How to manage your top employees

According to the article “How to Manage Your Star Employee” by contributor Rebecca Knight on www.hbr.org, if you have one or more top employees, they might seem easy to manage, but such managing can actually be difficult. You need to keep those people both fully engaged and yet not too overworked, or you’ll burn them out. Here are some tips Knight offers about managing your top employees:

  • Keep them challenged. Development is key to retaining these employees. Ask your top employees where they want to go next and what they feel they need to learn to get there — and then help them find the opportunities to get that experience. Furthermore, don’t neglect the development of your other employees; otherwise, they will lose their skills as well.
  • Give them autonomy. By delegating responsibilities for certain tasks and projects and giving your top employees more autonomy, you help keep them excited about and engaged in work. Be sure not to micromanage. If you are unable to promote them or they are not ready, find other ways for them to enhance their leadership skills, such as through training responsibilities.
  • Give praise in moderation. While some top employees may be very “needy” in terms of requiring feedback and praise, you don’t want to inflate their egos. If they do some truly stellar work, tell them so, but don’t go overboard. Also, make sure they understand how to acknowledge the work of the others who helped them get that far. Furthermore, remember that not all top employees expect or want constant praise.
  • Divide workloads fairly. It may seem tempting to give all the jobs to your top employees because you know they will finish them well, but doing so will only cause them to burn out. Monitor your top employees’ workloads — you may need to remove some tasks in order “to make capacity for other projects,” the article states. Top employees may be reluctant to let these go, but you must stand firm. Also, watch out for team burn out, since top employees tend to set the pace and others may not be able to keep up despite their desire to.
  • Don’t play favorites. Top employees can unwittingly create tension within their teams by either expecting others to achieve their standards or by inspiring jealousy of their abilities in others. You may not be able to control thoughts and emotions, but you can refrain from playing favorites by having one-on-one conversations with everyone to ask what motivates them and how you can help them.
  • Encourage them to build relationships. Many top employees may have trouble developing deep relationships due to their nature as quick studies who don’t need to ask questions. Encourage them to network with others in different capacities.
  • Don’t hoard the talent. No one wants to lose a top employee, but you have to learn to recognize when your capable employees are ready to move on from a particular role. You need not lose them to another company, but you may have to place them on another team. But this is an issue with two fronts: you must not only look for a position where these top employees can go to succeed, but you must find others who can fill their shoes in the positions they’re leaving.

Read the full article here.

Related: Wash Wisdom: 5 management mistakes to avoid

Investing in people to grow your business

According to the article “No-fail scale tips for scaling a business” by contributor David Meltzer on Entrepreneur’s website, rather than going after money and investments to grow a business, Meltzer claims that you should go after people. Meltzer believes that there are three stages to growing a business:

  • Learning. The learning stage is about investing in your employees. Meltzer argues that, while it takes time and money to train them, the goal is to “break even” at the end of this stage by gaining human capital to start the next phase, rather than gaining a profit from these employees. The learning stage can be called a success if it empowers workers to go back to school, to go to work for other companies and become leaders or, best of all, to integrate into the company.
  • Execution. This stage begins once your employees have been able to earn back your investment in them and are ready to grow and generate profits. Here, you should focus on the financial rewards an employee earns and receives, the balancing of which is important to their retention. For instance, Meltzer says that when your revenue comes in, you might consider splitting it evenly between the employees who earn it, the company (for such things as investing in the learning stage) and savings for the final stage.
  • Partnership/equity. The last stage occurs once an employee has exhibited consistent productivity during the execution stage for a length of time agreed upon by management. The partnership stage is a reward for those who are invested in growing the company and have the drive to do so. If people are willing to invest in you, you should be investing in them. An equity or partnership program is crucial to a company if you want to retain the best employees, as companies who do not reinvest in themselves will not grow.

Finally, Meltzer points out a few pitfalls that can come from growing a business. The first is by trying to keep employees on during the learning stage. It does you no good to keep those around who don’t want to be there; in the future, such people will only hold you back. A second mistake is that many companies do not invest what they need to in the learning stage. Meltzer offers the reminder that you are “investing in human capital, not just for yourself, but for every business that your employee works with in the future.”

Read the full article here.