How to Identify and Keep Your Top Performers

Do this if you want to keep your top performers:

One of the favorite parts of my job is getting the opportunity to coach and work with people on developing their skills. I have recently received an increase in requests for a particular type of management training. Companies are looking to train their managers to identify and evaluate their team members to ascertain the high performers or future leaders.

Why the sudden interest in identifying top performers? With this being a highly competitive candidate-driven market, it is getting harder to find great talent. If you are losing top performers, the likelihood of replacing them promptly is becoming more difficult. In a recent study by the Harvard Business Review, they found that “One in six high performers are likely to leave their job in the next six months, and less than half are satisfied with their jobs.” With high performers not only outperforming their counterparts but also on track to being your company’s future executives, it is essential to identify and retain these valuable employees.

Here is my step by step method for identifying and retaining top talent:



It is easy to look at statistics to see who among your workforce is within the top 20% bringing in the largest amount of profit. That alone is not going to help identify top performers, this group of employees share certain qualities that are not easily seen on paper or through pulling a report. Some of the qualities to look for are scarily similar to those of people looking to leave their job. In one of our recent PC Pointers we discussed some ways of telling if an employee is getting ready to quit. This article from the Harvard Business Journal finds that high performers can also exhibit similar traits:

  • One in four employees intends to leave their job within the year.
  • One in three admits to not putting all his effort into his job.
  • One in five believes their personal aspirations are quite different from what the organization has planned for them.
  • Four out of ten have little confidence in their coworkers and even less confidence in the senior team.

Due to the nuanced nature of these points, it is necessary to train your managers on how to identify these particular traits.


Great Employees versus Top Performers

Most managers I work with typically promote one specific type of employee. It is the employee who shows up on time every day, works hard, closes deals, and does it all with a smile on their face. While these employees are essential to moving your business forward and truly are great workers, it does not mean that they are going to make great managers or future executives. It is fundamental to differentiate between these two groups and nurture them in different ways to keep them engaged in their jobs.

Good workers and top performers both need to be told when they are doing a good job and be rewarded for their hard work verbally and through monetary means. The difference with high performers is the type of work they are performing, with the end purpose of individual satisfaction. Top performers need to be mentally challenged and work on interesting projects that provide a learning opportunity. A good solution is to have them solve one of the company’s larger problems, then, tie it back to the high performers individual goals to show an upward trajectory.



Retaining top performers all depends on your managers. Once a manager can differentiate between a good worker and a top performer it is up to them to start managing each style in a different capacity that is specifically designed for retention.

The most important part of a manager’s job when it comes to high performers is feedback. They need to know how they are doing and where they stand in order to continue on their success track. A staggering 50% of top performers expect at least a monthly sit down with their managers. I recommend weekly mini check-ins (15 minutes) in addition to a more in-depth monthly review. The key to a successful meeting is giving positive and actionable feedback. I also include a framework for growth and success by discussing their expected projections for the 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th month as well as any training that will support that growth.

BONUS: Each month, include one stretch assignment that allows for the high performer to learn a new task or to work closely with whom they admire in the firm. This keeps your top performer empowered and can help with retention rates.


With the right training and support structure, I have seen companies go from having no top performer program to developing high performers into executives and increasing their year over year retention rates. While implementing a full top performer program can seem like a large task, this guide gives you the fundamentals and framework to get started with your program today. Do you already have a program implemented? Now is a great time to review the steps and procedures to ensure a successful, innovative program.




I have the pleasure of working with very talented and highly skilled individuals. Each week I will be featuring a great candidate that is ready to start a new chapter in their career.

Meet our Director of Operations

He started out as a contractor with a Mid-Size consulting firm and was hired as a regular employee shortly after he completed his reorganization project. He was quickly promoted to the Director of Operations where he stayed with the firm until they were acquired and moved their operations out of SF.  This candidate  is currently looking for his next career opportunity where he can apply his demonstrated passion and track record for improving operational efficiency across multiple industries including financial, software development, and business consulting.


  • Participated in annual strategic planning with firm partners
  • Responsible for the overview of firm operations including administration, product production, finances and facility management
  • Oversaw internal accounting and managed department budgets
  • Held weekly meetings with the administrative staff coordinating schedules and production tasks, resolving business issues
  • Directed strategy and implemented national public relations campaign resulting in print, radio, television and online interviews, product reviews and forum discussions
  • Maintained the mobile network that ensured employees in satellite offices were able to connect to the main infrastructure via laptop, phone or tablet

Give us a call at 925.303.4664 to set up an interview with this accomplished Operations Director, or to find out more about our other talented professionals!