High turnover is bad for morale, it's expensive, and it can sink the performance of even your most loyal employees. But it's become something of a new normal, and companies are struggling to rethink their retention strategies. Part of that process should be about pushing your top team members to take on more challenging work—and rewarding them for it.
To do that, managers may need to get better at recognizing the types of employees who'll benefit from that most and taking action as soon as they prove themselves ready for bigger challenges—not waiting six or 10 months afterward, when they may already be out the door. These are four signs to look out for.
As Chris Byers, CEO of Formstack, writes at Entrepreneur, "Leaders want (and need) a highly engaged workforce empowered to ask questions, challenge the status quo, and take ownership in their company’s success."
And that means people who don't just reflexively agree with their managers. When your employees are genuinely empowered, they’re more likely to take action, work independently, and feel fulfilled by what they do. The links between engagement and performance are by now well known. Now it's time to act on that understanding. Keep an eye out for employees who take initiative, but also those that are willing to risk friction by telling you what they really think—even if you don’t want to hear it.
Employees who are committed and comfortable enough to share their views are the ones you want to hang onto and consider for new opportunities.
You know you have a one-of-a-kind employee when they don’t rely on a job title to take a leadership role. They hold themselves accountable, they're respected by their peers, they can rally the troops, and they're happy. All of these traits point to someone who's both productive and collaborative—a winning combination that any competitor will gladly seize upon.
There should always be room for natural leaders in your organization. If there isn't already, make some. Leaders do more than just call the shots, after all. They inspire others with their own positivity. And don't forget that happiness spreads just as quickly across teams as negativity.
Some employees treat their work and the company they do it for as things that they own. That's rare at a time where job hopping is arguably growing more common, making employees like these your best advocates. This type of person seemingly eats, sleeps, breathes, and lives your organization. They think nothing of exceeding their responsibilities in order to better the company—just for the company's sake.
You may not think you need to promote an employee who's already so happy and invested, but just think what you can expect if you give them more resources and a higher platform. Employees who genuinely love your brands can build trust among customers as well as among other employees. They make it easy to share branded messages on social media, and they pass along information about your company to others.
Self-awareness is a big deal in the workplace. Also called self-knowledge or introspection, it's "about understanding your own needs, desires, failings, habits, and everything else that makes you tick," writes Thorin Klosowski at Lifehacker. "The more you know about yourself, the better you are at adapting to life changes that suit your needs."
That's no less true in the workplace. This type of employee has a strong sense of how they’re perceived by their colleagues, the environment around them, and what their place is in the organization. They care what others think and are more respectful of differences in the workplace.
To be sure, self-awareness—like emotional intelligence, which includes this trait—can also lead to manipulation. But it doesn't have to, and self-aware employees are generally better suited to understanding how tasks can get completed (for instance, who might be willing to pitch in when there's an emergency deadline), and they understand the broader direction that the company is headed. This social and interpersonal knowledge can be a real asset: Don't you want to hang onto the employee who knows who they are, what they’re doing, and how they can make the organization better?
Chances are you already have employees who share these habits right in your organization. And chances are you could be developing their talents further—encouraging them to stay. You just have to identify who they are.