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The right way to engage high potential employees

Many companies fail to ensure employees are satisfied in their roles and committed to achieving key strategic goals – risking turnover of key players and the inability to meet overall business objectives.

Organisations need strong performers, working smarter and more productively, with competent leadership who will engage and motivate them to meet growth goals.

As a result, employee engagement cannot be neglected. The costs to the organisation can be significant. Losing key players means spending money to recruit, train, and get new employees up and running as contributors. Employee turnover impacts other employees, as well, contributing to increased workloads and stress, further eroding engagement and creating an environment of discontent.

Understanding the strategies to keep your high potentials engaged and identifying opportunities to create engagement ‘touch-points’ are crucial to a successful engagement program.

Leveraging ‘touch-points’ to create engagement

Engagement is an ongoing effort, and the measurement of engagement is just the starting point. Once you measure engagement, and find out what employees really want, you create an expectation, and they expect you to then take action.

One of the most meaningful actions you can take is to make better use of the activities and programs that you already have in place. The strength in these programs is to use them in a very thoughtful way to drive engagement.

Companies can also use one-on-one situations, practices, and programs to drive engagement in a thoughtful and ongoing manner.

The following are some of the ‘touch-point’ opportunities that can be leveraged to create engagement.

Recognition and rewards

When people think about recognition and rewards, they often think of programs. Recognition and rewards also include the cultural message that a company sends to employees about what behaviours will not be tolerated, and more importantly, what forms of rewards the company chooses to give to its employees.

Financial rewards – remuneration is a common way of rewarding high performing employees and can be approached differently depending on the organisation. It’s important to set clear performance benchmarks that are understood by all employees and reward them fairly if they reach them.

Non-financial rewards – some studies have shown that remuneration is unlikely to retain employees for more than a few months if they are already disengaged. Some as simple as praise and recognition can be an effective way to raise employee engagement.

Discretionary awards – if a business chooses to provide employees with discretionary awards it should make sure to allocate a separate budget and use a different mindset, that’s not based on performance but rather, on attitude. Examples of discretionary rewards include movie tickets, above and beyond trophies or training opportunities the employee is personally interested in.

Career development

A lack of career development is cited as a key reason why top performers leave. Development is a shared responsibility between managers and employees. It is important for the manager to provide these developmental experiences and opportunities while the employee takes responsibility for creating his or her own development plan.

To create engagement, companies have to help people work in different parts of the business. They must also develop employees who have general skills and capabilities across the enterprise.

One challenge in developing global capabilities is helping people accept short-term pain for long-term organisational gain. For example, it may benefit the organisation as a whole to move a really strong manager in one department of the organisation to another department. But this is not an easy task because people often want to hold on to their best talent, even internally.

Another goal of the organisation should be to overcome these internal obstacles to make sure that high performing individuals are given the chance to learn new skillset and thus remain engaged, even if it means departmental losses.

Blended learning

Blended learning can also create new ways of facilitating training throughout the organisation.

Employees often rely on old methods of spreading knowledge across the company instead of utilising new channels.

An example of blended learning includes combining face-to-face coaching sessions with online training modules. This type of learning allows participants to use their time more proactively and learn incrementally and at their own pace. This more tailored approach creates more engagement.

As we look at social media and we look at an employee group that is much more accustomed to learning from peers and learning by doing, we have to think of more creative, non-traditional ways to seed knowledge, experience, and learning.


The reality is engaging and retaining talent requires a strategic, focused approach that demands an investment of time and resources.

  • Remember to regularly assess engagement levels within the organisation.
  • Understand key drivers unique to your workforce. Gather as much information as possible on current engagement and retention initiatives and identify program strengths and weaknesses.
  • Make incremental changes. Do not throw out what is yielding results, and modify programs that aren’t working.
  • Reward performance with innovative development programs that really differentiate your high performers.

It’s imperative for organisations to invest in developing employee skills and competencies today to increase productivity and performance that will drive sustainable growth into the future.

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Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson

Bruce Anderson is Managing Director of Lee Hecht Harrison, which offers talent development solutions throughout the entire employee lifecycle – from onboarding, through career and leadership development, engagement and retention to redeployment and transition. With over 270 offices worldwide, Lee Hecht Harrison is the global talent development leader.

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