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How to keep your star players

I’ve spent over two decades now observing the comings and goings of ‘star players’ in a diverse range of environments from big bureaucratic public sector bodies to boutique high tech SME’s.  I’ve pulled together my purely anecdotal list of the most prominent reasons why your star players choose to stay and help your company grow and achieve success or leave you for pastures new and more exciting roles:

  1. Honesty, transparency and consistency: Great people like to be treated fairly on a consistent basis. If you shift goal posts too often or too randomly they will leave you.
  2. Support: This can take many forms but at the very least you should expect to ensure you provide resources to help your people get on with their jobs. Good employers also recognise that at times in our lives we might need more support than others.  Supporting your star players through major life changes such as marriage, parenthood, bereavement etc. is likely to lead hugely increased levels of loyalty and commitment.
  3. Inclusion and decision making: Great people like to feel that they are a key and integral part of the success of the company. Include them in decision making wherever you can.
  4. Acknowledgement: This doesn’t always need to be in the form of pay or promotion. It can be as simple as a genuine compliment or as grand as a lovely big Christmas bonus. In my experience the impact is usually the same and in fact I have worked in companies where large bonuses were paid out to star players but because they were not given feedback about their performance at the same time the opportunity to thank and praise them was lost.
  5. Bureaucracy : It drives great people mad and stifles the creative spirit.
  6. Career Development: Paying lip service to appraisal and performance reviews leads to discouragement and cynicism.
  7. The team: Great people like to work with great people whom they can respect, and they like to be managed by role models they can aspire to.
  8. Who’s in charge: Be clear and communicate leadership responsibilities to all. Great people do not like to be undermined.
  9. Creativity: Be open-minded and allow your star players to express their creativity in their work. If you don’t they will find somewhere that does.
  10. Vision: If you don’t know where you are going as a company how can you expect your star players to stay with you for the journey?

You may have noticed that pay and benefits are not on this list. Of course people leave for higher pay sometimes but in my experience that is never the whole story. There is always something else attached to the pay rise such as a bigger more demanding role, location or other company benefits around culture and work life balance.

Do you know why your star players leave you? If you don’t then I’d encourage you to conduct formal exit interviews as a starting point before you think about any new retention strategies. If you would advice on how best to do this please contact us.

Written by People Puzzles HR Director

It was a detailed process and I wasn’t allowed to get away with anything- All relevant issues were included and dealt with objectively.

Sue Ford, Director, Bridge Case Management

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