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Retaining high performing employees: a guide

Your top talent is crucial to the ongoing success of your enterprise. So how do you make sure you keep them?

Whether or not your business is experiencing a high rate of staff turnover, you should always be thinking about how to retain talented employees.

Why? Because, to be effective, retention strategies need to be proactive, not reactive.  And, with 24% of respondents to our 2022 Job Hunter Survey saying they intend to leave their current role as soon as they find a new job, this is not something you can afford to be lax about.

Fortunately, there are tried and tested strategies companies implement to hold onto their top performers, and you can use them too. Let’s explore.

How to keep your best employees

1. Engage with them

Before we get into specifics, you can’t hope to build meaningful relationships with any members of staff if you don’t have open channels of communication in your organisation.

Depending on the size of your business, this could entail you personally talking with employees, or engendering a culture where managers have regular 1:1s with their team members.

Sessions like these are crucial for identifying red flags with staff who aren’t entirely happy, and addressing issues before they lead to attrition. It also means you can tailor your retention techniques so they’re most effective for your specific workforce. In other words, you’re addressing what’s important to your staff.

You should think hard about how your business will retain its top staff.

2. Be open to contract negotiations

If you’re serious about retaining high performing employees, you need to be open to negotiations on things like salary, flexi-working or holidays.

That’s not to say you should give your staff everything they want in order to secure their loyalty. But rewarding great performances with reasonable pay rises, or other contract concessions is a fantastic way to show individuals you value their input.

3. Provide them with opportunities to grow

What’s something that most successful employees have in common? A desire to grow and learn.

Without ways to upskill, ambitious people will move on, so start brainstorming what you could offer. Depending on budgets, this could involve access to e-learning platforms, workshops led by internal experts or training from outside personnel.

Again, talking to your staff about what they’d like is key. Randomly picking an upskilling strategy is unlikely to have the result you want, and risks showing you’re out of touch with your frontline employees.

Training workshops are a great way to reward staff and develop them at the same time.

4. Empower them

On top of giving them top employees the chance to widen their skillset, use their expertise. Show you trust their decisions, and factor their input into important decisions.

There’s little more rewarding from a workforce perspective than knowing their bosses value their knowledge. You’ll also be doing yourself a favour, because by doing this you’ll be training the next generation of leaders in your organisation.

5. Make culture a priority

Company culture is important to New Zealanders, and getting yours right is crucial to making your organisation a great place to work.

If you haven’t already, define your values and establish the kind of environment your staff want to work in. Among the steps you can take to build or improve your business culture are:

  • Make things social: give your employees the chance to get to know each other through regular social events. This will also help with team building, which is key to productivity.
  • Recognise and reward: there are many ways you can create a culture of success. At the simple end are steps like intranet posts or email notifications highlighting valuable contributions. This goes all the way up to events like awards nights and additional perks for high performers.
  • Optimise your hiring process: when looking for new staff, be sure to factor cultural fit into your idea of a dream candidate.

It’s a lot harder to leave a company when you love coming to work everyday

6. Conduct exit interviews

Okay, so it didn't work out this time. But when you lose a great member of staff, it’s vital you learn from the experience to stop others following them out of the door.

Exit interviews are the perfect opportunity to do this, as you’ll probably find people are more honest once they know they’re on the way out.

Of course, you can also use this as a last ditch attempt to convince great employees to stay. But if their mind is 100% made up, your mission is simply to find out what happened. Why did they decide to make the move, and could you have done anything to prevent them leaving?