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How to Identify Your Top Performers Before It’s Too Late

How to Identify Your Top Performers Before It’s Too Late

by Geoff Balmer

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As the old cliché goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. When an employee leaves, there is nothing worse than the sudden realisation that you’ve lost an unheralded star. It’s the small things that will really start to stand out, such as how professionally they manage their hand-over, the gaps that appear when you begin to reallocate the jobs they were accountable for, or even a change in office culture or vibe when they depart.

It always amazes us how often we hear tales similar to this. To minimise the risk of this happening to your business, there are a number of methods you can try.  Here’s our advice on how to identify your best people before it’s too late.

Observe the Absences

One of our favourite ways of identifying top performers is to observe how the office functions when people are away on leave. There is an old saying; “don’t strive to make your presence noticed, just make your absence felt.” This is a good simulation for how your business would operate should that particular person depart for good. If they’re a hidden top performer then chances are that you’ll notice things starting to slip when they’re away. Perhaps it could be tasks not being done that you hadn’t realised they were performing, or other members of the team seeking support from you in their absence. Leave also provides a great indication of an individual’s organisational skills. Do they prepare in advance and provide a thorough handover or are there lots of ad-hoc problems that surface due to poor communication?

When a key player is out of the office, it’s also a good idea to look at who steps up to pick up the slack, and how they function in that role. Don’t just pay attention to how they perform, but also look at how they approach the task and what their attitude is like when asked to do something that might not be in their remit. Another way to do this is to organise for members of your team to be seconded to other roles or departments. This can be a great indicator of whether someone has long term potential for progression within the business.

Measuring Performance Through Process

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are an age-old concept for measuring an employee’s success or otherwise in a role. Although they can be complex to integrate, in essence it boils down to setting goals for your workforce. By having an objective standard to measure your employees against, you’ll have a far greater overview of how well they’re performing and what areas might need development. This way you can reward your team more effectively based on performance, which will help to retain high performing employees long-term. Most organisations will have some kind of KPI system in place, but as the business world continues to change so rapidly, so does the way in which many organisations define success. With this in mind, it’s worth evaluating your performance systems every so often so that they remain current and relevant.

In addition to those who are achieving their goals, keeping an eye on who is the most motivated or inspired by these goals can be a sign of who is best suited to succeed in your business. Research shows us that happy teams who are engaged in the work they are doing are far more productive than those that aren’t. With the importance of workplace engagement so evident, taking the time to check in with employees to see how motivated and engaged they are with their work can be invaluable in identifying top performers. Keep a record of when you last checked in with each team member, and try to check in with everybody regularly, following up those who have specific concerns or feedback that needs to be addressed.

Bad morale can make even the best employees feel like underperformers, so if you notice someone struggling, don’t hesitate to speak to them and listen to any concerns they might have. Take them out of the office for a one-on-one chat so that they don’t feel the pressure of being in a work environment, even if it’s just going up the road for a quick coffee. More often than not, these concerns turn out to be small issues that are easy to solve, however, if left unaddressed they can become far bigger problems.

Assessing from a Distance

You can learn a lot simply from watching the way people work, whether it’s on specific projects or on a day-to-day basis, and making note of those that go the extra mile to succeed. Look for those  employees who assume natural leadership roles when in a group, or those who take it upon themselves to ensure tasks are always completed. Providing these people with further opportunities within your business is key to getting the most out of them. If they don’t feel like this is being provided, they may look for these opportunities elsewhere.

Lastly, look for the people in your organisation who actively champion your brand internally and externally. Try to identify and differentiate those that ‘walk the walk’ and don’t just ‘talk the talk’. Employees who represent company values in the way that they work are consistently the ones that are most engaged, and have the potential to move into higher positions and forge long-term careers within the organisation.

Closing Thoughts

In today’s buoyant recruitment market, high performing talent is snapped up quickly and there are plenty of opportunities out there for those who aren’t satisfied in their current role. This is why it’s key for organisations to recognise their top performers, and implement measures to ensure that they are not taken by surprise when a key member of staff hands in their resignation. Looking for more retention and engagement tips, or have you recently lost a key member of staff? Feel free to get in touch with us and we’ll see how we can help.

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