The most productive employees might actually be the least engaged, according to a 2013 study conducted by Leadership IQ surveying 1,000 employees.
More shocking, the report found, in 42 percent of organizations, employees who contributed the least tended to be the most engaged. These low performers were found to be the most motivated to give 100 percent of their effort at work. By comparison, high performers were losing motivation.
The problem is high performers thrive on engagement and won’t stay in a job long if they don’t feel engaged. Managers need to become sharper at recognizing when top performers just aren’t feeling it anymore and recapture their engagement before they go elsewhere.
Here are some ways to re-engage high performers before they leave:
1. Ensure high performers get to use their skills and abilities at work.
Here’s the hard truth: one in every three employees is looking for a new job, according to LinkedIn’s survey of 20,000 professionals released in June. One implication is these employed job seekers don’t find their current job engaging enough to stay, or maybe their current role isn’t giving them the experience they seek.
For employees, the opportunity to use their skills and ability at work is a very important factor in engagement, said 58 percent of 600 employees surveyed by SHRM in November 2014, and 34 percent linked this to high job satisfaction.
If employees don’t feel they can fully exercise their skills and abilities in their current role, they’ll go somewhere they can. Keep high performers on their toes by giving them new projects to tackle that align with their skills. Ask high performers which skills they’re most interested in developing and think of ways to incorporate those into their work.
2. Cultivate shared experiences.
An interesting Yale University study published in October 2014 found experiences people share with others are amplified. People become more absorbed or engaged in an experience when sharing it with others.
A possible cause for a high performer’s disengagement is feeling alone. Create more opportunities for group work and team building. Celebrate wins together and go on team outings to make meaningful memories. The more shared experiences employees have with one another, the more connected they’ll feel to their work.
3. Hold low performers accountable for their performance.
Leadership IQ found high performers feel their work is often perceived as “expected” and not a novelty that gets praised, like the work of a low performer might. Moreover, they don’t see people being held accountable for their low performance. This is discouraging to both high and middle performers.
Hold all employees accountable for their work, and recognize high performers in a way that makes them feel they are of unique value to the organization. For example, use a tool like Uppercase to track goals and give real-time performance feedback.
4. Show respect for employees’ ideas.
The immediate supervisor’s respect for employees’ ideas was one of the most important factors in job satisfaction and engagement, indicated by 56 percent of respondents in SHRM’s survey.
Welcome new ideas and feedback from employees, but don’t just nod and forget about it. Take action on an idea or spend a few minutes chatting with the employee to learn more about how the organization might best implement it.
5. Remind employees they have control over their own career growth.
Leadership IQ found high performers are least likely to feel that succeeding in their career is dependent on their own actions. They feel helpless when it comes to determining their career’s trajectory. This is one of the biggest predictors of whether or not a high performer will quit.
High performers want assurance their career is going somewhere, and they want to know exactly what will result from their efforts. Otherwise, what are they working for? In fact, 47 percent of respondents in SHRM’s survey indicated career advancement opportunities within the organization was one of the most important factors in job satisfaction.
Communicate career advancement opportunities more clearly and often. Promote employees based on performance. Since promotions might not be available often, find small ways to recognize top performers more frequently. Show employees how their work directly translates to their success, and the company’s success.