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Six Reasons Top Performers Jump Ship

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By Marshall Loeb, MarketWatch

RISMEDIA, Oct. 12, 2007-(MarketWatch)-The percentage of the American population with college educations has soared from roughly 5% in 1950 to about 27% today, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Given this fact, some employers may assume that there’s a glut of top-notch employees ripe for the picking. Not so.

Despite the proliferation of the college-educated, human-resources professionals are having a hard time filling positions in science, engineering and other hard-edge fields, according to a 2006 poll by the Society for Human Resource Management. Worse still, the new hires they do find often lack core skills, like basic professionalism and analytical aptitude.

If your organization is fueled by efforts of a handful of top performers, don’t let them slip through your grasp. Here are six reasons highly skilled workers tend to seek out greener pastures:

1. They receive few rewards for good behavior. If high performers receive no extra kudos or compensation for their extraordinary performance, they’ll begin to wonder whether it’s worth putting in the extra effort. It’s important to acknowledge those who work to promote the success of the whole company. If you can’t afford to reward them financially, find another way to recognize their contributions.
2. They resent being micromanaged. Top performers tend to be self-directed, out-of-the-box thinkers who enjoy problem solving. They’re likely to feel creatively and intellectually stunted by a manager who insists on controlling every aspect of their performance. For best results, give top performers the room to answer challenges in their own ways.
3. They feel underutilized or unchallenged. Because of their need for mastery, high performing employees can get easily frustrated and bored when their roles become too circumscribed or stagnant. The antidote: Feed them a steady diet of challenges.
4. They see no room at the top. Top performers tend to thrive in an environment that allows them to continually learn and grow. If they find themselves in a situation that offers no obvious opportunities for advancement, they may feel stuck and their eyes may begin to wander.
5. They’re faced with unreasonable demands. Some employers overload high performers with an ever-increasing list of projects. There’s nothing wrong with increasing responsibility, but be careful not to make reckless demands on people’s time and energy.
6. They aren’t apprised of changes in the organization. If your outfit is undergoing changes that threaten to affect your top performers, don’t leave them in the dark. Seismic shifts in the office hierarchy can be upsetting to employees at every level and high performers may seek out safer ground if they grow uncomfortable or fear their jobs are in danger.

Marshall Loeb, former editor of Fortune, Money, and the Columbia Journalism Review, writes for MarketWatch.

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