Performance Planning
Think About Your Top Performers

Now, let me see...Performance planning: don’t wait until one of your best performers hands in their resignation. A little prevention can save a lot of heartache!

You need to stop and think about your top performers from time to time. It’s a valuable exercise!

Rear View Mirrors

It’s always easy, after the fact, to think of what you should have done. Six foot wide rear view mirrors, however, are no match for some simple forward planning.

Ask yourself a couple of questions about the people you have in your team today:

  1. What would it cost you to lose your most productive employee?
  2. If you lost good ones in the past, would you have saved more than it cost you (to train up a new employee) if you had prevented the loss in the first place?

There’s nothing new in this, of course. It’s obvious. But there is something we can learn from performance management about how to improve the odds here.

Categorise Your Employees

When thinking about any particular employee in relation to performance planning, look at them according to how disappointed you would be if they were to leave. Would you be:

  • Indifferent (even relieved)?
  • Somewhat disappointed?
  • Kicking yourself for not foreseeing that they might be planning to leave?
  • Wishing you had done some effective performance planning to prevent their leaving?

Those who fall into the last two categories are worth spending some time on.

These are the ones who are producing results for you. These are the employees who would definitely leave a noticeable hole in your operation if they suddenly departed.

Why Do Performers Leave?

There are probably 4 main reasons a top performer would want to resign:

  1. They are stymied in their job.
  2. They want to grow in their job but have reached a ceiling.
  3. They want a bigger job, but there is nowhere to go with you.
  4. They have been tempted by the offers of a head-hunter.

The Stymied Performer

A top producer will always focus on the results. Occasionally someone, or something, in your organisation actually stops them from getting those results.

If this situation goes on for too long, they will eventually look elsewhere for job satisfaction.

  • This does not happen quickly.
  • A stymied performer does not give up easily.
  • They will try all sorts of things to get the results they know they should achieve.

But if something (or someone) is blocking their every move and they find no recourse, they will eventually move on to more productive fields. This also applies to company policies or procedures that may block them.

The point is, a performer lives for their results. This is what keeps them going.

It’s not the money, or the perks — it’s the satisfaction of achieving that which they set out to achieve. If you take away their results, they often feel they have nothing left worth fighting for. And if this situation is not resolved, you will lose them. Your performance planning is key here.

Why would someone stop a top performer from producing?

  1. Jealousy
  2. Vindictiveness
  3. Stupidity

...just to name a few. The point is, if someone is stopping one of your best people, you’d better review the results being produced by the "stopper". Then compare these results with those that the top performer has produced in the past.

How do you resolve this?

  • It may mean restructuring the area.
  • You may have to move, or even dismiss, the person who is stopping your performer.
  • Somehow, your performance planning must eliminate the stops that are impeding your performer.
  • It could also mean that a review of the blocking policies or procedures may be in order.

The basis of the decision should be on the value of the results being produced by the parties concerned, or on the real value of the blocking procedures; all in terms of measurable production statistics.

Sometimes, old policies can hang around longer than they should. Many people just accept them, but top performers will buck if these outmoded policies/procedures get in the way of their results.

When you get someone who becomes really good at their job, you have someone who can do it all, and do it with ease. And they object strongly to being stopped!

The Obvious Performer

Just watch what happens, for instance, when you have to replace one of your best people for a short time (perhaps when they are on vacation).

  • Does the whole area come to a grinding halt?
  • Do you find yourself spending too much time managing the area from above?
  • Are there suddenly problems in the area?

What you’re looking at is an area that the performer has under their total control. They are so good at their job, they make it look easy.

You see this in reverse when you replace two poor performers with one top producer. The new person easily does the whole job that the other two complained was an overload.

When you see this, it’s time for some performance planning.

The Performer Hitting a Ceiling

When a performer gets into this "high gear" mode (and most of them will at some stage in their development), they will soon get bored.

They will begin to look for something more challenging. If you don’t recognise this, you will wind up with their resignation on your desk.

How do you prevent this? Firstly, watch out for it. Notice those people who are doing their current job so well, they make it look easy. The solution is to find a bigger game for them before they get bored.

  • Give them more responsibility.
  • Expand their job to cover other related areas.
  • Give them support (administrative and/or technological).

Not every performer wants to climb the corporate ladder. In fact, many would prefer to simply become much more professional in what they do: to grow within the job.

See Retaining Employees: How to Keep Your Top Performers for more details on this area.

A Performer With Nowhere to Go

If, in your performance planning, you find you have someone who is so good that they are obviously destined for bigger things, you have an ideal candidate for promotion.

If your company is big enough to accommodate such a move, you are fortunate. But if the available promotional opportunities are limited, that’s another story.

A sure sign of this is when you realise that a performer in your team could probably do your job with no trouble at all.

If you are not ready to give your position up just yet, you have to look elsewhere. And if there isn’t anywhere else for them to go in your organisation, they will probably conclude that the "elsewhere" is in some other company.

  • It’s not easy to cope with this one. The fact of the matter is, they may well be headed for a higher powered career path than you or your organisation can provide.
  • The correct approach is to look at the solutions in the above section. If none of these solutions work for this performer, however, you may simply have to thank your lucky stars that you had the benefit of their presence for at least a time.

Sometimes, in performance planning, your only recourse is to wish them well in their future endeavours; as they walk out the door for the last time.

Stolen by a Head-hunter

This is a tough one too, because it can come about at a time when the performer was not even thinking about leaving you. One day they got a phone call and a sales pitch about a far better position.

  • If nothing else, such approaches will lead the top performer to assess his or her situation to see which way they want to go.
  • And, if they are even vaguely affected by any of the above situations, they will not reject the head-hunter’s overtures out of hand.

The solution to this one lies in proper observation to recognise the symptoms of a performer reaching their peak.

Then, by implementing the proper performance planning to keep them interested and growing, you can proof them (somewhat) against the dangers of having them stolen away from you.


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