If most managers had to choose between reviewing a struggling employee and an employee who excels, they would choose the high achieving employee ten times out of ten. An excellent employee review is a positive experience for everyone involved, and even if the employee blushes a little, everyone usually leaves the room with good memories, stronger relationships, and an elevated feeling of morale.
But the excellent review comes not without its own set of challenges. After too much unadulterated applause, even the strongest willed among us sometimes experience a natural tendency to strut. And with a well justified strut sometimes comes a (usually temporary) period of relaxation, or a reduced interest in pushing hard to make it to the next level. This is especially true when there is no next level. If your company is small and salary raises have a natural cap, or if there’s no immediate higher-level in-house position available, how might an excellent employee respond after a positive review? How do you ensure that your excellent talent is able to maintain the momentum and maybe even leap into turbo without setting off their ‘check engine’ lights?
To keep great employees from leaving or ceasing the steady push that brought them where they are today, try these tips.
1. Don’t skip the “room for improvement” section. This is a strong temptation for all kinds of reasons, but don’t brush this section off or treat it like a pointless formality. Think hard. No one is perfect and chances are your star employees are thirsty for constructive feedback. Review every element of their performance and competencies and surely there are some areas that could benefit from development planning. As long as they are being recognized for exceeding expectations they are more likely to view constructive feedback as your commitment to their success rather than an attempt to see the glass half empty. This is also an excellent opportunity to review goals and set new ones that will challenge your star employees. Exceptional talent has the untapped potential for a bankable contribution to company success. Be sure that you are getting the most from this special bunch.
2. Review their potential. If you fear that your star employee is becoming bored or complacent, ask yourself if they have simply outgrown their role. This is not necessarily a bad thing whatsoever. Monitoring the potential for advancement of employees is a sure-fire way to hedge succession gaps. If there is no possibility of upward movement, consider lateral movements or the addition of peripheral tasks and goals that will challenge and engage your employee right out of their rut. If the chance for upward movement is a genuine future possibility – let them know exactly how and when they can expect to realize such a move and work with them to develop a plan to help ensure their successful evolution in the company.
3. Find alternative rewards: If additional monetary rewards cannot be granted, consider keeping your gold talent motivated and engaged by finding alternative ways to reward and encourage performance. Flexible hours, extra time-off, training/professional development opportunities, career path planning (as discussed above), more recognition, improvements to working environment – there are many possible perks that can be offered to increase employee satisfaction and fuel their performance.
4. Keep excellent records, and make sure your employee knows you’re keeping them. Even if an immediate career bump or increase in salary cannot be granted now, effective performance record keeping lets employees know that all of their hard work isn’t for nothing. It can be a very motivating thing to offer your top employees the reassurance that their excellent work is documented and saved on their permanent record and will be remembered and used for future decision making. Historic appraisals, results from peer reviews, feedback collected over the review period – all very important records that let employees know that their contributions will not be forgotten.Immaculate records also remind employees that their performance is constantly being monitored – which might hinder any inconsistencies in output during the review period.
5. ASK!!!! This is the most obvious tip and yet managers seem to cower from doing this – perhaps for fear that employees will ask for something that cannot be granted or it might open a can of worms that will make the situation worse but this isn’t the case. If you have a star employee and you would like to keep their momentum in your company at a high-level – the easiest thing to do would be to ask the employee ‘what do you need to be happy and keep this fire lit’? You might be surprised how relatively little is needed to keep them on-track and at peak performance. Just be sure you are prepared to work with them to make some or most of their demands a reality.
6. Proceed with caution: Just because an employee excels in their role, does not necessarily give managers a green light to demand more. Be careful when looking at the performance glass as ‘not big enough’ otherwise you risk deflating or overworking your valuable talent assets. There is good news – tip #5 can deal with this. When in doubt, ask your employees – after all, they might know more than anyone what it will take to keep them motivated and what extra tasks or goals they are willing and able to take on.