STAR performers, or top talent, typically grab the limelight in every organisation. They are seen as being most capable of driving businesses forward, and as such they are usually a priority group when it comes to employee engagement.
But what about the employees at the other end of the performance spectrum?
Today, the pressure to control bottom-line costs are rising, and organisations need to maximise the potential of all workers. This includes those with lower performance levels who may be under-utilised or disenchanted but, more importantly, still capable of contributing to the success of their companies.
Earlier this year, Towers Perrin, a professional services firm specialising in human resources and financial services consulting, undertook a survey that examined the differences between top talent and the developing capabilities group.
The latter describes employees who have potential for improved performance and are a source of future top talent, suggesting that it is important to engage and retain them.
Overall findings suggest that while top- and bottom-performing segments share some similarities, there are, as expected, a number of important differences.
Top talent employees are generally more positive about their work environment than others, particularly when it comes to their company’s performance management practices, their career development opportunities and the degree of open, two-way communication with management (that is, feeling that they are not only informed of important issues but also given the opportunity to provide input).
However, top performers are particularly critical about their company’s competitiveness in the marketplace. Specifically, these employees are less likely to believe that their company is innovative, efficient and ready to anticipate market demands.
Such frustrations may explain why top talent employees are also less likely to believe they have been given the resources to make them effective in their jobs.
What drives employees to buy into organisational goals and objectives, to have a sense of pride and belonging, and to put in the extra effort to do the job well?
Top talent place particular importance on career advancement opportunities and strong leadership.
These employees need their managers to provide clear direction and to inspire them to do their best. Top talent are most engaged when they “buy into” the company’s vision, values and strategy. Managers must not only articulate a clear vision, but also convince their star performers that this vision is compelling.
Compared to top talent, the developing capabilities group is less positive about their work environment. In particular, they are more negative about their performance reviews and their perceptions about career advancement. They feel less able to speak up and less likely to have sufficient authority to do their jobs well (versus other employees and top talent).
Additionally, issues related to fairness and inclusion are common among this group. These employees are less likely to feel that their performance is evaluated fairly, that they are appropriately recognised, and that they are involved in solving work-related problems.
Fairness is the top engagement driver among this group. These employees are more engaged when they feel they are treated with respect, fairness and integrity. Like top talent, this group also values career advancement opportunities and strong leadership.
These employees are more engaged when they are developed to their full potential and achieve their long-term career objectives. Their engagement also increases when they feel that management generally cares about their well-being and encourages them to give their best.
Finally, these employees are more engaged when they comprehend the company’s overall vision and see that their work contributes to the business.
Managing both spectrums
Here are ways a company can address both groups:
Managing top talent
Clearly articulate a compelling vision and set of values, and emphasise these values to ensure that top talent are inspired and aligned to a common purpose.
Seek out the opinions of top talent on how to improve company competitiveness and involve them in designing the programmes or solutions to address these issues.
Always emphasise career progression and personal growth; ensure that top talent know where they are headed and how these opportunities will challenge and improve their skill sets.
Managing developing capabilities
Involve and empower developing capabilities employees to engage, encourage and motivate them.
Foster a sense of fairness and inclusion by clearly explaining performance reviews and recognising even small accomplishments; include them by actively seeking out their opinions.
Like top talent, always emphasise career progression and personal growth.