Focus on Your Top Talent for Maximum Staff Development ROI

Trying to bring low performers up to speed seldom works, while taking high performers for granted leaves them feeling unappreciated.

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By Beth Miller • Jan 5, 2016


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It is common for leaders to spend most of their feedback time on under performers while neglecting their top performers. This is a huge disservice to talented employees and sends the wrong message. When this occurs, top performers ask themselves "why should I continue to outperform when I'm not valued by my manager?"

Not only is it a disservice to your high-performing employees, it's often unproductive for you. In the book, First, Break All The Rules Marcus Buckingham & Curt Coffman state "Remember the revolutionary insight common to great managers: People don't change that much and don't waste time trying to put in what was left out." In other words, time spent with your high performers will provide you with a better return on your investment.

Your superior talent need and deserve just as much of your time as your employees who are not performing to expectations. Top performers delivering superior results have potential to take on much larger, impactful roles in the organization. They are often your organization's future leaders.

There are also the valued performers in your organization whose consistent, solid performance would be missed by team members. They are the ones you count on to do quality work. Leaders need to remember these important team members and have ongoing talent conversations with them as well.

So what should these development conversations with your superior talent and valued performers look like? Follow these five steps:

1. Praise and recognition.

Recognize specific efforts that they have made that were superior and stood out. What accomplishments were helped achieve organizational goals? For your superior talent, let them know what specific accomplishments demonstrate their potential as a leader. And for the valued performer, highlight the specific behaviors they demonstrate which make them an important team member.

Related: Thriving Cultures Are Built With Recognition and Praise

2. Determine what inspires them.

As a leader you need to insure that both you and the organization continue to "feed" what motivates your high performers. Ask what types of projects and tasks they enjoy and what de-motivates them. Your goal is to retain top performers.

3. Explore development opportunities.

For your superior talent, these opportunities should continue to inspire and motivate them, as well as provide them with new skills and experiences for future leadership roles. And for your valued employees look for ways to enhance their current role and be clear that they are well suited in their current position and there are opportunities to grow and develop within the position. Identify development opportunities, create a leadership development plan and regularly check in with the progress of the plan.

Find out what their goals are professionally and the areas they want development in. What are their personal interests?

Related: The Best Employees Stay With Companies That Help Them to Get Better

4. Your role.

Be clear that your role is to support them and their development by removing roadblocks when it comes to development resources for them. And the employee's role is to do the heavy lifting. Development is hard work.

Time spent developing your top talent is more productive for you and builds a more productive team. To successfully take that next step invest in performance feedback training so you have the right tools to streamline the process. The right training and technology will provide you with a solid foundation to implement the feedback and development process for top talent.

Related: To Attract and Retain Talent Focus on Your 'Why'

Beth Miller

Leadership Development Advisor, Speaker, Executive Coach

Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and founder of Executive Velocity Inc., a boutique firm offering talent management and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for small business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?

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