10 Tips For Handling High Achieving Employees

Posted by Trakstar • April 22, 2022 (Last modified April 25, 2022) • 7 min read

Attracting, retaining, and engaging high achieving employees is difficult for many managers to do. Why? High achieving employees tend to be the hardest workers, but they come with a peculiar set of quirks that you can’t always train for and won’t always encounter.

Everyone wants to have employees that go above and beyond to reach their KPIs and goals – until they get one and don’t know how to handle it.

How To Handle High Achieving Employees

While all employees want to be successful and good at what they do, high achieving employees, in particular, have a desire to go above and beyond the normal job requirements. This may sound like a great quality, but it can be harder than you’d think to manage, teach, and change some of these employees to fit your company’s culture.

So how can you handle this type of employee?

Tip 1: Praise Them For Mediocrity

Praise an employee for being mediocre? Are you reading that correctly? Yes-praise employees who are normally high achievers for doing something just well enough. Why? High achievers tend to be their own harshest critics and will beat themselves up constantly if they feel the need to.

If you think they do a mediocre job for another reason (maybe they work remotely and the newest season of a big TV show came out or it’s near the holidays and they  are online shopping), then you can call it out. But if they do something they aren’t that good at, praise them anyway. Tell them that you appreciate the way they worked hard.

Sometimes, you can’t praise what they actually do, so you have to find another angle. 

Try This: “I know making cold calls isn’t your favorite thing to do, but I see the hard work you’re putting into improving.”

Tip 2: Understand Their Motivations

What motivates your high achieving employees? What is behind the work they do? Everyone has some kind of motivation, whether it is praise, pay, or rewards of some kind. Find out what motivates your high performing employees and offer them those things every now and then. This doesn’t mean constant raises or praise, just something special when they go above and beyond their job description.

Tip 3: Proactively Identify Them

Who is a high achiever? You can proactively identify them from the moment you see their application for an open position. There are a few things that should stand out to you, including:

  • People who went above and beyond their job description
  • Those who are willing to take on a variety of challenges
  • Anyone who sends questions or follow-ups after interviews
  • Someone who tries to upskill themself or learn more

Not all of these are signs that someone is high achieving, but rather they are signs that you should look a little closer.

Another way to identify high achieving employees within your workforce? Start using a 9-box grid. These grids can help you map out your workforce to see where people are, see how they move, and identify high achievers who are ready for promotion.

Tip 4: Don’t Keep Them Waiting

High achievers work quickly and they tend to expect that same speed out of everyone they encounter. If slowed down, they get annoyed and snippy with you or with their coworkers. If you say you are going to get them something, try to make it as quick as possible – particularly when you are feeding their performance in some way.

For example, if you say that you are going to enroll them in upskilling to help them apply for an internal position, try to enroll them quickly in all the courses they need. They’ll move just as quickly as you do.

Tip 5: Don’t Micromanage Them

Often, the best employees will be set in their ways and have a specific way to do something. If you micromanage them and try to change, you could cause rifts or problems. While they should be expected to follow rules and procedures, you don’t need to micromanage their every move. If you have cause for concern, then you can address it quickly with them. 

This is hard for many managers to master because they feel like so much is riding on them, so you may want to work through the best way to work with high achieving employees on a case-by-case basis.

Tip 6: Keep Challenging Them

High achieving employees don’t like to stay still. They have a natural desire to be better and learn more. You need to keep challenging them. This might mean giving them more “whale” clients if they are on your sales team or presenting them with challenging cases in healthcare. It might mean suggesting they learn new skills so that they can take on bigger responsibilities.

For some positions, like retail for example, it might mean scheduling them on high profile days with big releases or bigger crowds. The “challenge” itself will vary by industry.

Tip 7: Give Them The “Good” Jobs Too

So often, we give our best employees the hard jobs that someone else would complain about – don’t do that all the time. Obviously, there are harder jobs that we need to give them, whether that is a troublesome client who needs a lot of one-on-one attention or a medical patient with a history of outbursts. We put a lot of pressure on high achieving employees to win these harder cases, clients, and situations – but we need to give them easier ones as well.

Tip 8: If Possible, Group Them

Natural high achievers can be insufferable to other people. Group high achievers and performers together so that they can motivate and feed each other – and a little competition never hurts either. This isn’t just for your high achieving employees. “Regular” performers can sometimes clash with high performers because they don’t have the same work ethic, beliefs, or dedication. (This doesn’t mean they are bad employees! They just don’t have the natural drive to be a high performer.)

Tip 9: Encourage Self-Care & Breaks

Another thing you can do for your workforce to handle high achieving employees is to encourage self-care and pacing themselves. Why? Your high achieving employees don’t stop to breathe or check-in on themselves, so you may have to force them to do so. 

Schedule in breaks and encourage your employees to actually take them. If someone is working and seems like they are extremely stressed or tired, suggest they take a day off. If your entire workforce seems down, then scheduling something fun may be a good bet.

Tip 10: Be Ready For Burnout

One of the biggest worries for managing high achieving employees is burnout. Burnout can impact anyone in any industry, but burnout in the medical field is prevalent right now, but some other industries impacted include:

  • Education
  • Construction
  • Business
  • Legal Services
  • Human Resources
  • Retail

There is burnout everywhere. Human resources has to be at the forefront of the movement to not only treat burnout, but prevent it in the first place. To learn more about burnout, you can watch an on-demand version of our webinar here.

Use The Trakstar Platform To Help Handle High Achieving Employees At All Stages of the Employee Lifecycle

Struggling to attract and manage high performing employees? It’s difficult to do in organizations of any size, but particularly when you have a large workforce and only a few people monitoring employee behavior. Too often, high achieving employees end up changing jobs frequently because of burnout. With help from Trakstar’s platform, you don’t have to worry about that. 

Having a platform that naturally guides your employees through the employee lifecycle, encouraging ongoing education and training while regularly checking engagement and setting goals can help attract, retain, and engage the highest achieving employees.

To learn more about the Trakstar Platform and how it can fit into your day-to-day expectation setting, schedule a demo today.

Don't Miss Out on More Great HR Articles!

Subscribe to get the latest, greatest HR and Talent Development content straight to your inbox.