10 Ways to Keep Your Superstars… Before They Leave You

I wrote the article below back in August 2014. It may be more relevant now than it was then. Over 14 million workers left their jobs last year in what many experts are calling the “Great Resignation”. Now, more than ever, we need to focus on keeping our best employees. I hope you find several good ways of doing that below.


What’s more, hiring, measured as a share of total employment, is in high gear; monthly job gains are regularly topping 200,000; and more workers now have the confidence to quit one job to seek a better one.” – Kiplinger Letter 8.8.14

Remember the good old days during and after the last recession when your employees were too nervous to consider leaving their jobs? Afraid that they would not find other employment in such a dreary economic environment, they stayed with you in hopes of better times. They were economic “hostages”.

Those days are over.

This is true for both large and small companies. See the quote above from a recent Kiplinger Letter. Your “A” players, the “superstars”, are at great risk to you today. Unless they are thoroughly engaged in their work, they are now considering and possibly even looking for greener pastures.

How would you know? Maybe they’re spending more time than usual on LinkedIn or even Monster.com. Taking longer lunches. Dressing unusually well for your company’s norms. Stepping out of the office for private phone calls.

How can you avoid this great exodus of top talent? Here are 10 of the best strategies I know for keeping the best people. How many of these are you already using?


#1. Praise or recognition every 7 days. One of the largest surveys of employees ever done was conducted by the Gallup organization. They published the results in the best-selling book First Break All The Rules. One of the key findings was that your employees expect praise or recognition at least once every seven days. Seem like a lot? For some, it seems insurmountable.

Keep in mind that you can vary the delivery of these critical communications depending on the individual and the nature of the circumstances. In person face-to-face- is usually best. Written thank you cards are also one of my favorites.


#2. Surround them with superstars. Your best people want and deserve to be surrounded by other superstars. See Lebron James. This will challenge them to achieve even better results. This also gives them the opportunity to learn from their peers. In addition, if you lose a star player, you are not left with a cadre of under-performers.


#3. Eliminate the de-motivators. Examples include unfair compensation, lack of proper tools/technology, and an abundance of organizational ambiguity. It’s almost impossible to motivate anyone until you remove the de-motivators.


#4. Share your #’s. Your “A” players need and want to know the score of your “game”. They also want to know how their efforts are contributing to the financial status of the company. If you choose not to tell them, they will guess instead and will usually guess wrong. Can you imagine being Peyton Manning, Lebron James, or Derek Jeter and not knowing if the team is winning? Of course not.

Start with your employees. Does each of them have at least one number they are responsible for? A key performance indicator that tracks their individual contribution? Next, determine which organizational measures are important enough to share with your employees. Examples might include revenues, profitability, key ratios, and the list goes on.


#5. Over-communicate the strategic intent of the company. This includes your company mission (purpose), your vision, and your core values. The goal is to align these critical strategic pieces with those of your superstars. A misalignment usually ends up in a parting of the ways. Your best employees need something to work for, something to work towards, and a set of values to believe in.

Keep in mind that your best employees are volunteers. They can work anywhere they want to and they have chosen your company. Their reasoning for selecting your business lies in those strategic intentions.


#6. Professional growth opportunities. Superstars don’t just wake up one day as high performers. They’ve worked hard to get there. They have taken classes, read books, and participated in peer groups that have challenged them to improve their respective skill-sets. They’re not done. Your best people will want to continue to grow. Encourage their continued growth. The only way your company grows is if your people are growing simultaneously.


#7. Care about them as people. The Gallup survey also identified this factor as critically important in engaging key employees. How much do you know about your best people? Birthdays? Anniversaries? Kids’ names? I suggest you keep a fact sheet on each employee with all of their important personal data. Update it regularly.

One of my members has a monthly one-to-one meeting with each of his direct reports. One rule. No discussion of business. This meeting is all about finding out as much as possible about his employees as people.


#8. Challenge your superstars. The very best employees love to be challenged. It may be a new job responsibility. You may raise the bar on your expectations for their performance. A learning or growth opportunity. What might create a healthy dose of discomfort for this person? Your enemy here is your employee’s relative state of boredom. Find ways to make their work more challenging.


#9. Autonomy. In his bestselling book, Drive, Pink tells us that the three primary drivers of motivation are “autonomy, mastery, and purpose”. Superstars need space. They need room to perform. That might mean physical space, such as a private office or the ability to work from home. It also means non-physical space. No micromanaging. They don’t need it. Set the bar for them and get out of the way.


#10. Fun. Think about when and where you had fun at work. Fun people. Fun work environment. Fun clients. Now consider where and when work was not fun. In fact, it was difficult to go to work. Fridays could not come fast enough and Sunday nights were bad just because they preceeded Monday mornings.

How do you create a fun work environment for your stars? One of my members has a “fun” bulletin board where any employee can post a picture of himself, other employees, and even family members having fun. Another one of my members formed a company soccer team that was great fun for those that played and those who just wanted to watch. How about a monthly luncheon with a guest speaker?

How many of these 10 strategies are you using today?

The choice is yours. You can either take a proactive stance to keep your best employees or react to the bad news of a departing superstar. Which one will you choose?