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Employees, particularly the good ones, are becoming increasingly interested in changing companies, according to recent data. It’s likely you don’t need studies to tell you this; you’re seeing it in your workplace. The days of universally applied employee engagement remedies actually being effective are over. Sure, having periodic department-wide meetings or doing employee opinion surveys can be meaningful, but they’re not going to significantly move the needle with employee engagement.  …And deep down, you know it!

This week’s announcement that the job market grew at a higher-than-expected rate for February confirms that it’s a job seeker’s market. That’s great news for the economy, but it’s going to test your employee engagement strategy.

The Primary Reason Top Performers Leave

As a few key employees leave your workplace for a competitor, your company’s business leaders will turn to HR and ask why employee engagement is low. Although the job market has changed and the economy has changed, the obstacles to strong employee engagement haven’t.

The main dissatisfier of performing employees continues to be their ongoing work relationship with under-performing employees.

We see this in multiple forms including feedback that:

  • Employees don’t care for the culture on their team (read: they’re working for an under-performing leader),
  • Employees feel under-recognized (again, this is a symptom of an under-performing leader),
  • Workplace frustrations are high on the team (you guessed it, the leader again),
  • Employees feel siloed and under-supported by other departments, and so on.

You see the theme.

Engagement Targeted on Performing Employees

Employers make a significant error when they treat each employee the same. Employees don’t perform the same, they don’t have the same value to the organization, they don’t have the same potential to grow, and they should not be engaged the same.  Engaging the employee means meeting each of them, individually, where they’re at. For example, not every employee wants to grow.  Sobeit.  Stop trying to grow that employee–engage them differently.  As another example, an under-performing employee needs to be engaged (or challenged) to simply perform their role.  Some specifics:

  • Establish personalized projects for your top performers. Know your top performs and what motivates them; they’ll be motivated by different things. Their leaders should establish opportunities for these high-potential (“hi-po”) employees to stretch their skills and get some exposure throughout the company.
  • Pair your top performers with mentors. Keeping top talent engaged means continuing to develop them. An internal mentor will go far in this regard. Ensure the mentor takes the time to get to know the mentee and has the resources available to ensure the mentee continues to get valuable, developmental experiences.
  • Celebrate and reward performance. Performance-driven cultures are, by definition, high-engagement cultures. Create a culture where technical performance and strong soft-skills (that other aspect of performance) are celebrated.
  • Coach and manage leaders who don’t inspire your employees. Employees work for their leader, not for the company. If you don’t believe me, just ask them. Employees don’t resign from the company, they resign from their boss. Coach and develop your leaders, but hold them accountable to creating a team that encourages strong performance and cohesion. Be willing to part ways with leaders who don’t represent your company well. These are the same leaders who repel your top performers.
  • Coach and manage under-performing employees. Leaders can usually identify under-performing employees, but they may be uncomfortable addressing the issues or they may not know how. Stay close to your leaders with under-performing employees, and frequently ask about the employee’s ongoing performance. Help your leader recognize times to coach the under-performer and how firm they can be. Under-performing employees, like under-performing leaders, should know they’re struggling and they should be able to tell you what they’re working on to address the issues.

The Key—Talent Review

Organizations expect HR to have a solution for how the business’ leaders can review both the performance and the potential of their subordinate leaders and employees. Performance reviews only address performance, but talent review effectively and efficiently incorporates potential as well.

Learn how to do a talent review technique called 9-Block, and how to talk about its benefits and value to your business’ leaders. Join us for the live webinar: Ins and Outs of Succession Planning and Talent Review.

FinePoint HR is an HRCI-approved provider.