At what point must we be great? Talent does make a difference. “The top software developers are more productive than average software developers not by a factor of 10x or 100x or even 1,000x, but by 10,000x.”[i] Imagine you are the direct manager of the top software developer in your organization…the first person he would notify of his resignation and the one responsible for replacing him, if he decided to leave. What steps would you take to ensure he never left?
The most obvious place to start would be to ensure an appropriate compensation structure via salary and bonus. However, that is a basic requirement to retention. Someone this successful can leverage his talent to secure appropriate compensation wherever he chooses to work. The total rewards package- vacation, health and welfare programs, tuition reimbursement, are important, but these really amount to “giveaways.”
Organizations routinely over-invest in employees who fill higher roles in the “hierarchy” rather than those who perform critical, strategic activities. Not every job (or all work within a job) is strategic. First, leaders must identify the work that is strategic- the work that is necessary in order to execute the company’s strategy and secure a competitive advantage in the market place (defeat the competition!). This work exists in every layer in an organization. If your strategic objective is to “win” by having the best customer experience, managers as well as agents play a strategic role. Both interact with your customers and should be encouraged and incentivized to deliver exceptional customer service. Managers who aim to drive optimal performance from their employees need to appeal to the core of what motivates their top performers serving strategic roles.
These motivators will vary from person to person, but here are some likely contenders:
- Building transferable skills: Those who lack the opportunity to gain transferable skills via learning new technologies or industry specific products will likely seek out other job opportunities that will afford them the ability to learn, grow and remain ‘current’ in their industry, profession and workforce.
- Performing tasks that are intrinsically rewarding: This is likely to be common throughout the not for profit sector where employees are filling roles within an organization that is dedicated to a cause with personal appeal. However, work in the private sector can be intrinsically rewarding as well. Pharmaceutical scientists in the private sector will often find their work toward curing illnesses to be very rewarding.
- Feeling valued: Everyone makes a choice every day about how hard s/he will work. Managers who show respect and appreciation toward others are more likely to have employees who choose to perform at a higher level. Employees who are included in organizational decision making report higher levels of feeling valued.[ii]
- Sense of accomplishment: Employees should understand their roles and their goals and how those have a direct impact on the success of the company. This is linked to goal setting and visibility of accomplishments. If employees do not know their goals, or do not believe they are able to accomplish them, their efforts may be misdirected. Managers who provide SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound) will be able to easily track performance and provide feedback about goal achievement.
- Coaching and Development: Highly motivated employees value the ability to continually learn and receive feedback on their work. Organizations are increasingly creating and investing in ‘corporate universities’ Organizations today acknowledge the necessity and value in continually training the workforce- including those already bringing enhanced skills to the table. In addition, providing a mentor (or allowing someone to serve as a mentor) will give employees the opportunity to facilitate the sharing of knowledge, expertise, skills, insights and experiences through dialogue and collaborative learning.[iii]
- Quality of Life: This goes beyond a good work/life balance, which everyone does enjoy. In addition to having a job and a boss that are respectful of personal time and commitments, employees enjoy working with people they like, in a pleasant environment with technology that works quickly.
In short, employees want to enjoy the work they do and the people with whom they interact. Successful people want to continue to learn and remain viable and competitive within the job market. Investing in your key, successful employees- via training, coaching and equipment will yield positive results in the form in increased productivity, engagement and retention.
[i] Nathan Myhrvold, former Chief Scientist, Microsoft.
[ii] “What Makes People Happy at Work?” www.cbsnews.com; April 20,2011