To Manage High Performing Workers, Make Work secondary

Retaining High Performing workers is an open and ongoing wish of every manager, business owner, or customer hoping for a fast problem resolution. Research has discovered that among IT workers, one class of High Performing workers, retention factors included learning, people, pay, career, opportunity, environments, and organization. Examining the seven factors that lead to longer IT worker tenure you might notice that the work itself is not on the list. What might this imply?

Over two decades of experience developing High Performing IT workers has shown that while the work does matter it is not the thing that incents or motivates the best workers. Unfortunately many managers and executives assume that the best workers choose the organizations they belong to based on the work itself. One reason for this simplified thinking is that a focus on the work makes sense. Another reason to focus on the work is that the work is direct, apparent, and it seems obvious. However, a more in depth focus reveals one way to increase worker tenure is to make the work secondary.

Making the work secondary does not mean reducing the value of the work, accepting substandard outcomes, or having a party after every completed e-mail. Making the work secondary means connecting the work to larger goals so that the work directly contributes to the larger organization goals. This focus shift helps high performing workers understand the “why” of their efforts rather than the “what” of the role.

How you create the connection between the work and larger organization goals will vary by organization type, size, mission, and structure. Just as there are no generic high performing workers, there are no generic organization goals to focus worker efforts; or perhaps the generic organization goals (make a profit, grow larger, bigger, faster, etc.) simply do not motivate high performing workers.

Developing and conveying a deep understanding of the larger organization’s goals that matter to high performing workers is the responsibility of every manager wanting to retain the best talent. Expecting workers to find their own reasons to stay is simply asking them to do two jobs, yours plus theirs, and no matter the performance level, no one wants to do two jobs.

© 2014 Margins and Corners