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Four tips for engaging high performers

"Design a process that will source multiple applications and diverse candidates – including those whom colleagues have recommended."

An increasing number of employees think now is a great time to find a job, according to the 2023 Gallup Report. Growth companies are always looking for new employees, so this is good news. But it’s also worrisome, because the last thing a leader or manager wants is for their talented and productive employees to look for another job.


Here are four tips for leaders and managers to help recruit the right kinds of employees and to retain and maximise the performance of current staff.


TIP 1: Identify who and what you need before you begin recruiting


One of the responsibilities of a leader and a manager is to find employees who are a good fit with the company's mission and values, who have the knowledge and skills to do the job and the potential to be great performers.


So, before recruiting, identify the tasks and activities you expect that person to do and the level of responsibility at which they will operate:


  • Determine whether this is an entry position, middle management or executive level
  • Decide who the person will report to
  • Develop a position description which includes information about your company, the position, the job requirements and the skills, experience and education required
  • From that create an ad


After this prep work, decide where to recruit. Which channels will provide access to people appropriate for the job (eg. SEEK, LinkedIn, social media, website, word of mouth or a recruiter).


TIP 2: Have an organised recruiting process


Asking around if anyone knows someone who could fill your job is a very ad hoc way to find a new employee. But talking with friends and family can help sharpen your understanding of the functional requirements of the job and what kind of person you need.


Design a process that will source multiple applications and diverse candidates – including those whom colleagues have recommended.


Develop interview questions and decide whether a performance test is required. You are looking for someone who can do the job and work well with your team – so ask questions allowing them to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and values.


At least two people should interview each candidate (three or more for executive level positions). One interviewer can focus on the candidate’s responses to the interview questions and the other can observe body language. Then reverse roles during the next question.


Different interviewers will pick up different cues about candidates. A candidate’s responses and behaviour will help interviewers determine whether the candidate has the knowledge, skills and expertise to do the job and is a good fit for the company. 


Conduct the interviews, discuss the candidates, rank them and do reference checks on your top choice. Hopefully the checks are positive. But if not, move down the list until you get positive feedback before making an offer.  If the negotiations fall through, go to the next candidate.


Importantly, do not settle for someone who does not match your values or is unable to do the job, even if that means re-opening the search.


TIP 3: Provide opportunities for employees to be high performers - and give kudos when they do


Managers must ensure employees, especially new ones, understand the company’s mission, values and vision. They must also understand their employees’ objectives and what success means to them.


Give new employees tasks, activities and opportunities to perform. As they prove themselves, work them through the Five Levels of Delegation and begin to delegate projects and responsibility.


And always provide continuous feedback; employees expect it frequently. If you don’t, a high percentage of employees will psychologically disengage from work.


Gallup suggested nearly 60 per cent of all employees “may be physically present or logged into their computer, but they don't know what to do or why it matters, and they also don't have any supportive bonds with their co-workers, boss or their organization.”


TIP 4: Figure out why employees are not performing and fix the problem


Leaders and managers must identify staff who are not fulfilling their job description or not behaving according to the company’s values. It’s important to recognise the problem, consider why the employee is not meeting expectations, discuss this with them and give them a chance to improve.


The underperformer must understand they will be let go if there is no improvement.


Underperformance may be obvious; but the reasons are varied:


  • If an employee is not clear about their responsibilities, explain the tasks and expectations of the job again. Confirm they understand by asking them to repeat back to you – your expectations, by when and what they are responsible for achieving
  • Sometimes team members are asked to do a job without having the knowledge and skills required. In such situations, training and development may be required


If you have given employees opportunities, resources, training and time to improve – they must perform or be removed – for the good of the rest of the organisation.


Use these four tips to lead and manage employees and you will be amazed how straight forward it is to recruit and retain the high performers you need to grow your business.

Join the next ANZ Business Growth program webinar.


Register to attend the next webinar Finding, Leading and Managing Employees for Growth with Dr Jana Matthews and CEOs from the ANZ Business Growth program.


The ANZ Business Growth Program includes free webinars which are open to all Australian businesses.

Dr Jana Matthews, Growth Expert and Founding Director, Australian Centre for Business Growth


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