Getting More From Your Most Creative and Productive Employees

A recent survey of individual performance, found that the highest performing employees within the majority of workplaces are responsible for as much as 80% of the work performed.


An alarming discovery for sure; however, this statistic becomes more troubling when you note that one in five of these high performing workers are considering leaving their current employer within the next six months.


The reasons for these trends are varied, but most reports find that high performers are driven by challenge, growth, and reward.


More importantly, high performance employees often stifle at restraint and define their success, happiness, and achievement through an internal locus of control. In other words, high performing employees are happiest when they feel that their work matters, to themselves, their employer, and their co-workers.


So what are some steps you can take to ensure that your best performing workers remain happy and productive?


Set Goals that Challenge and Engage


One of the dominant theories of motivation posits that individuals are motivated by three primary factors, namely, achievement, belonging, or power.   Notably, high performing employees are often best motivated by achievement and will often measure their workplace satisfaction in direct relation to their perceived workplace success.


The operant word here is “perceived” since these employees often define success internally. It is not enough for these employees to merely “check the boxes”. They must instead believe that their workplace contributions are unique and valuable.


It is therefore important to assign these employees to task that draw upon their most valuable skill sets. Furthermore, these workers are at their best when they are working at the edges of their capacity. Therefore, these employees should always be encouraged to pursue tasks that challenge their comfort levels and expand their capacity.


Give Them Control Over Their Methods


However, it is not enough to push these employees to achieve at their highest levels. You must also give them the space, time, and freedom to complete their assigned task in a manner of their own choosing.


One of the marks of achievement focused workers is high accountability. Individuals that are motivated by achievement are often their own harshest critics. As noted above, they define success by their own demanding standards. Therefore, when they are confronted with a challenge they will become deeply invested in conquering it.


Unfortunately, employees that are achievement motivated can also be willful and occasionally obstinate. However, if properly managed, these instincts can be converted into commitment and dedication.


If you define the scope of these employee’s authority precisely, they will often work doggedly and independently to complete their task effectively. While these employees’ inclination toward perfectionism often keeps them from being efficient workers, they frequently use the skills they developed by mastering one task to more effectively confront the next task.


However, these employees often like to work alone, with limited direct oversight or restraint. So sometimes the best way to get results out of these works is to give them a goal and let them decide how they are going to achieve that goal.


Keep Them Focused


All of this is not to say that these employees should be given no oversight or instruction.


High achievement employees can often get “caught up in the weeds” losing sight of their initial objectives in favor of a side challenges that often arise within the course of their work. Moreover, since these employees are often motivated by their own growth and achievement, they will sometimes become so narrowly focused upon their own work that they have a hard time making sure their efforts track those of their co-workers.


As a result, these types of workers have a hard time focusing upon deadlines and may not communicate well with others. It is therefore important to schedule regular opportunities for high achievement workers to check in and update their progress.


Counter-intuitively, high achievement employees appreciate being structured in this way. As noted above, they are highly accountable. Therefore, the thrive when their progress is being tracked, provided their incremental success are properly acknowledged.


These updates serve a dual purpose. First, they remind these workers that their efforts are one part of a broader objective; allowing them to focus upon deadlines and communicate the status of the work to those working on related task. Second, they reinforce and acknowledge that these worker’s contributions are valuable and important.


Let Them Do What They Do Best


While high achievement workers are capable of producing great results, their methodologies are sometimes unorthodox. These workers are often intuitive and frequently disorganized. While it would not be fair to say that these worker’s lack impulse control, they often shift stream quickly and abandon one planned course of action in favor of a course that they deem more promising. While these workers usually work diligently, they may lack the ability to prioritize tasks effectively.


For this reason, these types of workers often do not make good team leaders. While they are often likable, social creatures they sometimes have a hard time communicating their objectives to others and can become easily frustrated when assigned tasks are not completed in the manner of their imagining. For this reason, high achievement workers thrive as role players, working under the direction of a capable and attentive manager.


Additionally, high achievement workers have a hard time focusing upon ministerial acts, like record keeping and file management. While these types of workers should be coached to complete the tasks when required, they often pair nicely with co-workers who are detail oriented. When these workers are free to focus upon the problem at hand, without distraction or apparent limitation they often produce exceptional results.