By Rick Braa, CHAE

Q: Our staff is getting thinner and it’s getting more difficult to retain our best people. It seems like we’re just a little too late to save a great employee and we watch as out best go to a competitor. What are companies doing to keep top performers?

A: Great teams are anchored by A-players and solid B-players. Superstars are rare and require those around them to perform at their highest level. Leaders must maximize their skill to carefully guide, engage and recruit. A-players can achieve a set of outcomes that only the top 10 percent of employees can achieve. Retaining superstars begins with the top-of-the-class staffing and an architecture of people around them to bring the best result to the business, guests and staff. Since hiring all A-players is mathematically impossible, a solid mix team of B-players will create and outstanding team. Here are five tips for retaining great employees:

Surround A-players with a strong team.
Ninety percent of employees are not A-players. A strong team of A/B-players will help A-players to perform at a higher level and performance of B-players soar. Everyone and every company improves by working with people and companies better than themselves. On the opposite end, tolerance of C-players should be 90 days or less. If C-players remain on the team, A/B players start questioning management. The weak attract the weak. Be strong and instill confidence in A/B-players by showing resolve to coach lower level employees out of the business as soon as they’re identified.

Study, listen, and learn.
In most businesses, most management time is spent on C-level employees in hopes turning them around. Instead, spend 80 percent of your time with A/B-players. Superstars are very comfortable with their boss and are promoters and ambassadors of the business. These teacher’s pets are oozing great ideas and insight into guest experience and business. Harness the opportunity presented to learn best practices, new ideas and improve overall management skill and techniques.

Provide personalized, ongoing praise and feedback.
Superstars are rare and, as such, need special attention and kudos. Some are driven by self-confidence and awareness to stay on top while others are sensitive and strive for recognition that is often a sign of irrationally low self-esteem. These are often the kids who grew up with parents with a “You can do better” attitude where unconditional approval was withheld. Participation trophies aren’t accepted in these homes. Many are insecure overachievers. With recognition, the sensitive superstar A/B-players can remain highly engaged regardless of size of ego and sensitivity level. Both need feedback on high performance. Along with feedback, a simple thank you can go a long way. To accompany a thank you, a little extra like a small Amazon gift card will be appreciated. High performers don’t burn out; they flame out. Resentment is the fuel for the flame; appreciation and reward provide the energy to continue harnessing happy employees.

Reward your best people liberally.
Superstars expect and deserve more pay than their peers. Layer in as many benefits as the business can sustain. Ensuring your best employees make the most money is a smart investment. Statistically, actively engaged A/B-players are 50 percent more productive than somewhat engaged employees. Provide as many hours as superstars what to work with the best shifts mutually agreeable between the business and employee. Use overtime as a friend not an enemy. Since superstars outperform everyone on staff, results for the business improve impressively by having the best people working the most.

Continually invest, train, and recruit your stars.
Superstars are thirsty for improvement. Top performers don’t rest with the great; they continue to learn and develop. Invest in a learning management system to further the areas where great employees already excel. Strengthen their strengths by challenging the best to be better. And never stop recruiting them.

A strong team carefully hired and retained is the most important piece of any business. By focusing on retention and high employee engagement through strong teammates, soliciting, input, positive feedback, rewards and continual training, a dream team becomes a reality.

For more information on improving profitability and driving performance, contact AMP Services at Rick Braa is the co-founder of AMP Services, an accounting and consulting firm specializing is helping companies grow profitability.