquire of those you most need to stay.
I asked one of my extremely high performing colleagues (not a project manager) what had them be interested in their current job to begin with, and how they maintained their enthusiasm / motivation over time. The 2 reasons for being interested to begin with were 1) a shorter commute, and 2) a position in the biotech/medical devices industry with a revolutionary product. The 3 reasons for being motivated now are “1) when I feel like I’m making progress / the feeling of making forward progress, 2) independence, and 3) project ownership.” This isn’t exactly what I said above, but it’s close…
What has your stars lose their enthusiasm? There are myriad reasons, but for me it’s no longer being listened to. I once had to fire an employee for drinking on the job, and my then boss hired the same person back 2 days later… said that we really needed them. In my opinion that completely undermined my authority for anything else and told me that my opinion was no longer needed. Even though I owned part of the business, that was enough to have me start looking for a new place to work.
At Waddell Group, we are blessed with highly talented project manager consultants that have deep experience in leading medical device projects. We consider these remarkable leaders “world class”. Yes, that’s a lofty claim, but it’s very descriptive and in our opinion highly accurate. We strive to keep our project managers delighted by a combination of each of the items below and have been rewarded with a growing team that stays with us for a long time.
We strive to do these things for our PM’s:
- We match the PM’s talents and style with the project / client.
- We represent them as world class PM’s to prospective clients.
- They are responsible for the success of their projects and have full control of how they lead.
- Each of them has as much or as little support from us or their colleagues as they seek.
- Waddell Group provides excellent compensation.
Is this enough to keep our team motivated? Our PM’s provided feedback to this post and we got very positive feedback on their job satisfaction. We also got feedback on what’s missing – more regular connection with the group (we’re virtual), and opportunities to continue to grow professionally. We have work to do… More on that in the next posts.