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High Performers and Their Impact on Organizations

High performers consistently exceed expectations, inspire peers, and drive the company forward. Learn how to identify top performers and develop their skills to keep them happy and engaged.

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A group of happy, engaged employees with one high performer in the middle holding a trophy

High performers are employees who go above and beyond to contribute more than expected to their organizations. They are the employees who are highly productive, highly efficient, and who deliver a high level of service to internal and external customers. 

High performing employees contribute significantly to business goals and objectives, have a positive impact on organizational culture and employee engagement, and have a high potential for professional development and growth within the organization.

What is a high performing employee?

A high performing employee is one who delivers desired results, and then some. They get their work done effectively and efficiently, and work well with others in the process. 

High performing employees contribute positively to the organization through their work, their ideas, and insights. Their exceptional performance helps to drive productivity, efficiency, and innovation, leading to improved business outcomes. They are employees who often move up in the organization to increasingly more challenging roles. High performers are critical to the ongoing success of virtually every organization.

High performer vs. high potential: what’s the difference?

There is a difference between a high performer and a high potential employee. A high performer is an employee who is currently exhibiting the traits and outputs that set them apart from others. 

A high potential employee may not be currently exhibiting that kind of performance, but may have the capacity or the potential to do so given the right opportunities, skills, training, and support.

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How to identify high performers on your team

It’s important for organizations to identify high performers and high potential employees. These are the employees that can have a marked, positive impact on the organization and its desired outcomes. 

Organizations need to ensure that their people managers and supervisors understand the value of high performers, and that they have the knowledge and access to necessary insights to identify them through their ongoing interactions with their direct reports. 

This might be part of the performance management process, but should also be part of ongoing business operations and coaching to ensure that high performers don’t skip through the tracks or leave for other opportunities.

High performers can be identified through the output or outcomes they deliver, through their positive outlook and positive contributions, or through their ability to deliver a high level of service and support to others. Once identified, it’s important that you take the appropriate steps to offer the support and resources they need to continue their development.

How to develop your high performers

1. Identify their skills and goals

When employees are hired, they come to your organization with certain skills and goals. Over time, these skills and goals can change. It’s important to have ongoing conversations to ensure that employees are receiving the support and encouragement they need. Reskilling and upskilling are ongoing efforts that employers can use  to prepare employees for current workforce needs as well as anticipated future needs. 

Managers and supervisors should have ongoing conversations with employees, and should seek their feedback regularly to help identify desired skills and goals in support of organizational objectives.

2. Recognize their achievements

Recognition is a critical part of nurturing high potential employees and something that should occur both formally and informally. Formal recognition can come through the performance management process or other company-sponsored recognition programs like those for top sales performance, or teams with zero safety issues over some period of time.

Informal recognition should be ongoing and can come from simple forms of feedback like: “Great job on closing that XYZ account!,” or “Thanks for helping to get this report out early.” Informal recognition also might involve simple celebratory events like a lunch to recognize team success, or “on-the-spot” recognition efforts like gift certificates.

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3. Provide L&D, upskilling, and reskilling opportunities to help them grow

Opportunities for learning and development (L&D) are very important to employees—especially high performers. LinkedIn has identified L&D as the top driver of employee engagement. Creating a culture of learning that supports employees’ needs for training and development not only helps employees, it can help your organization as well by boosting engagement and longevity.

When providing L&D opportunities, it’s important to measure the effectiveness of these efforts on business results. This is a challenge that many employers encounter, but one that can be addressed with the right people analytics solutions in place. With the right data, at the right time, organizations can answer key questions like:

  • Does L&D make our employees stay? 

  • Does L&D help employees perform better? 

  • How does L&D contribute to employee engagement?

Tracking key data and insight about L&D can help organizations keep tabs on the overall efficacy of their programs, and identify where they might need to improve or offer more support.

4. Give them autonomy

Many employees—and high potential employees in particular—value autonomy. Given their knowledge, skills, and abilities, they want to simply do the work, with minimal supervision or interference. Today, this also means the autonomy to work whenever, and from wherever, they can get the job done. The need for autonomy has increased during the pandemic as many employees have gotten a taste of the freedom and flexibility of working from home, or remotely.

5. Give them regular feedback

It’s important for employees to receive regular, and effective, feedback from their supervisors and managers. That means ensuring that managers must have the knowledge, skills, and abilities to provide this feedback, and the resources and tools necessary to help them do so effectively and efficiently. Measuring manager effectiveness can drive engagement and top performance, which is especially important among your high performers. 

One of the risks that organizations want to avoid is losing their high performers to other organizations because they failed to provide them with the environment needed to keep them engaged. Understanding what employees are looking for, and taking steps to ensure that they have the work environment and culture to support them is important, especially in an environment that has been marked by the mass exodus of employees in certain industries and professions. 

Learn more about identifying and developing high performing employees:

On the Outsmart blog, we write about workforce-related topics like what makes a good manager, how to reduce employee turnover, and reskilling employees. We also report on trending topics like ESG and EU CSRD requirements and preparing for a recession, and advise on HR best practices how to create a strategic compensation strategy, metrics every CHRO should track, and connecting people data to business data. But if you really want to know the bread and butter of Visier, read our post about the benefits of people analytics.

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