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Dec 18, 2013

A common misconception in employee engagement (as revealed in our recent infographic), is that the top performers in an organization are the self-starters who don’t need extra motivation.

While it’s true that high performers are typically more upbeat than other employees, they too need a deep, purposeful connection with the organization to be engaged in their work just like any other person.

In fact, a 2013 Leadership IQ study found that in almost half of organizations middle and low performers are actually more engaged than high performers. This was based on key findings that showed high performers’ efforts largely going unrecognized while low performers reaped the benefits of constant motivation and recognition from their managers.

So how do you successfully engage a high performer? Here’s a quick guide:

1. Be aware of key engagement drivers

High performers generally feel a greater sense of ownership and take more interest in the organization as a whole.

Towers Watson concluded that top performers are most engaged when they are guided by a clearly communicated mission and vision, a dedication to core values, and a strong sense of positive corporate ethics.

Ensuring that these tenets are constantly demonstrated and reinforced is crucial to retaining high performers.

2. Don’t take them for granted

Since job performance isn’t a predictor of engagement, managers must engage all employees equally.

High performers can make exceptional work seem commonplace, but they will lose their motivation quickly if their actions go unrecognized.

Don’t take your high performers for granted — make sure that exceptional work is consistently recognized in your organization regardless of overall job performance.

3. Hold everyone accountable

When low performers aren’t held accountable for their performance, high performers are usually the ones who have to pick up the slack, and what’s worse, they begin to feel that their efforts are “expected,” killing their engagement levels.

Good leaders take action to make their employees more mentally and emotionally accountable. If low and middle performers are not motivated to improve, high performers will notice.

While high performers are similar to other employees in some fundamental ways, there are subtle differences in what they want from their organization and leaders. Managers need to be aware of these differences and adopt specific strategies to motivate and engage them.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.

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