How to Retain High Performers in Your Workforce

Finding spectacular workers is a tough ask. If staffing within any industry was simple, we wouldn’t exist as a recruitment agency. Finding high performers takes both recruitment skills and vetting practices. Once you get the employee onto your team, it also takes professional development to help take them to the next level.

Simply put: after you find, hire, and train the perfect candidate, you have a plethora of business resources invested in the candidate. The last thing you want to do is lose them from your team due to mishandling of their future.

It’s like an NFL football team drafting the greatest player. Would they be willing to let them walk? Just how long did Tom Brady stay with the Patriots? Exactly.

We have had a plethora of partners and clients reach out to us about turnover. They often inquire about how to make sure their amazing employees stick around. While it may be impossible to sway a human with their mind set on a different goal, there are a few ways to keep the wind blowing in your favor.

Here are 10 ways to retain high performers.

Why Keep High Performers?

This may sound like a blatant statement, but it’s important to keep your high performers on your team.


At the end of the day, keeping your best workers is more than just having a great worker on your team. Sure, their efforts and abilities help your company and production, but that’s not the only reason that their residency is important. It all boils down to the transferable emotion of professionalism.

A professional employee does their job well, but they also transfer their work to the rest of the team. Think of it as the opposite of a toxic employee. The fantastic employee sets a precedent for the rest of the team, helping raise their efforts through example. They are also available to train new employees, helping create a newly constructed line of fantastic workers in their department.

Greatness trains and influences others to be great.

Keeping a high performer with a stellar attitude not only helps raise business, but it helps build a great working culture for great employees going forward. It keeps your team progressing and happy. According to a Swarthmore College study, when employee morale is high, employees take educated risks compared to negative and unhappy workers.

A high performer is a captain, helping boost the team around them as well as the performance of your business. Don’t lose them.

It’s More Than Just a Raise

You’ll notice throughout the rest of the article that we don’t mention the increase in salary as a tool to keep high performers. While this may be a useful tactic in ensuring the retention of an employee, it goes against the narrative we are attempting to push.

Throwing money at an employee is great, sure, but it does nothing for employee morale. At the end of the day, it will just require your company to provide higher salaries for every worker, pushing the cap up. Then, the original employee will want a higher raise to compensate for the higher floor created. It’s a slippery slope of sorts.

This isn’t to say that employees shouldn’t be paid well. They absolutely should. This is just to note that it’s an entirely different subject and debate.

Ultimately, humans are humans. We all have different motives and needs. If a high performer is threatening to leave your workforce due to pay and you are able to give them the raise they desire, that’s your choice to do so. That, by all definitions, is a way to keep employees around. It’s not what we are discussing here, though.

According to a Zippia study, over 47 million Americans left their jobs by the end of 2021. While pay rates were part of the reasoning (surely), it wasn’t the only reason. Throwing money at employees isn’t the way to keep them, especially in a world where the Great Resignation has allowed employees to rethink their work/life balance.

Millennials or Gen Z?

When deciding what tactics should be used to keep a top employee, you have to think about what their motives are. The generation in which the employee was born can make a significant impact on what they are looking for to stay around.

Currently, Millennials make up around 35% of the workforce. While Gen Z is a bit behind in this regard, they will make up the same amount by the end of the decade. That’s just how time works.

Millennials and Gen Z have different values in regard to what they are looking for in the perfect workplace. While a Millennial employee may be swayed more by promotion or salary, a Gen Z employee may hold hybrid working models or benefits higher in need. Therefore, how you approach them with retention efforts should differ.

Luckily, statistics have already been created regarding what each generation values.

Each generation’s top career priorities according to a study by CNBC:
Percentage of Millennials that have this priority:Percentage of Gen Zers that have this priority:
Work/life balance (39%)Work/life balance (32%)
Learning and Development (29%)Learning and Development (29%)
Competitive pay (27%)Competitive pay (24%)
Meaningful work (26%)Meaningful work (21%)
Career growth (24%)Career growth (23%)
Workplace culture (23%)Workplace culture (23%)

How to Retain High Performers

We’ve established how important great employees can be for your company’s culture. No company wants to have a high rate of turnover. Not only is it exhausting for the established employees, but it can wear down precious company resources. Therefore, you want to keep your great workers on the team.

Here are our 10 most impactful ways to keep high performers in your workforce going forward.

Employees Matter

“The way your employees feel is the way your customers will feel. And if your employees don’t feel valued, neither will your customers.”

— Sybil F. Stershic, American Author

Before we even begin breaking down the intricacies of keeping employees happy, there’s one thing we must note: employees always matter. Even the lowest performers are still humans and should be treated as such.

We all deserve respect.

When writing articles like this, it can be easy to start seeing workers as items or tools. A cog within a machine, waiting for a bit of grease to help improve its circular movement. That’s all they need and all they see.

Unfortunately, that’s the matter of referring to something so often. We speak of employees so much, it can take the entire humanity out of the concept. That’s not to say we don’t see employees as what they are: beautiful and intelligent humans.

Here’s the thing: you can throw new paychecks and benefits at high performers all you want. If you don’t truly believe that your employees are on the same level of existence and professionalism as you, they will feel it. We are empathetic by nature. We can feel when we aren’t valued.

The basis of keeping any great employee is to see employees as crucial for not only your business but your life in general.

Always Stay Transparent

Saying one thing and doing another is a quick way to turn someone sour against you. If you claim that you are going to give an employee more responsibility in their team and then avoid doing so, they will be likely to begin feeling distaste toward you as a leader.

If you aren’t clear with your employees about what their tasks and goals are, but get upset with them when they don’t meet them, you will turn them against you.

As a supervisor, manager, or owner, always mean what you say and do what you mean. It’s that simple. Employees don’t want to be tossed around by passive-aggressive tactics and wishy-washy behavior. Tell your employees (especially high-performing ones) what you want from them and what you will give them. This isn’t just a tactic to keep employees retained, but a tactic to keep them happy.

Which really goes hand in hand.

Squash Toxicity

Fantastic employees won’t stay in a workforce that is toxic and negative. Actually, no employees will stay in a workforce that is toxic and negative.

A toxic workplace is when overall productivity dips, workplace gossip rises, and negativity hits its peak. Employees no longer want to work for the company, supervisor, or teammates due to an overarching sense of negativity or insult. This is often caused by a disgruntled teammate starting trouble, a supervisor abusing power, or a company with an unsavory culture.

One of the quickest ways to lose your best employees is to let a toxic teammate or supervisor thrive, quickly killing all of the positivity and production that once surrounded the exceptional crew. If a fantastic employee feels like they are surrounded by workers that are willing to piggyback on their effort, not providing anything of value to the team, why would they want to stay?

 A study by Cornerstone concluded that troublesome employees make their coworkers 54% more likely to quit. If you notice that these negative workers are bringing down your workforce, deal with them immediately (we spoke about how to do this here). Don’t let their negativity drag down the company morale permanently.

Ask for Input

You may believe that your way of doing things is set in stone. You may believe that you’ve scrubbed the walls of any previous toxicity and negativity through your efforts as an employer. Unfortunately, you do not see it all. As a leader or owner, you may not be on the floor as much as you want. You may have missed things going on or a shift in the environment.

The most important way to keep high performers around is fluidity. Allow your impactful employees to speak and take their word to heart.

At the end of the day, you want to know what the great employee thinks. They are the ones that can make impactful changes in your workforce and production. You don’t have to follow everything they say, but you should allow them to have some input.

Requiring employees to bend and break by your rules is a quick way to run them out or reduce their enthusiasm. Let your high performers feel like they are high performers.

It Starts With You

How many times have you heard a peer complaining about their boss or manager? How many times have you heard of someone quitting a job because of their employer’s behavior?

An unsavory or unhelpful supervisor can lead to a plethora of workplace issues. Not only will a bad leader cause retention to plummet, but they cause a toxic workplace for those that are forced to stay. No one wants to work for leaders that are irresponsible, insulting, or unsuccessful. It’s a simple conclusion. People want to work for leaders they respect and trust. If you (or your employed managers) are a combination of these unpleasant attributes, don’t expect other employee retention strategies to work.

Ultimately, there is a multitude of factors that lead to likable and successful leaders. Overall, it depends on the personalities of the workers, the business goals, and the job itself. It’s nearly impossible to break down why your managers may be unlikeable, but it’s important to notice. If your employees are leaving because of the leaders, it may be time to look in the mirror.

A survey of 3,000 workers by GoodHire in 2021 found that
82% would consider quitting their job due to a bad manager.

Benefits Reign Supreme

The increase in employee self-worth caused by the Great Resignation comes with an increase in demand. Employees aren’t willing to work at just any job, they want a career with forward-thinking attributes. They want incentives.

In June of 2021, Indeed reported that searches for hiring incentives per million job searches on Indeed jumped 131% compared to January 1, 2021. People are looking for incentives. People want extra time off for mental health, sign-on bonuses, health benefits, and so on. They are not willing to settle for less.

If you are looking to keep your great employees happy at your company, there should be an expression of incentives. Even if something simple and free (i.e. extra time off), you should still make it available to both new and old employees. We’ve reached the point in employment reach that expressing incentives is necessary. You are trying to sell the job to employees. It’s a two-way dance.

Work-Life Balance

July survey by FlexJobs found that 44% of workers surveyed would take a pay cut to improve their work-life balance.

Ultimately, a life-threatening pandemic caused workers to reevaluate both their work-life balance and their work happiness. This renaissance of sorts led to a plethora of employees deciding to take up more enjoyable careers or fight for more work-life balance. Workers have decided that enjoying their lives is more important than bustling their days away at an empty job.

Though it’s easy to see your high performers as workaholics, they may be anything but. Yes, they are great at what they do and bust their tails while they are at work. No, it does not mean that this is their entire life.

Remember to keep this in mind when dealing with your high performers. If they decide that they need extra time off or would like to change their schedule, you should see if it is possible to accommodate them. Obviously, adhering to these things is up to you, but if you want to keep the employee around, try to meet in the middle.

For example, if an employee decides to go the way of frugality and move down to part-time, see if you can make room for it. They will still provide fantastic production while they are at work.

Promote From Within

It’s always easier to pretend there is a perfect unicorn frolicking around a field out beyond. There’s a planet amongst another solar system that is made up of gold and diamonds. The grass is always greener.

While there may be higher performers out there, you know the commodity you have on your current team. If you believe that an employee has the potential and capability to become a more responsible worker, then work to grow and promote them. Don’t waste your resources bringing in new employees when you have great ones ready to rise. Promote high performers already on your team.

The only employees that are okay with staying stagnant in their role are the ones that you probably don’t want to keep. The high performers always want to improve and should have a clear way of doing so. Even if you are a small company and don’t have a plethora of positions, you should always have an increasing level of responsibility and pay to offer hardworking employees.

Let’s say you are a small business with two employees. Even if there aren’t a lot of responsibilities to be delegated, you can still find a way to compensate your workers for their effort. Maybe your one employee can become a keyholder or increase their responsibilities with inventory management. No one wants to work without a lateral improvement structure.

Thank You

“Create caring and robust connections between every employee and their work, customers, leaders, managers, and the organization to achieve results that matter to everyone in this sentence.”

— David Zinger, American Authoer

Everyone knows that there is a task that needs to be carried out. Sometimes that job will seem unrewarding. However, in any position of authority or leadership, it’s essential to take time to know you recognize the effort of your team. Tasks that get recognized and rewarded get repeated.

No one wants to do thankless work. If you believe your high performers are, in fact, high performers, you should let them know. Thank them for their efforts on a regular basis.

Showing gratitude doesn’t have to only be significant things like financial bonuses and celebrations. Even a quick thank you or compliment on their work can go a long way. Setting up the atmosphere for a positive and rewarding workplace starts with showing that effort is noticed, even if just with a quick compliment.


We’ve reached a new age of the employee-employer relationship. As we stated, people want more time outside of work, they want more importance in their work, and they want to be treated as important pieces. If a top-tier employee brings you an idea for a change in the way your company does things, you may want to listen to it. They are a high performer and have a basis of how well they can continue to perform under different circumstances. If they believe they can perform just as high in a different way, you should give them the trust to try it.

For example, if multiple employees bring up the concept of changing or offering hybrid working opportunities, you should think about it. Will it help get them engaged and create a strong working culture? Will it help improve the overall wavelength of the office? It may also save you some production costs and allow you to hire different (and better) workers.

This doesn’t mean adhering to every idea, though. Some may not work or may not be practical. But, be flexible. We don’t know where the working world will be in the next few years. Don’t lose out on great employees because you aren’t willing to give their ideas a try.


Keeping your high performers around is crucial to establishing great workplace production and workforce culture. If you are not willing to accommodate your best employees, why would fantastic and forward-thinking workers want to work with you?

As we stated earlier, it all depends on the personality and wants of the specific employee. Some employees may want more money. Some employees may want hybrid workplaces, better teammates, or more benefits. It’s impossible to pin down the exact needs and priorities of every single worker. Some great employees are content exactly where they are.

What’s important is providing a satisfactory, comfortable, and productive workplace for all of your workers, regardless of their performance. Creating these great work cultures starts with having an open mind and empathy for your employees. As we noted, it’s important to remember that we are all equal as a species. Everyone deserves the same amount of respect, empathy, and love as the rest.

If your business stands behind great values and listens to its employees, you will have an easier time keeping around the best ones. If you rule with an iron fist or place unsavory business tactics, you may find your great employees running for the hills. Try to be a place you would want to work at, after all.