Motivating the all-star players on your business team

  • October 17, 2017

Motivating the all-star players on your business team

By Byron Moore, posted October 17, 2017

Originally published in the News Star and the Shreveport Times on Sunday, October 15, 2017.

Q: I have an employee that is key to the success of my business. I pay him very well so that he doesn’t have any incentive to leave. But if we lost him, we would be up a creek. Beyond just more money, what other things can I do to tie him to us?

A: In George Orwell’s political satire Animal Farm, one of the characters quips, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

How to attract and retain all-star players on your business’ team.Every employer knows this truth: some employees are just more equal than others.

You can have all the motivational posters that say “there is no I in team!” hanging throughout your workplace, but most businesses have one or two members of the team that are far more productive than everyone else and who would also be very, very difficult to replace.

So how does a savvy business owner motivate and keep these star players?

Attract them. You sound as if you’ve already done this, but for anyone who has not, the keys to attracting all-star talent are context and compensation. Context is the work itself. What is the environment like, not just physically but relationally? Since any star employee is going to spend a majority of her waking hours in this environment, will she enjoy it?

And what of the work itself? Is it challenging and meaningful? Will he be able to utilize his gifts and talents? Is there opportunity for growth?

And of course compensation is important. You may not have to pay absolute top dollar insofar as salary is concerned, but you’ll need to be in the neighborhood. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself a training ground for key players, only to have them wooed away by your competition. Which brings us to the next point…

Retain them. How do you prevent key employees from leaving at the height of their productivity? After all, if they are key to you, they may also be attractive targets for your competition. Or even for an employer in another industry, looking for a high caliber individual.

Key employees are going to grow. If you don’t want them to outgrow you, you’ll have to grow with them. Ideally, your key employee(s) should be an engine of your own growth. But if they get the feeling that the only growth you are experiencing is at their expense, don’t be surprised to see them looking with interest at greener pastures.

I’ve heard it said that “people go where they are loved and stay where they are appreciated.” For an all-star, you probably need to add “and where they can grow to their full potential.”

Invest in and empower the growth of your all-stars.

Reproduce them. The best way keep an all star is to have more than one.

If you have a key employee that does not play well with others and can’t stand to have other competent people around them, you do not have a key employee, you have a prima donna.

An all-star worth having on your team will appreciate having another high caliber individual on the team as well. They will push one another to excellence and hopefully encourage each other to grow.

Replace them. You can’t win ‘em all or keep ‘em all. From time to time, key employees are going depart. That departure may be voluntary (to take another job) or involuntary (due to sickness, disability or death). Either way, you need to be prepared.

Nothing buffers a business interruption like cash (see last week’s column), and the voluntary departure of a key employee is certainly the definition of a business interruption.

Insurance may be available to indemnify your company for the loss of a key person due to death or disability. I suggest you look into this.

For most business owners, no other business asset is even remotely as valuable as their key employees.

You know that. Do they?

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