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Top Performers: How HR Can Identify, Understand, and Retain Them
Authored By: HR Performance on 7/12/2017

Who are your best employees and what do you really know about them?  Did you hire them from a certain industry?  Did they move up through your organization via a specific career path?  Have they worked under a manager who helped them take their skills to the next level?  How do you determine who the best people are so that you can begin to replicate their success and ensure they are retained over the long-term? 

Use Data from Formal Feedback and Appraisals to Identify Top Performers

One place to look for your stars is within performance ratings.  When it comes to performance appraisals, some organizations opt to use a set of core criteria on which to evaluate all their employees.  This is one way to equalize scores and appraise everyone on the same standard.  Other organizations use competencies that differ by position or job family for various performance appraisals.  This allows them to appraise employees on the unique and respective roles they play within the organization but still have standardized competencies to help HR professionals and senior managers compare commonalities. 

Whichever format your organization chooses, you can begin to look for those employees who rise to the top by analyzing the data.  You can cross-reference performance management scores with position-specific metrics such as sales numbers, billable-hours, customer support scores, etc., to add meaningful dimensions to your findings.  Recognizing high-performing employees helps you to know on whom you should focus your retention efforts.  You can’t afford not to keep an eye on these employees.

Dig Deeper to Understand Your Top Performers

After accumulating sufficient data, look not just for people with a history of great performance but also for employees who have made a positive change relative to historical performance.  Understand what triggered and drove the change for those employees.  You may find a certain manager who has had a positive influence on employees.  If that is the case, figure out what he/she is doing.  Perhaps a certain position deepened the ability of various employees to be successful.  If so, consider rotating employees into that position for the experience.  Such observations can be just as important as finding the employees who have been consistently strong.

Now That You Have Valuable Data, How Might It Help You Retain Top Performers?

  • Decide which top performers would be well-suited for a management role or a promotion to a non-management position so that they can continue to positively influence company culture. Keep in mind that since research from Gallup shows that about one in 10 people possess the inherent talent to manage, most of the time your best option will be to advance these employees to a higher position (for example, promoting a Customer Service Representative (CSR) to a CSR II), to reward their strong performance, ensure they continue to positively influence company culture, and to create opportunities for mentoring of other employees.    
  • If considering a promotion for top performers, make sure you understand their compensation well. Are they at risk of being poached away by another higher-paying employer?  Good performance management software will give you access to all the data and information that you need to develop a good compensation philosophy within your company that will allow you to understand your employees’ compa-ratios.
  • Top performers value feedback.  Be sure to promote a culture in which your managers are checking-in with all their employees to provide meaningful feedback on a regular basis.  Learn more about a few ideas on how to do that here and learn about how to identify which managers are best at managing expectations here.
  • Gain internal buy-in by reporting findings to appropriate stakeholders, including the executive team where necessary. All businesses are looking for data-based insights to make better decisions. With good performance management processes and technology, HR is automatically a more credible player when it comes to being a strategic resource for decision making around personnel decisions.  

To wrap up, if you lack sufficient data today, don’t let that keep you from moving forward. Determine which processes you need to put in place to gather the data that you want to review in order to impact future decisions. If you have the data in your performance management system and aren’t sure how to display it in a meaningful way for either you or your executive team, reach out to your performance management vendor and see what they suggest. Good performance management vendors will have state-of-the-art data visualization tools at their disposal which will allow you to see and do anything you’d like with your data. If you haven’t done so already, don’t forget to watch the video above to see exactly how to identify both your top performers and the trends related to their performance!


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