It’s difficult enough to retain top-performing talent in an employees’ market, but when a high performer’s salary has maxed out, it becomes even more difficult. While money may — or may not — be the primary motivator for employee happiness, putting a ceiling on an employee’s financial compensation certainly has the potential to demotivate.
So, when faced with top talent whose salary potential has hit a ceiling, what can you do to help keep them happy? Here are a few ideas:
1. Navigate Around the Financial Compensation Wall
For example, look for processes by which they can garner bonuses for work they do. Even if it’s not a revenue-producing position, consider creative methods. For example, create a path for a customer service representative to convert a service conversation into a sale. Even if they are not the one closing the sale, build a process that tracks their referral, and when the referral becomes revenue, the rep can receive a percentage or spiff.
2. Stop Micromanaging
Many leaders or managers may not see their behavior as micromanaging, but this behavior can come in many forms. It may be that with each project you assign, you require a process overview and continual, daily oversight of task completion, step by step, seemingly hour by hour.
Perhaps instead of being hands-on in your top employee’s next project, you could let go of it completely. Do this by asking for the employee’s assistance in accomplishing a specific outcome, and then let them figure out the path to achieve the result. When they have accomplished your ask, they can present it to you versus your being involved throughout the nitty-gritty details of the process.
3. Offer Time Off
If your employee is truly a top performer, then they still are motivated to get their work done and to exceed expectations — both yours and their own. So, by offering them more flexibility with their work schedule, you are simply motivating them to work even smarter so that they can enjoy their more flexible schedule. As well, high-performers have a strong sense of when they need to be on-point in the office and when they can slack, including being away from the office. They have an instinct for the ebb and flow of opportunity and work requirements and will accommodate.
Finally, high performers need the refreshment that comes from time away in order to refuel for high productivity. Encourage them to take time away from work so that you can reap the benefits of their fresh perspective.
[Related: 7 Steps to Creating a PTO-Friendly Culture]
4. Show Them Respect
In the humdrum of the day-to-day, too many people in the powerful role of leadership lose sight of their employees as human beings. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, revenue and customer pressures mounting, you may take it out on your staff. And often, the high-performing talent who are foundational to your success get the brunt of your angst. You take for granted that they can take it; they are the power players that you have compensated so well. You may, in those moments, dismiss their feelings and just let it rip. Instead, show them you respect them by communicating with respectful words and actions.
Take one for the team, from time to time, and let your top performer off the hook in regards to a difficult client, scheduling snafu or other situation. Just work it out and then, going forward, find a better path than involving your top performer in every situation that nags at you.
5. Invest in Them
While you may not have the budget to boost their salary, consider other ways you can invest in your top-performer. For example, look for opportunities to send them to training or conference events, particularly those in parts of the country — or world — that you know appeal to them. Or, look at their office setup, whether they are in-house or virtually operating, and invest in new technology or furniture. Not only will you elevate their outlook, but more than likely, you will improve their already high-performing results.
6. Be Grateful
Show them, through words, through actions, through personalized gifts and through a grateful demeanor, that you value them. Treating top performers like a replaceable cog in the wheel will get you nowhere fast — underappreciation erodes enthusiasm, confidence and overall attitude, and could ultimately be the reason your top talent ends up in the competitor’s arms. Express gratitude, on the other hand, and you strengthen the foundation for a strong, long-term relationship.