Take a Pulse on Happiness

Turnover is hard, but why does it happen? No great leader wants to lose your best performer. It is a very logical question. If employees are happy, then why would they ever leave?  Happiness is correlated with retention. But what happens is we get busy, and we fail to invest in our employees, especially those high-performing ones?

So, let us take an example. Have you ever felt you failed to tell a loved one how you feel? Meaning maybe you should have told them that you love them, but you assume that they knew, right? We often do the same things with our employees. We fail to recognize our employees because it is expected that they will do an exceptional job. Ever experience that? Particularly this happens with high performers who we expect to exceed the bar every single time. Recognition is key.

But wait. Our high performers really want recognition. They enjoy exceeding the bar, they enjoy accomplishing their goals, and they are driven to do everything they can do to ensure the department is successful. But they want recognition.

High Performers: Communication is Essential

They expect a few things first. They expect communication – and often. They expect communication when things are changing and as soon as goals are developed. They want communication throughout the entire process of when tasks are due, how they do them, why they do them, and when they do them.

Second, they want their goals in advance of the year. If there was one thing, I would say is the single most important thing you could do it would be to develop and handout goals in advance of the beginning of the year. Employees like to know

what they are working towards. Particularly high performers want to know where you are going for the year – and want goals clearly stated and in advance. They also want to ensure that they meet those goals.

And while we might have an understanding of what those goals may or may not be in January or February; if we do not have a firm understanding, it leaves only nine maybe 10 months left to accomplish those goals. Why do we struggle giving out those goals in advance? It is more attainable to accomplish 12 months of goals in 12 months. Employees want consistency, communication, and a plan.

Long-Term Planning is also Critical

And finally, when employees are unsure of the plan, and they see a lack of communication, recognition, or planning, they start to think and consider if you are in that plan long-term. What does that mean? Well your high performers want to know where you are going and where you see them going. They also want to communicate where they see themselves going. They want to sit down with their leader. If they cannot see a spot for themselves in a few years moving up and being promoted throughout the leadership team, high performers likely start making their own plans because they are ready to plan for that next step. Communication and planning can easily address those concerns and better plan. Without communication and planning, that plan may not include your organization. When you see that resignation letter, you will likely be surprised – although I am not. It is heartbreaking.

Costs Add Up

Likely what happens is you lose a highly valuable employee, and they leave the organization. And oh, that is so costly in so many ways. Not only is it costly because you spent time recruiting and a loss to the department. It sends a message to your other high performers on the team. It makes them start to think should I leave too. While you are recruiting the replacement of what you consider this irreplaceable person, there is an additional work added to the team members’ plate. We know everyone is replaceable, but that does not mean you do not grieve the loss of your high performer. What could you have done as a leader? It means you have a high performer that you did not expect to lose. And simply, it is a loss – a huge loss to the department and to the organization.

Now What Happens

While that is happening, there is more pressure on your other high performers on the team, which causes additional work and in some cases those employees become spread too thin. Your high performers like achieving goals, as you would expect, but when this happens, it adds additional responsibility. High performers never mind taking on additional responsibilities. They thrive from recognition and achievement of those responsibilities.

However, when they feel like they are not achieving their goals, they will start to think about the next opportunity, which is likely outside of the organization.

How Can Turnover be Avoided

Turnover is painful, and turnover is costly. However, the most important ways to reduce your turnover is with communication, planning your goals in advance of your year, recognizing your team, and putting a plan in place for every team members’ succession.

While turnover is devastating to any leader, especially unplanned turnover of your highest performer, with these tools and reminders, it can be reduced greatly.

McCreery is founder and president of ROI Search Group, an executive search and leadership consulting firm. She is a contributor on various human resource topics. She is also a member of the Indiana Healthcare Executive Network and a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives.