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Retaining Star Performers For Start-Ups

Star performers are a class apart from the worker bees. They are usually Type A people – highly achievement-oriented and their motivation goes beyond financial reward

October 22, 2012 / 01:39 PM IST

Mukti Shah

Star performers are a class apart from the worker bees. They are usually Type A people – highly achievement-oriented and their motivation goes beyond financial reward. They are an invaluable investment for the future of your company and it is imperative to keep them engaged so that they don’t quit.

Yet, entrepreneurs are so busy putting out fires and immersed in the creative and hard-core business aspects of their start-ups that they don’t pay attention to their human resources. So when you do get employees on board who believe in your venture and who go above and beyond, just two words – retain them! It is only when star performers threaten to quit that entrepreneurs switch to damage-control mode and offer them incentives to stay.

Never forget this: Good talent in start-ups is easily poachable. Here are five strategies to retain it.

1. Reconnect to the vision: Despite tempting bait elsewhere, star performers stick by you because they believe in your vision. Could there be a better reason to reward them? If you notice their attention flagging, it’s time to reconnect. Talk to them about how much progress you’ve made together. This creates a shared sense of achievement and renews engagement.

2. Don’t take them for granted: When was the last time you thanked or appreciated your star performers? Providing positive feedback and explaining why they deserve that pat on the back is the best way to keep them motivated. Applauding their efforts publicly can also set an example for the rest of the team. Praise and recognition go a long way towards in making your star feel valued and noticed.

3. Add value by upgrading their skills: Build a culture of learning, where employees leave more enriched at the end of each day. Providing behavioural as well as domain-specific training sends a positive message. There are many training service providers who conduct ‘open house’ training programmes. Nominate your stars for these programmes. These workshops are also great networking opportunities for them. Make no mistake, employees value the investment made in their growth and you reap the benefits of a better-trained star performer.

4. Involve them in decision-making and strategy: Your star performers have both the will and the skill to carry out their tasks effectively and efficiently. Involving them in problem-solving and decision-making is a win-win. These employees usually have their finger on the organisation’s pulse; they know the market well and interact closely with customers. Using their insight while making strategic decisions will benefit your organisation immensely – it also makes the star performer feel like an insider.

5. Don’t be penny-wise, pound-foolish: Praise and engagement are not enough. If the month-end math doesn’t add up, even your stars will walk out the door. Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, writes, "The best use of money as a motivator is to pay people enough to take the issue of money off the table. Don't pay people a measly base salary and very high commissions and bonuses in hopes that the fear of not having enough food on their tables will inspire them to do extraordinary things.”

Your star performers are your company’s growth-drivers, and their loss will cost you dear. When you think about it, it doesn’t take a lot to make sure you don’t drive them into your competitors’ arms.

Mukti Shah is a Clinical Psychologist, Corporate Consultant and an accredited Entrepreneurial Motivation Trainer.

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