A-players thrive on autonomy and pride of ownership. Trust them to find the best way to tackle the challenges.

Top performers, A-players, superstars—whatever you call them, high-achieving employees have an outsized impact on your company’s growth and success. In fact, studies have shown that top performers can be four times more productive than average employees. They also have a motivating effect on the people around them, so they elevate the rest of the team along with them.

But because of these exceptional qualities, they also have more career options than the average employee, which is why it’s so important to understand what keeps them happy at work.

In my role as Vice President of Human Resources at CareATC, I have made it a priority to attract and retain the A-players who are so essential to the growth and success of our company.

Focusing on these eight areas has helped me to achieve the goal of attracting and retaining top talent:

 

Reputation

Top performers are in demand and can afford to be choosy, so they only consider opportunities with companies that maintain excellent reputations. If your company isn’t seen as stable and successful, if you’re not well respected in the community, if your Glassdoor reviews aren’t positive, and if there are rumors that you don’t treat employees well or pay market rates, then you won’t get the opportunity to connect with A-players in the first place.

It is HR’s responsibility to monitor that reputation, ensure that the company is following through on its brand promise and take any potential issues to the leadership.

If you don’t have strong reputation, you may not have the opportunity to connect with A-players in the first place.

 

Engagement

I have a rule: no one sits on the sidelines. People need to feel as though their contribution is important and valued right from the start, and this is especially true of top performers.

New hires will want to hit the ground running, so you need to find ways to engage them immediately. While it may take time to ramp up, train them and integrate them fully into the job, look for assignments they can tackle right away.

Make sure they stay off the sidelines by creating new challenges for them throughout their careers: where a raise or a promotion isn’t possible, find a project that gives them the opportunity to push themselves, learn and grow.

People need to feel as though their contribution is important and valued right from the start, and this is especially true of top performers.

Goals

Top performers don’t want to just collect a paycheck. If they’re not working towards a goal, they get bored and restless.

For goals to be motivating, they need to meet specific criteria. First, they need to be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). Second, they need to be created through a collaborative process. Don’t just dictate goals to the employee—sit down with them to make sure you get their input and buy-in. And finally, everyone in the organization needs to be held accountable to their goals. That accountability layer is critical to A-players, because if they consistently hit their targets and watch others fail without consequences, they will quickly become frustrated and disillusioned.

Top performers don’t want to just collect a paycheck. If they’re not working towards a goal, they get bored and restless.

 

Ownership

My favorite mentor, CareATC’s former CFO, once told me, “If I needed to tell you how to do your job, I wouldn’t need you.” He gave me the freedom to build our human resources from the ground up, from a one-person department to a team of 10. Being able to take the lead made my job so much more fulfilling than if I had been micromanaged.

A-players thrive on autonomy and pride of ownership. Check in with them, but don’t hover over them. Trust them to find the best way to tackle the challenges.

 

Culture

Culture is a big part of the experience for the employee. Some personalities thrive in a more formal and structured company. Others need a more casual and relaxed work environment. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to culture: one organizational style isn’t better than the other. It’s a matter of finding people who are the right fit for yours.

At CareATC, we’re moving forward fast, like we are changing the wheels on the race car. Every day is an adventure. The people who thrive here are energized by the challenge and love the pace, whereas those who prefer a more established, predictable environment might be miserable here.

The key is to ensure your culture is strong and visible. That culture is fed and bred by your core values, so make sure yours are alive and well. Do they truly reflect the fundamental beliefs that drive you? Are you living and breathing them every day? Or were they created a long time ago and then set aside and forgotten? If your people can’t tell you what those core values are or how their work supports them, it’s time to take a second look at the issue.

 

Connections

Building professional connections between people at work is important. At CareATC, we pull people into different teams and departments to work on projects together so that they get an opportunity to interact with and get to know a wider range of co-workers.

When people feel connected to the team, it makes the decision to leave that much harder.

When people feel connected to the team, the experience is more rewarding and reinforces the benefits of working at your company. It also makes the decision to leave that much harder when the person has supportive relationships in the workplace, so it’s a great way to support retention.

 

Transparency

When people are kept in the dark, it breeds mistrust. A culture of transparency needs to start at the top of the organization, so ensure that your leadership communicates openly about what’s going on in the company. Encourage individuals to reflect the same behavior in the way they interact with one another. If someone has a problem with another employee, don’t let them address the issue by talking behind their back. Stop the secretive conversations and encourage them to communicate those feelings of frustration to the person who caused them.

Being honest and communicative at every level squashes the gossip and improves the levels of trust that people feel for the company and the working relationships between employees.

 

Fun

Work needs to be challenging and goal-focused to attract and retain top performers, but it also needs to be fun. At CareATC, we have a “fun committee” whose purpose is to find ways to bring people together to relax and cut loose a little. On a recent afternoon, for example, we transformed our offices into an obstacle course using inexpensive toys such as hula hoops, beach balls and kiddie pools.

Something that silly may not be your company’s definition of fun, but we had a blast. What’s important is to find what works for your company and look for ways to bring some of that spirit into the workplace from time to time.

 

Here’s the bottom line.

The ability to attract and retain high-energy, highly productive A-players is critical to your company’s success, so it’s important to understand what motivates them. By actively monitoring and strengthening your company’s reputation and culture, and by creating an environment that supports engagement, accountability, transparency and fun, you can hold on to your best people and hone performance across the entire team.