Retaining High Performers After Onboarding

July 26, 2017
July 26, 2017 Joe Britto

Keeping hold of high performing new talent is a challenge many organizations are facing. Replacing new hires is a costly business, not to mention the negative impact on company culture.

So what’s the solution to retaining high performers? Well, any HR professional worth their salt will tell you it’s all about a good onboarding program. They’re not wrong; in fact they’re absolutely right.

Losing High Performers Means Losing Our Edge in Business

Onboarding programs might offer high performers development opportunities where they can maximize the talent that got them hired. But if managed with a high level of control  these programs can leave new hires feeling like they can’t bring their personalities and ideas to work. And that’s a sure-fire way of getting them to head for the nearest exit.

When talented new hires walk away not only are there the wasted resources of the hiring and onboarding process to think about. Those future high flyers will be taking all their ideas with them to competitors, or their own business.

Progressive organizations hire high performers because they will truly benefit their business. Losing that talent is a bigger risk than giving them the chance to have meaningful influence in their domain.

Beyond the Ordinary

Many forward thinking businesses are already going beyond traditional orientations filled with procedures and PowerPoint presentations. It’s not just the major players getting in on the act here. Smaller organizations might have fewer formal structures in place, but they can be just as responsive to new hires.

But whether it’s a startup or a multinational, what happens when there’s a stellar onboarding program in place and some star performers are still walking away at the end?

Give High Performers Real Influence

Making sure new high performers can take on challenges and are rewarded well (with kudos as well as money) is where many ambitious companies start. And with good reason. Recognition, connecting them with senior leaders and showing them a clear track to advance are all great for retaining high performers.

But if that’s all in place and turnover’s still an issue, then maybe it’s time for a shift in thinking.

Giving high performers input into fun and interesting projects is great, but what really motivates star performers is actual influence. Some new employees are happy to be given instructions and will thrive in more controlled environment.

With high performers focus on creating an environment where they can affect real and meaningful changes within projects you offer them.

And what I mean by ‘real and meaningful’ is acting on their ideas. Yes, keep the critical thinking front and centre and subject the high performers’ ideas to scrutiny with all the feedback that entails. After all if these people really are high performers they’ll appreciate that input and will run with it. And the idea or project will be all the better for it.

Let Them Have Control

There’s an old adage that goes when you hire a new pair of hands you get a free brain. This is never more true than with a high performing new employee. They arrive with big ideas and if they have control over the issues and agendas that affect them they’re less likely to walk away.

It may sound like a risky strategy. What if you give a new hire real influence during onboarding and they mess up, or turn out to be a bad cultural fit? It’s a valid concern. If time and thought’s gone into the onboarding process then I’d guess just as much thinking has gone into a robust recruitment process.

If giving new high performers influence seems like too big a step, remember this: there’s a reason you saw these employees as high performers and decided to give them the role in the first place. Now all you need is to stand by that conviction.


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