Why do companies fail at retaining high performing employees?

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Retaining high performing employees is vital to growing companies, but sometimes companies miss what the high performing employees want. Companies need to start asking themselves the question “why would they stay with us?”.

The main medium used in Afghanistan is what Dan Pink in “Drive” calls “carrots and sticks”. You do a good job, you get a “carrot”; your manager motivates you, gets you a raise or a bonus at times. But if you do not do a good job, you get beaten with a “stick”; you may get away with a warning, but in instances it can even get you fired.

BIH did some research and found the following ways have been tremendously helpful to keeping high performers in the company. We looked at the book “Drive” and have taken some ideas from it below. We have also looked at an article from Harvard Business Review on Talent Management where the writer Karie Willyerd talks about “What High Performers Want at Work”.

It is important to understand that that high performing employees can deliver up to 400% more productivity than the average performing employees, according to Karie Willyerd.

Here is the summary of what high performing employees need from their employer:

1. Competitive Pay: Managers forget at times that high performing employees’ market value may rise faster than the company salary scales. Unless employers keep up with the market, there is a good chance high performing employees will leave the company for better opportunities.

2. Autonomy: Employees who excel at their job need to meet deadlines for deliverables but work at their own pace. At times controlling them can lead to what employees view as “micromanagement” causing lower performance and may result in them leaving the company.

Regarding this point, Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, points out “It does not make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

3. Mastery: High performing employees continually seek to develop in their careers. If they do not see development opportunities, they start to seek other options and consequently may leave the firm.

4. Purpose: There are significant examples of higher purpose driving extremely complex projects. Wikipedia (biggest online encyclopedia) and Linux (open-source computer operating system) are just two of high purpose’s examples. As you may know, both Wikipedia and Linux do not charge for their services to consumers and most of their work is done voluntarily.

You may be thinking why people create amazing products and services for no pay. For example, why not write an article and earn money through it instead of giving it for free to Wikipedia. The answer to this puzzle is that people in general, and employees specifically, want to see a higher purpose to their work than simply earning a living for themselves. Being passionate about the purpose of their work motivates them to work the extra hours to create, operate and maximize products and services without getting paid for it.

I hope you have learned something new, but more importantly implement some of these ideas as you see fit.

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