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3 tips for managing high performers and increasing performance of the whole team

By Tony Tran | |6 minute read

The term top talent is limiting; it tends to put people in a bit of a box – you’re top talent, and you’re not. When discussing top talent, we’re talking about employees who are currently high-performing.

So, while throughout this article we’ll refer to “high performers”, it’s important to note that we’re not referring to a set stagnant group of individuals. I prefer to take a more growth mindset approach to how we think about talent and a more systematic approach to uncover what the organisation is doing that creates high-performing employees, as opposed to this idea of inheriting top talent and needing to figure out how to keep them happy and motivated.

We can see these ideas reflected in Culture Amp’s data. Rating employee performance from “underperformance”, “solid performance”, “good performance”, and “high performance”. High performers are more likely to decrease their performance than stay the same compared to good and solid performers. Similarly, those that are underperforming are more likely to increase in performance than stay the same. Both these data points make intuitive sense. It takes a lot of effort to perform at a level where you’re being seen as high-performing, and it’s not sustainable. For those who are low-performing, you’re likely taking action to make sure you improve their performance to solidify or move into a role that is a better fit.


So, how can managers keep employees motivated to perform consistently?

Consistent feedback loops: While under, solid, good, and high performers are all somewhat motivated by feedback, it’s high performers that find feedback the most motivating. They have an exceptional thirst to understand what they can be doing better. This desire for constructive feedback is likely a part of what allowed them to perform at a high level in the first place. As a manager, it can be easy to take a hands-off approach with those who are high-performing and just let them do what they’re doing, but in order to continue to motivate them, you need to guide, mentor, and give them feedback the same as you would your other employees.

Allow for peaks and troughs: We mentioned before that it can be unsustainable to consistently perform at a high level. Culture Amp data shows that 80 per cent of high performers find the pace of work energising – compared to 71 per cent for good performers, 64 per cent for solid performers, and 68 per cent for low performers. Yet only 44 per cent of high performers feel that they accomplish everything during work hours – compared to 56 per cent of good performers, 60 per cent of solid performers, and 56 per cent of low performers. Managers need to recognise that just because their employees are high-performing, it doesn’t mean they’re perfect – they need your help to prioritise their work. As a manager, you have access to information, context and strategy that you need to use to help your performers focus their abilities on things that are highly impactful and allow them permission to let go of some of the things that are less important. You need to save them from burning themselves out.

Helping employees manage stress: Keeping in line with this theme of making sure your high-performing employees don’t burn out, our research shows that those who were identified as high performers need resources for coping with stress. When we looked at the correlation between different levels of performance and intention to stay with the organisation – things like career opportunities and role fit were important for all the different levels of performance, but having the resources for stress and receiving support were uniquely important for high performers. And this makes sense because being a high performer is stressful, so they recognise this and want to know they will be supported before committing to the organisation for the long haul.

Managers need to get these three things right in order to retain top talent. Aside from the cost of hiring someone new and the loss in productivity as the current employee ramps down and the new employee ramps up, you’re losing out on the volume and quality of work the high performer used to do and the institutional knowledge that the high performer brings and shares with others in the team.

Most importantly, while we know that we can’t reasonably expect employees to stay with an organisation forever, the reasons behind the attrition are important as that could have a cascading impact on the morale of the employees who have stayed behind.

Good organisations that manage high performers well not only attract other high performers but are also factories for creating high performers. Making you less beholden to a select few.

Tony Tran is the lead people scientist at Culture Amp.



Your organization's culture determines its personality and character. The combination of your formal and informal procedures, attitudes, and beliefs results in the experience that both your workers and consumers have. Company culture is fundamentally the way things are done at work.

Jack Campbell

Jack Campbell

Jack is the editor at HR Leader.