10 Ways to Keep Top Talent as Your Business Grows and Changes
In business, it’s not always easy to predict what will happen next. But if there’s one thing you can expect, it’s change.
As a business owner, you already know from experience that change is a necessary part of growth. In the words of Tony Gaskins, “Growth hurts because change isn’t easy. That’s why they call it growing pains.” It can take years of hard work before your business grows. When you do take the next step of welcoming in a new partner, hiring more staff, or opening a new location, suddenly all the sleepless nights feel worth it.
But that doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way. As your business grows and changes, it can also spark anxiety and uncertainty in the people that very growth depends on: your best employees.
You may be at risk for losing your top talent just when you need them the most. Why? While high performers are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave in the next six months , they’re also more susceptible to change, especially if that change affects their job satisfaction. Compared to average employees, high performers are less willing to relocate and more resistant to adjustments in their base pay.
Change is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean you should wait for your best employees to announce their dissatisfaction with a competing job offer. The time to start planning is now. If you see big changes coming in the next year or even just the next six months, use these tips to keep your top talent engaged and invested as your business continues to grow.
1. Take their temperature
An exit interview shouldn’t be the first time you hear what employees do or do not like about their jobs. To get a read on where your team is at as far as engagement and job satisfaction, find out how they’re feeling now. Planning these conversations around mid- or end-of-year reviews is even better. Employees will already be primed to discuss their goals and ready for feedback on their performance.
Still, chances are your top employees won’t outright tell you they’re unhappy or resistant to change. But framing questions around what they do like can give you the answers you need. If what they enjoy about their role is the small, engaged team, that can be a red flag if you’re thinking of expansion. They may live near the office and love their short commute, a possible sign that relocating them may not be the best fit.
2. Pay competitively
One thing your top performers may not feel comfortable discussing? Money. Since pay varies person to person, it can be hard to get a read on whether they’re content or feeling undervalued. Many companies offer a cost of living adjustment along with an annual raise, but it may not be enough. If your business is growing and in high demand, it’s likely your employees are too.
Stay ahead of competing job offers by regularly evaluating your top performers’ pay and benefits. Make sure they are in line with current salaries based on role and location. Remember: this is not the time to be stingy. Consider what would happen if your best employees left. How would that impact your business monetarily? If your best employees leaving costs more in the long-run than a few extra bonuses or pay adjustments, a raise is worth it.
3. Help them avoid burnout
Job satisfaction isn’t just limited to pay. Only 1 in 8 workers are enthusiastic about their jobs and likely to invest time and effort in company goals. While it’s easy to assume your top talent is more motivated than other employees, high performers are also more prone to burnout due to added stress. Don’t assume they’re immune to pressure just because they’re performing well today.
Avoid burnout by offering incentives for employees who actually take time off. Make personal days an expectation, not an exception. If you have been expecting more of your high performers than your other employees (whether consciously or subconsciously) spread out the responsibilities a little more between your staff. Not only will it protect your best workers from taking on more than they can realistically handle, but it will protect you from relying too much on one member of your team.
Invest in employee scheduling software, you can boost productivity at your organization and use the time you save to grow other areas of your business.
4. Use all of their skills
It’s easy to believe your top talent is engaged because they’re great at what they do. But they may have other skills they’d like to use more. Pay attention to your employees’ strengths outside their designated role or work responsibilities.
You may begin to notice they’re the first one to volunteer to train new employees and great at welcoming new people. They may have a passion for community involvement and are interested in coordinating your next local event. Give them the chance to take a break from the daily routine and explore side projects or contribute to the business in a new way.
5. Add in some flexibility
Another sure sign of burnout? Trying to balance it all. If you notice that your employees are doing well on the job but struggling to keep up with life demands outside of work, a traditional work schedule may not be for them. And even if they do seem to have it all together, that doesn’t mean work demands are in sync with their future goals.
For example, your top employee may work overtime and always see a project through, but also may be ready to start a family or go back to school. If they don’t believe they’ll be supported through this life change with time off and other adjustable work hours, they’re likely to look for another company that will.
Get ahead by asking your top employees what “balance” looks like to them. It could range from having a consistent schedule week-to-week or having the option to change their availability every two weeks.
This type of flexible schedule allows employees to work during their peak hours while still hitting business goals. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving employees a chance to slack off—your high performers aren’t likely to do that anyway. What work flexibility does mean is increased productivity, better overall performance, and less sick days . The more your employees feel supported at both work and home, the more likely they are to stay put.
6. Pair them with good supervisors
How many times have you asked someone why they quit a job only to be told it wasn’t the job itself, but their boss? It’s time to face the facts: 50 percent of employees quit their job because of a bad manager or supervisor .
Personality conflicts are unavoidable at work. Compromising and working through each other’s strengths and weaknesses are part of every profession. But while not everyone will get along equally, your own workers should be the last reason another employee quits.
If your top employees are struggling to work with their current manager or clashing with a supervisor, reassigning them may be the easiest response. Sometimes two personalities just don’t mesh no matter how hard each side tries.
However, if a reassignment is impossible, then it’s time for some hard choices. The manager in question could be going through their own issues, or they could be a toxic employee digging into overall productivity and your business’s bottom line. As your business grows, so might their impact. At some point, you have to decide who’s more vital to your business: a top employee or a difficult manager.
7. Make them feel like part of the big picture
Your top employees may know who they are, but they may not know the role they play in your business strategy long-term. It’s time to make things personal. Tie their goals to the business’s overall success. Let them know you’re considering their future along with the company’s, giving them exclusive knowledge of upcoming changes or a chance to share their opinions on your next move.
You don’t have to follow their advice, but allowing them to feel like part of the decision-making process is a powerful gesture. It gives them the chance to play a role in something bigger. After all, they aren’t just any employee. Now, you’re building something together.
8. Provide clear routes to advancement
As part of their role in your long-term plans, work with your top talent to define what success looks like to them. Whatever their goals are, be clear about timetables and what it will take to get there. Gone is the “maybe someday” promise of a promotion. High performing employees won’t stick around for long if they feel their hard work is going unrecognized or their goals aren’t being met.
Agree on key performance goals like sales and business objectives, but don’t forget to include professional development opportunities as well. Prove you’re invested in them long-term by encouraging them to learn new skills or further develop their strengths.
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9. Recognize their work
A simple “thank you” can go a long way in the workplace. Even if your top employee has been making big sales or has been on time for the past five years, no one wants to feel taken for granted. Just like pay, it’s important to let employees know the extent of their impact. Employees who don’t feel recognized at work are twice as likely to say they intend to quit in the next year , while employees who are recognized are more loyal and engaged .
Make it a habit of recognizing employees one-on-one or on a larger scale. Sometimes, a handwritten note or personal e-mail can mean more than an official announcement or team gift. Find out which method they prefer and let them know just how much you appreciate them. Keep a calendar of work anniversaries or other important dates. Set up an employee of the month program. Even the smallest gesture can go a long way in keeping top employees satisfied.
10. Have regular check-ins
Once you’ve survived a period of change with your team intact, it’s easy to believe the battle is over. However, employee engagement isn’t just one-and-done. Your top talent needs to feel consistently involved to stay invested. If you’ve found a few strategies that work, keep them going.
Evaluate wages bi-annually and keep an eye out for signs of burnout. Incorporate more flexible work options and see how employees are feeling in the following months. Most importantly, listen to your high performing employees. Sit down with them and discuss what went well and what could be better. Hear their fears and don’t take them for granted. While you might not be able to imagine how your business would run without them, it’s much better to never have to.