Flexibility needed to keep top performers

The most important contributor to job satisfaction for all employees is base pay

About 40 per cent of employees are high performers, 40 per cent average and about 20 per cent below average

About 40 per cent of employees are high performers, 40 per cent average and about 20 per cent below average

 
high performer

per cent more productivity than an average performer. Despite this, all employees tend to be lumped together in workforce statistics.

Last summer, my colleagues and I conducted a study with Oxford Economics across 27 countries to find out what the future workforce wants.

We led twin studies of executives and employees and asked the employees how they were rated on their most recent performance appraisal rating. Of the 2,872 employees, about 40 per cent were high performers, 40 per cent average and about 20 per cent below average.

As you would expect, high performers as compared to low performers are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to leave their jobs in the next six months. But the numbers aren’t as comforting as we’d hoped. One in five high performers is likely to leave in the next six months (versus one in four employees overall who are likely to leave in the near term), and less than half are satisfied with their jobs.

Clearly, a workforce strategy goal should be to double down on retention tactics for high performers. Based on some compelling discoveries in our research, high performers may not be getting what they need from their managers.

The most important contributor to job satisfaction for all employees was base pay, followed by bonus pay. High performers cared significantly more about both of these factors than average or low performers.

Tenure-based or compensation strategies with little differentiation between high and low performers are likely to alienate high performers the most.

One final finding was that low performers were significantly more willing to relocate than high performers. So figure out ways to give your high performers maximum flexibility if you don’t want them to leave, even in their current location.

Make sure they have options for career advancement and the ability to acquire diverse experiences through short-term assignments and leading virtual teams in lieu of relocating.

Left untended, your high performers will seek alternative opportunities that provide more challenges, growth and rewards. Your competitors would love to have them. Keep your best workers by meeting their wants and needs. – Copyright Harvard Business Review 2014

Karie Willyerd is the co-author of The 2020 Workplace. She is also the senior vice president of learning and social adoption at SuccessFactors, an SAP company, and the former chief executive of Jambok, a social learning platform acquired by SuccessFactors in 2011. She has held the roles of chief talent officer and chief learning officer for several multinational companies.

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