The COVID-19 crisis won’t be resolved in a day. As more businesses reopen, owners and leaders may find that employees returned to work with some greater challenges than they had just a few months ago. Today, I want to address another issue you may face as the COVID-19 stay-at-home order is lifted and more employees return to work:
RE-ENGAGING and RETAINING your SUPERSTARS?
Some companies have done a fantastic job responding to this crisis. They continued to pay employees, pivoted business strategies to remain relevant and helpful, and will emerge from the crisis stronger than ever. As a result, their employees will be more loyal than before.
Can you say that about your company and leadership?
You know your best employees, the ones who were indispensable before the crisis? What if they don’t feel like you or your company treated them as truly valued?
Leaders, How Can You Re-Capture the Hearts of Your Top Employees?
1. Be honest if you screwed up around the crisis.
If you or your company didn’t do a great job communicating or caring for your employees throughout the crisis, own up to it. If you failed, your employees already know. But you need to let them know that you know. Just saying something like, “I wish we had done a better job,” or, “If there is a next time, we will know what to do better,” acknowledges what your employees already know.
Executive coach and best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith wrote in What Got You Here Won’t Get You There these weighty thoughts on the power of an apology:
I regard apologizing as the most powerful, healing, restorative gesture human beings can make. It is the centerpiece of my work with executives who want to get better.
2. Label your superstars.
While you’re being honest, let your superstars know how much you value them and how you wish you could have done better for them during the crisis. In other words, let your superstars know they are your superstars. Tell them how much you appreciate their work, their attitudes, and their contributions. Be specific.
HR leaders fear labeling employees as high-potentials or top-talent, and I understand why: most employees identified as any sort of “next generation of leaders” may be better suited as individual contributers instead of members of management. You don’t have to chose between giving false hope and doing nothing (which are two terrible options). Instead, offer meaningful, relevant validation and special recognition of their performance. Telling an employee he’s a superstar is not the same as saying, “You’re going to run this company some day.”
3. Ask your superstars about their dream jobs.
Too many leaders fear that if they ask their best employees what they want, the answer will involve more money…or something else the leader can’t deliver on. So ask this instead: “What can I do to turn your current job into your dream job?” Then listen. (PSST! Most of the time, employees won’t mention money). These employees will likely tell you they want added opportunities, exposure, responsibilities, or a greater scope of work.
4. Treat superstars differently.
As Aristotle said:
“There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.”
At home, it would be unfair to send your 16- and 8-year-olds to bed at the same time. They are different children at different ages with different needs.
Superstars are different, so treat them accordingly. By the way, doing so is not playing favorites: it’s rewarding behavior and performance. As a leader, you want a team of superstars, and anyone reaching top performance should be treated differently than those who are merely average.
Can you offer your superstars increased flexibility and autonomy, like working remotely more often or getting “comp” days to make up for the long hours they put in delivering on a project? Can you give them first dibs on the projects they wish to undertake? Would they enjoy being deemed a subject-matter expert and informal new employee trainer?
So What Are You Going to Do?
Leaders, what can you do to re-recuit, re-engage, and reignite your superstar employees who may return to work with an updated resume and even more marketable skills?
I’ve helped hundreds of organizations engage their top employees. If you need help, I’d love to help.
My last blog about the Post-Crisis Crisis was about helping those that return to work FIGHTING ADDICTIONS.