Should You Pamper Your Top Performers?

rewards and recognition

They called him ‘Raavan’ behind his back. Probably, Rohan did not know about it. Or he did, but did not care!

He was the boss’ blue-eyed boy. And deservedly so. He had consistently closed critical deals, had built excellent industry connects and he had the magnetic aura of a magician when it came to making client presentations.

He was just back from INSEAD after completing a short company-sponsored course on Strategy. And, he was handed his letter of promotion: he was now the leader of the vertical’s sales team.

His boss was swamped with emails bearing disgruntlement and complaints:

‘He is impatient. He wants the work to be finished in half the time.’

He’s my best performer. Why shouldn’t I treat him exclusively?

Rohan is not sensitive to feelings. All he cares about is work.

‘He’s a workaholic and thinks we are lazy.’

Boss was at a loss! He knew Rohan was indispensable. But, he could not afford to have thirty-five people unhappy.

Well, this situation is not uncommon. Superstars come with their issues: mostly emanating from their own need to excel. They may have the low tolerance for slacking, for ineptitude or just lower productivity. And, they may choose to voice their views without any sugar-coating.

So, are these top performers worth the pain?

Now, a lot of leaders, often prematurely or maybe under the pressure of the larger group may conclude that top performers should not be given any special treatment. No flashy rewards. No special perks. On the other hand, they should be shown their gaps, their ‘areas of development’ and should be told to improve themselves if they wish to grow.

Yes, your top performers are definitely worth the pain.

Over time, it is common for organizational leaders to get weary of their top performers. The focus shifts to what they are unable to do, away from the generous loads of what they are able to achieve.

How can we keep our top performers happy without upsetting the rest?

Here is a three-part rule that works:-

  1. Have a formal process of identifying your top performers: Do not be in a hurry to coronate someone. Put in place an annual, cross-department process. You could use tools such as the 9-blocker to do so.
  2. Do not assume that your top performers should follow the typical progression path: from individual contributor to team leader to area manager and so on. Maybe, they are not cut-out for that. Can you create a career path keeping in mind their unique strengths? If leading teams is not their natural talent, why beat them to death over it?
    At the same time, educate them about the glass ceiling they are likely to hit and provide a mentor or a coach.
  3. Make them feel special with rewards and recognition: Reward them, not just on the formal annual or quarterly rewards day but with special, personalized gestures. Like a babymoon, if (s)he’s expecting a child, or a bungee jumping experience is she’s an adventure freak or a fine-dining experience on his tenth wedding anniversary.

Plan your rewards and recognition strategy well. Pamper them, but do so without tom-tomming about it!

What’s important is that we continue to recognize and reward them, but not tom-tom about it to others. Rewards and recognition need not be a highly-publicized affair all the time!

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