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What to Do with Exceptional Contributors

Manager Focus: Celebrate!


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A+ Team Members are at Higher Risk of Leaving Your Organization

Consider any--or all--of the steps below as ways to increase the likelihood of an A+ player remaining with your organization.

These are high potential and/or high production, high character team members--the kind you want to groom for growth in your organization.


Meet with the Team Member

These are exceptional, leading and core contributors who are in need of celebration, appreciation and elevation. We want to retain these top performers!

Conversation Starters:

  • First, I recognize and appreciate all of your dedication and hard work!

  • What are some recent accomplishments that you are most proud of?

  • What personal goals or achievements are you currently working towards?

  • I want to make sure you are being challenged and inspired.

  • You set a great example for the rest of the team.

  • Keep doing what you are doing!


Meet with the Team Member

 Now that you've opened the conversation, here are some discussion topics to consider:
  • A team member's value to the team and the organization
  • Recent accomplishments 
  • Team member’s long-term goals
  • Career progression and opportunities
  • Find out what the team member most enjoys about his or her current role and working in the organization
  • Uncover and discuss the team member’s frustrations, barriers and any challenges the team member is facing
  • It is your job as a manager to remove any obstacles to the team member's success

Value to Team or Organization

  • It's important for an A+ team member to know that you see the value they bring to the organization
  • Share with them real-life examples of similarly skilled people and the career paths they took within the organization
  • Take the time to understand your In-Play’s long-term goals. Do those goals align with future opportunities within the Company? 
  • Your goal is to ensure the team member sees a clear pathway to success

Celebrate Accomplishments

  • This doesn't have to be over the top. Remember that team members with high potential like to feel appreciated too
  • Fun, simple expressions of gratitude go a long way
  • Consider a thank you note, an email to the team, a coffee break, lunch or an impromptu happy hour
  • Bottom line – always take time out of your day to celebrate and recognize members of your team. This is one of the most important aspects of your job as a leader

Understand the Team Member's Frustrations

  • You know your #1 frustration as a manager but do you know the frustrations experienced by your team members?
  • Ask questions to learn what barriers or challenges--personality clashes, environmental irritants (allergies, noise, interruptions, etc.)--bother your team members. Try to remove speed bumps or barriers wherever possible
  • Pay special attention to the frustrations that are shared with a larger group. If you can eliminate the team’s collective frustration and publicly give the team member credit for bringing the issue to the group, they feel not only validated but appreciated and listened to
  • Many team members – especially high potentials – leave organizations where they don’t feel they have a voice or the ability to effectuate positive change

Identify Key Opportunities

Continuing to advocate for this Team Member will ensure that they stay engaged, and stay with your organization longer.  Here are some key opportunities to consider:
  • Promotion opportunities
  • Training and skills development opportunities
  • Leadership opportunities
  • Mentoring opportunities. Is there someone in the organization they would like to learn from?

Promotion Opportunities

  • Current and potential future opportunities
  • Show the team member a realistic pathway
  • Demonstrate how promotions are earned, evaluated, and awarded in your organization--an A+ player might not know this yet

Leadership Opportunities

  • Avoid the urge to over promise. Be realistic, reliable, and authentic
  • Tie in potential future promotions to team member's career goals where possible
  • Take the time to have existing leaders in the organization visit with the team member and talk about their path to where they are

Mentoring Opportunities

  • Mentorship can be formal or informal
  • Match team member's with someone in your organization who is currently on a career path the A+ player finds attractive
  • Arrange for the team member to have dedicated time with a mentor and treat it with the same respect as a crucial meeting with a customer--a commitment you wouldn't let anything get in the way of

Consider Expanding the Team Member's Impact and Influence  

Identify special, challenging assignments that appeal to the team member.

Identify high visibility opportunities that put team member in the sphere of influence of higher-ranking members of leadership in the organization.

Talented people rise to the level of the people they spend the most time with at work.

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Review Compensation (You May Need Input from HR)

Evaluate where the A+ team member’s compensation is at, above or below the market?

When was the team member’s last salary adjustment or bonus payment?

Identify if or when team members might be in line for a compensation adjustment.

Discuss compensation with the team member to see if that's even a factor on their current list of important considerations (it may not be).

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Your Objective: Elevate and Retain this Team Member

Losing a top performer who has leadership capabilities is devastating for organizations.

Investing in your A+ team member has a significant advantage in team member engagement, company morale, productivity and profitability.

What can you do right now to Elevate this high potential, key member of your team?  It is worth your time and effort.


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Figure out what it is your employees want most in life, and help them get it. Let them know that you are invested in it. Check in with them often on how it's going.
Gary Vanerchuk
Business Author
The cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to 1.5-2.0x the employee's annual salary. These costs include hiring, onboarding, training, ramp time to peak productivity, the loss of engagement from others due to high turnover, higher business error rates, and general culture impacts.
Josh Bersin
Deloitte HR Expert
The average economic cost to a company of turning over a highly skilled job is 213% of the cost of one year's compensation for that role.
Center for American Progress
Economic Think Tank