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Why Do Highly Performing Employees Leave?

Posted by Jessica Miller-Merrell

high performance employees leave

At every company I’ve ever worked for, I’ve seen really high performing employees come and go for various reasons. Whether they aren’t challenged enough, aren’t being paid enough, or are unhappy with the workload provided at the company – all good employees are bound to leave if you’re not good at keeping them. One of the main functions behind the human resources department is to protect the company from low retention numbers. But for high performing employees, should we focus on working harder to keep them? Absolutely.

The best way to prevent your high performing employees from leaving is to understand the top three reasons why they might want to leave. Then, you can put the best practices into place for preventing this, so you won’t be surprised one day with a letter of resignation. It’s a war for top talent these days, especially in the technology sector, and having a strong retention strategy is the only way you’re going to be able to win it.

Top 3 Reasons for Low Retention for Highly Performing Employees

  1. Pay
    The most basic issue – and probably the easiest to solve if cash flow is good – is their pay. Numerous research studies have indicated that pay is one of the top three reasons that employees leave a company, and this is even more true for those who perform at a higher level. How to fix the issue? When determining the pay scale for an employee, you can’t just look at the average pay for the job, you need to look at the rate for higher performing employees. Using a salary calculator at one of the big job websites to determine a starting point will help. Then, take a look at what other companies are paying for similar positions, and determine the level of competitiveness you’re willing to go for. If you aren’t as competitive, then talented employees – especially developers – will leave for a bigger paycheck.
  2. Challenge
    The second reason these high performing employees leave is because they’re not being challenged enough. Most high performing employees have a mentality that they always want to push themselves to be better, and they don’t want to waste their time with mundane, non-challenging tasks. How to fix the issue? Give these employees new tasks that challenge them to push their limits. Have them train in different areas of the business, so they can grow their understanding of the company as a whole in preparation for higher level positions. Find a challenging issue that needs tackling, or create a program that allows employees to find holes in current practices, and give them the freedom and responsibility to fix them. It’s important to balance the mundane and necessary tasks with tasks that challenge these individuals. This will not only keep them on board, it will also increase productivity in the workplace.
  3. Company Culture
    The third most common reason that high performing employee leave is a dysfunctional company culture. Most employees go to work, clock-in, and clock-out, with no issues; but high performing employees work differently. They want to feel that they’re making a difference in the company as a whole. If there’s no transparency and the employees aren’t engaged, so they can’t see any real way that their contributing, it’s going to be difficult to retain these employees. How to fix the issue? Create a task force or different committees that allow employees to be a part of the process of creating a better company culture. If that’s too much for your organization to take on, take smaller steps to improve morale like providing more flexible work schedules, catered lunches, or more generous vacation policies. Show them that you care and that you’re looking to enhance your company culture if you want to keep your top talent on staff.

What has your experience been in keeping top talent engaged at your company?

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About Jessica Miller-Merrell

Author

Jessica is listed as the 2nd most influential recruiter online and as the 8th most powerful woman on Twitter. She is the author of Tweet This! Twitter for Business, a how-to business guide for Twitter users. She also writes for a number of leading publications, including Fortune, HR Magazine, SmartBrief, and HR Executive Magazine.

6 COMMENTS Join the discussion
  • Rachel T. January, 19, 2015

    Every company has limited resources, and therefore as much as the leaders of the organization would like to use the paycheck as an incentive, it may not be feasible to do so. Further, using the pay as a frequent motivator may trigger undesirable consequences for the company, since it may inadvertently establish some expectations with its employees that will eventually not be met and thus potentially inspire their valuable employees to seek other opportunities.

  • Jason H. January, 22, 2015

    A point that should be made is that there is a combination of in-company and outside reasons that lead to the flight of valuable employees. Each high-performer case should be separately analyzed and the company should act upon the conclusions. Yet, if it confines its analysis to workplace-related factors, it would most certainly fail to grasp the key motivators for each individual to perform at high standards.

  • Angela January, 27, 2015

    Aspects like long-term personal objectives (career-related or otherwise), personality traits, social status, the set of values that shapes the conduct of the employee, and so many others also must be taken considered if the right decisions are to be made. On the other hand, there is a very thin line between what the employee might be willing to reveal and what might be considered as an intrusion. It is therefore necessary that the information sought should be willingly and freely supplied by the high performer.

  • Harry April, 04, 2015

    Why not consider that a person is simply a typical “librarian”. In other words the person is clever enough to perform at a high level, but does not possess lifelog aims or established preferences. To find what they want, such people simply change jobs.

  • Thoko November, 01, 2016

    There several reasons that High Performers Leave.

    First, has the company made adequate investment for a particular position. These may mean, tools of work; capacity building; including them in planning processes; psychological factors; opportunities as well as responsibilities. Second, is the ability to challenge them to do great projects/work where they are required to bring their own innovation, creativity, enthusiasm among others. Third, considering the competitive market is the organization keeping abreast of current market trends; exposure; etc. Fourth, is it hiring a high performing team that will sustain positive energy that will trickle down other team members? Fifth, is it a listening organization? This has to be done very objectively without any bias and prejudice. Considering these facets, I believe retention of high performers will be doable. Good luck

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Guest November, 01, 2016