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Retaining High-Performing Employees: Practical Ways To Support Your Best Talent [VIDEO]

by | Jun 21, 2022 | Asking For a Friend Featured, By Karin Hurt |

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7 Simple Ways to Give Your High-Performing Employees
What They Need Most

This Asking For a Friend question comes up so frequently in our leadership development programs, particularly now with such a focus on retaining high-performing employees.

“I worry that I’m not giving enough attention to my really high-performing employees, you know, the ones that seem like they don’t need my help. I’m so focused on the employees that are struggling. How do I ensure I give my high-performers what they need too?”

Retaining High-Performing Employees- What They Yearn For Most

We’ve been listening to so many frustrated high-performing employees over the years, and their complaints are remarkably similar. They yearn to be seen and noticed for the hard work they are doing.

They wish for more “wows.” And, they desperately want to have an advocate and supporter.

Here are 7 relatively easy ways to support your high-performers.

  1. Say Wow, Thank you
  2. Acknowledge how hard they are working
  3. Have them show you what they are doing
  4. Ask them for their ideas
  5. Remove roadblocks
  6. Help them envision a possible future
  7. Advocate and support them

1. Say, Wow! Thank you.

“Wow” is a great secret weapon for retaining high-performing employees. It’s more than okay to be impressed.

Your high-performing employees are not going to slack off because you were wowed. You get more of what you encourage and celebrate and less of what you ignore… particularly from top talent.

A big “Wow” followed by a genuine and heartfelt “Thank You” from someone a high-performer respects will trump almost any token of appreciation you can offer.

2. Acknowledge How Hard They’re Working

No matter how easy they make it look, it’s not. Your high-performing employees are juggling a lot they’re not bothering you with (and may even think you don’t understand).

They would love to tell you some stories. And the stories are worth hearing.

Pull up a chair and listen.

A bonus for digging a bit deeper here, this conversation helps to ensure that their hard work is focused on what will have the biggest impact on the team’s results.

Your high-performing employees want clarity and reassurance that their work is having a strategic impact.

3. Have Them Show You What They’re Doing

Think about the last time you figured something out that you were wildly proud of. What did you long for most?

For me, I know it’s someone to share it with. Ask for details and if you’re amazed, show that. Side benefit: this is a remarkable way to uncover best practices.

Some of the biggest turnarounds I’ve been a part of began by asking a few high-performers what they were up to.

4. Ask them for their I.D.E.A.s

If you want to retain your high-performing employees, one of the best things you can do is ask them for their ideas.

We heard so much frustration in our research for Courageous Cultures:

49% said they were not regularly asked for their ideas. 67% said their manager operates around the notion of “this is the way we’ve always done it.”

Your top talent has ideas to improve the customer experience and productivity. They know what could make things easier for their peers. Ask them.

5. Remove Roadblocks

Just because they’re not complaining, doesn’t mean they don’t have a list.

Every time I’ve asked this question I’ve been surprised by some of the easy “asks.”

No, you can’t fix everything.

But, if you can fix a few small things getting in the way of your highest performers, can you imagine the ROI?

6. Help Them Envision Their Possible Future

Help them see beyond the obvious next steps, looking around corners and expanding their peripheral vision for their career.

Our Developmental Discussion Planner works remarkably well for having these important career conversations. You can learn more about that and download it for free here.

7. Advocate and Support Them

Find ways to lift them up and advocate for them to your boss, your peers, and their peers.

Be sure you know they have their back.

Your highest performing employees likely do a lot on their own, and might not ask for help– even when they need it the most.

If you want to retain your high-performers, re-recruit them by showing them just how important they are.

See also: Coworker Conflict: 7 Ways to Get Along With Other High-PerformersTeam Accelerator for Empowered Team

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

  Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!


  1. Austin Senecal

    Hi Karin, this is really good! Based on my experience, 6 and 7 are especially important to help high performers grow.

  2. Allen Camacho

    Hi Karin, these are all great tips and I use number 3 frequently as a discussion to ask them about their thought process in solving a problem and what is their motivation or tips for performing so well. I do believe that number 5, advocating and supporting your employee, is helpful for not only retaining them, but for also those bittersweet situations when you realize that your high performing team member is ready for a new role and will be more valuable for the business in another department or in leadership.

    • Karin Hurt

      Allen, Thanks so much for expanding the conversation! You raise such an important point that important work we do to support and retain, also prepares people to move to the next role where they can continue to grow and contribute!

  3. Fluix

    In my experience, many companies and managers, often without realizing it, increase the likelihood that their best employees will burn out.
    It is necessary to develop a set of habits that can radically change the relationship between management and employees, I personally like tips 1 and 7 very much.
    Companies will lose much of this benefit if they don’t take specific steps to protect their best employees from burnout.

    • Karin Hurt

      Janelle, Thanks so much for expanding the conversation! I like how you phrase this as developing a set of “habits.” So important.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Powerful Phrases for Dealing with Workplace Conflict, and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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