How to Keep Your Top Performers

I bet as an employer at some point you have answered this question with some form of the following: “EASY! Promotions that lead to more MONEY – which leads to stability – which leads to making more MONEY… so essentially money.” You would not be alone in this assumption but you would also be wrong.

Money is not usually the primary motivator. In most cases, it is a feeling of appreciation for work done. Try not to eye-roll. Caveat: Do we get candidates that are leaving because they aren’t paid enough? YES! BUT What we get significantly more of is candidates who switch jobs because of the environment – specifically not feeling appreciated.

Many of our candidates even take a pay cut in order to be in a position where they feel like they are part of the family – one that truly cares for them and acknowledges their efforts! I’m sure this isn’t you – but just in case – I’ll give you an example of a common mistake employers make with their good intentions: “You did a great job on that BUT what about <<this>>”. You’ve just shown appreciation AND motivated them to move toward the next goal! RIGHT?! Wrong. You have just told your employee: “You have not done enough”.

Depending on how often you’ve said this, it may be: “It will never be enough”. Instead, celebrate the small wins. You will create a stronger bond with your employees and they are more likely to over-perform to reach the next goal. If celebrating little things isn’t your style, try asking them what went right. Then use that to drive future wins. Remember frequent small wins build momentum for large wins.

You may be thinking, “A raise shows that I appreciate their work, why are they still unmotivated? They didn’t seem lazy when I hired them!” Greater pay is not everyone’s motivation. Every person has needs they prioritize. If fulfilled, employees perform at their best. It may be that the employee is not “lazy” as much as “not properly motivated”. If your employee’s primary motivation is family, why not give them an option of an extra vacation day, raise or combo? A 50 cent raise will cost the employer roughly an extra $1,040/year. Whereas a week off at $20/hr costs the employer $800. A key employee out for a week is rough but losing them to another employer will cost much more.


Most employees rate a sense of belonging high on their priority list. An easy way to nail this is to use “we” instead of “I”. (It’s just like saying “WE won” when your favorite team wins a game.) Add to that assigning projects that use their unique talents. Now the employee will feel that they were made for this position. Why would they want to go anywhere else? If something still seems off, your employee may just have needs/priorities outside work.

It is true that some employees have too many needs outside work that do not make them good for your company. Set some boundaries for these employees and let them go if necessary. Other employees that are constantly picking up their slack will thank you. Luckily, not every employee is like this. In most cases it pays to consider flexibility. Showing that you care for the entire person (inside and outside work) increases their motivation (which increases productivity). For example, many top performers easily turn down high paying positions for positions working from home (even part-time). Working from home isn’t the only way to be flexible. Some offices allow parents to occasionally bring in their children, some allow flexible hours for traffic/childcare/courses, and some have a combination of approaches balancing company and employee needs.

Giving employees the flexibility, belonging, purpose and praise tells them they are truly appreciated. This is key to creating loyal top performers that want to grow with your company.

Need ideas? We’re here for you!

Did you know that Optimum RTS offers HR consulting?

Suzanne is the glue that holds Team Optimum RTS together. She wears many hats in our office and her organizational skills are OUTSTANDING!