Organizational Wellness

High-Performing Employees: What You Need to Know About Spotting, Supporting, and Retaining Them

Sep 1, 2023
Last Updated May 14, 2024

Every organization thrives on the strength of its people, but there's no denying that some individuals shine brighter, push harder, and achieve more. They’re the high performers, the standout talents who drive your business forward. 

But what sets these individuals apart, and how can HR leaders identify and nurture such top performers?

Let's dive into some of the common traits of high-performing employees, as well as tactics to help them remain with your team for the long run. 


What are High Performers?

High-performing employees are the cream of the crop in your company. They excel, consistently achieving and often exceeding set targets. Their work is not merely a job, but a passion, fueling their ambition to always seek improvement.

They possess a blend of qualities: exceptional skills, unwavering commitment, a proactive attitude, and a knack for problem-solving. These talents set them apart, making them invaluable assets to your organization. They often motivate others to make more of an effort too. This influence is part of what makes them so valuable to your business — they go above and beyond, and inspire others to aim high as well.

How to Identify Your Top Performing Employees

Sometimes your high performers are easy to spot, but others may not be as obvious at first glance. However, these individuals often share common traits. Once you recognize these signs, they can help you identify and nurture them.

Your HR team or managers can look for:

  1. Consistent overachievement: Top performers don't just hit their goals — they routinely surpass them. They set high standards and meet them with unwavering consistency. Watch for employees who consistently deliver high-quality work and take genuine pride in what they do.
  2. Leadership qualities: High performers often emerge as natural leaders. They inspire their colleagues, fostering a positive work environment.
  3. Solution-oriented: Challenges don't deter top employees. Instead, they motivate them. Look for individuals who approach problems with a solution-focused mindset.
  4. Eager to learn: Top performers are lifelong learners. They continuously seek new skills and knowledge to better their performance.
  5. Flexibility: The business world can change in the blink of an eye. High performers adapt easily and thrive in the face of change. Their resilience and flexibility allows them to thrive even under shifting circumstances.
  6. Proactive problem-solvers: High performers don’t wait for instructions. They're out there finding issues and solving them before you even know they exist.
  7. Intrinsic motivation: Pay attention to those who go the extra mile not for recognition or rewards, but because they are driven by internal motivation.
  8. Goal-oriented focus: Top talents have an unerring focus on goals. They set high benchmarks for themselves and tirelessly work to achieve them.
  9. Receptive to feedback: High performers are on a perpetual quest for self-improvement. They actively seek feedback and are receptive to constructive criticism.

By recognizing these traits, managers can identify their star performers and utilize their skills to maximum effect. Cultivate them, and they’ll become the driving force behind your organization’s success.

How to Support and Retain Your Company's Top Talent

Retaining top talent can often feel like a high-stakes balancing act. However, by providing the right support and fostering an environment where high performers can thrive, your company can achieve a winning equation of employee satisfaction and business growth.

Foster a Culture of Continuous Learning

High performers are often lifelong learners, hungry for knowledge and self-improvement. Three out of every five employees say that career development opportunities (like learning new skills) were the most important factor when considering staying at their current employer, according to McKinsey.

Investing in professional development shows your commitment to employees’ growth and success. This could mean funding training courses, providing mentoring opportunities, or supporting further education. Not only does this investment enhance their skill set, it also signals that the company values their contribution and potential.

Provide Autonomy and Empowerment

Top talents have an innate drive to excel. By entrusting them with autonomy and empowering them to make decisions, you fan their flame of motivation. This doesn't mean leaving them to fend for themselves. Instead, it's about providing guidance when needed, giving them space to innovate, and trusting them to deliver results. 

Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits

While money isn't the only factor that keeps high performers engaged, it certainly helps! Regularly reviewing and adjusting compensation packages helps your top talents feel valued and appreciated. 

Our research found that 93% of workers believe their wellbeing is just as important as their salary, so your benefits offering is an important part of the compensation package. Alongside financial incentives, consider non-monetary perks such as flexible work hours, wellness programs, or personalized rewards. The goal here is to create a comprehensive overall package that satisfies your high performers. 

Maintain Open Lines of Communication

A two-way communication channel is key to understanding and meeting your high performers' needs. Regular check-ins, transparent feedback, and open-door policies foster an environment where employees feel heard and valued. Encouraging dialogue can also bring fresh ideas to light, boosting innovation and making your high performers feel invested in the company's future.

Recognize and Reward Outstanding Work

Only one in four employees say they feel connected to their culture, according to WorkhumanRecognition can help inspire that sense of connection. It's human nature to crave appreciation for hard work, and your high performers are no exception. Regularly acknowledging their efforts and achievements — whether through public praise, awards, or even simple thank you notes — can significantly boost morale and job satisfaction. Remember, when your top talent feels valued, they're more likely to stay committed to your company.

Creating a Performance Culture Through Employee Wellbeing

Taking steps to retain high performers is a strategic investment. In doing so, you build a robust team driving your business forward. But while top performers are certainly valuable for your organization, don’t forget about the rest of your employees.

Look for ways to create a company culture and environment that supports everyone — not just your highest performers. Because if you can help everyone feel supported at work, you may start to see performance and morale improvements across the board. The payoff: a stronger, more innovative company, capable of achieving its highest aspirations.

Supporting your workforce’s wellbeing can be a powerful way to make that culture a reality at your organization. Eighty-seven percent of workers would consider leaving a company that doesn’t focus on employee wellbeing, but companies leveraging the right wellbeing strategies are more than three times as likely to engage and retain workers. A wellness program systematizes that support, which can translate into increased employee satisfaction and retention.

If you need help designing a workplace that prioritizes mental and physical wellness, speak to a Wellbeing Specialist today!

Company healthcare costs drop by up to 35% with Wellhub! (* Based on proprietary research comparing healthcare costs of active Wellhub users to non-users.) Talk to a Wellbeing Specialist to see how we can help reduce your healthcare spending!



Wellhub Editorial Team

The Wellhub Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.


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