Why high-potential employees leave (and how to prevent it)

Jun 15, 2022
min read

Turnover is inevitable for any business. Employees come and go, and no matter the reason, when you lose an employee, it’s a sad day. But it’s especially unfortunate when a high-performing employee decides to leave your company. It raises questions around employee satisfaction, pay, culture, and more – we’re often left wondering, could we have done more to convince them to stay? 

Holding onto top talent is crucial to the success of your business, but with obstacles like the talent war and Great Resignation, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stay on top of retention.  A survey conducted by in 2021 found that 53% of employers across the globe, including Canada, are experiencing voluntary turnover at an all-time high, and 63% expect the rate to worsen, proving that it’s more important than ever to understand why employees leave. In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons top performers move on from their companies, and how to retain them.

Why do top performers leave?

Why do top performers quit? Are they unhappy with their roles, work culture, pay, or a combination of all of these things? These are questions that many people managers may ask themselves when top talent puts in their final-weeks notice. Asking these questions and understanding why your high-performing employees might quit is the first step in preventing them from leaving in the first place. 

They don’t feel challenged.

A key part of employee satisfaction is engagement. Often, our top performers are employees that are always efficient and productive, but this is not always indicative of a highly engaged employee. While it’s important to ensure employees aren’t overwhelmed or burnt out, you also need to make sure they are being challenged. Otherwise, you run the risk of boring your employees – and no one likes being bored!

If your top performers are constantly surpassing goals and exceeding expectations, or if their work environment is stagnant and unexciting, this can lead to disengagement. They may grow tired of performing the same tasks (even if they excel in them), or feel stuck in an environment where they aren’t pushing themselves to be their best. Employees need fresh, new opportunities to engage their creativity and contribute to their career development. If you aren’t providing the space for them to reach for their aspirations, it may cause them to move onto other roles that will. 

They don’t feel valued.

Recognition is something humans crave intrinsically, and recognition in the workplace is no exception. It’s important that your employees know their good work is recognized and valued – especially top performers who are often going beyond expectations. It may feel redundant to recognize and reward them for the good work they do time and time again, but not doing so may cause your employees to feel overlooked and taken for granted. Recognition should be as frequent as it’s deserved.

Something else to think about is how you show your team they are valued. It’s important to ensure you’re rewarding your team alongside the recognition. A mistake managers sometimes make is “rewarding” their top performers with more work; once they see employees being efficient with a certain number of tasks, they pile on more. We’ve talked about challenging your employees, but this doesn’t mean continuously adding to their plate until things are unmanageable and they are burnt out. Finding balance is key!

They don’t feel well compensated.

Compensation plays a big role with top performers. On top of wanting to feel valued and challenged, they also want to feel that how they are being compensated for their work is fair and meets their needs. Of course, competitive pay is a contributing factor; if your top talent is offered a position that pays considerably more than your company, it might entice them to leave, no matter how great the culture or how many friends they’ve made. But there are other things that factor in, like benefits, retirement plans, vacation time, work-life balance, flexible work hours, work from home options, and professional development opportunities. 

It’s important to take a look at the total compensation package you offer your employees, beyond just pay, as these are all driving factors in retention.

How to retain high-performing employees 

Once you have a good understanding of why top performers decide to leave, you can create a strategy to retain them. Here are our top three tips for retaining your top talent.

  1. Understand what they want.

Understanding why your top performers might choose to leave (which we explored in the last section) is the first step. The next step is to gain an understanding of what might help persuade them to stay; that is, what they want that your company might currently lack. It could be more opportunity for growth, more competitive pay, better benefits packages, or a combination of things. You can determine what your top performing employees are looking for through questionnaires, surveys, or by simply having a conversation with them.

  1. Facilitate their excellence.

This may sound contradictory to our point about challenging your high performers. But what we mean is: make it easier for your top performers to be their excellent selves. It doesn’t mean giving them easy tasks (as this is what leads to boredom!), but rather, finding ways to facilitate their processes. How this looks differs depending on the role. 

It could mean:

  • Purchasing a software that makes their tasks smoother
  • Offering them the option to work from home; it could mean hiring a person to help them out
  • Allowing them flexible work hours; it could mean giving them more autonomy to Approach work the way that works best for them
  • Offering a stipend to help them take training, courses, or attend events that will develop their skills

There are countless ways to help your top performers continue being great – the best way to figure out which route to take is to communicate with them!

  1. Confirm their value and compensate accordingly.

Lastly, ensure your employees feel they are valued. Recognize your top performers for the great work they do, and reward them in ways they prefer: bonuses are always great, but they might like a public shoutout, formal recognition, or private praise along with it. Also, consistently check in with your team to make sure their expectations regarding compensation are being met. And when it’s due, make sure to give that raise or promotion to them. It’s all about affirming that their contributions to the business are invaluable and their presence is appreciated.

Attract and retain the best teams with Humi

If you’re in need of help in attracting and/or retaining a great team, we’ve got good news: Humi’s all-in-one program features modules for:

  • Recruitment, to help you attract and hire top candidates
  • Performance management, to ensure you and your top performers are all on the same page  when it comes to development
  • And benefits, to give your employees what they need and want.

To find out more about how we can help you attract and retain top talent, speak with our team today.

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