CDI Corporation

Manager Insights: How to Keep Your Top Performers Motivated

Top-performing permanent and contract employees are a critical force at your company, capable of 400 percent greater productivity than the average worker, according to research published in Personnel Psychology. Beyond their personal output, top talent inspire and motivate other employees to do their best work.

Despite their production and leadership capabilities, top performers need to be motivated too, and this is largely the responsibility of the manager. As the Harvard Business Review notes, top talent at an organization are often defined as such in part because they have the technical skills and interpersonal adeptness to do their managers’ jobs. This in turn makes them more sensitive to areas where management falls short. “High-performing employees are often inspired by the “what ifs” and innovation,” said Bill Hyman, chief human resources officer for CDI Corporation. “Forward-thinking leaders will devise individualized engagement strategies which are specific to the high performing employees.”

Hyman recommends four ways managers can increase motivation among top-performing talent:

1. Give regular feedback

Top performers, are engaged in continuous learning, constantly looking for ways to sharpen their abilities, expand their skill sets and take on new responsibilities. If top talent have to wait around until their annual performance review to hear feedback, they’re going to feel that their professional development is being stymied, and they may begin looking for other opportunities or decline to renew their contracts. Conversely, regular communication helps top-performing employees feel that their managers are invested in helping them succeed.

2. Practice career pathing

A major reason top performers leave their jobs is because they feel like there’s no room for them to grow. However, helping them develop, and then follow a road map to where they want to be in the company can quell this frustration and unleash their motivation level: This is career pathing in a nutshell. By working together to help a top-performer advance, employees feel greater ownership over their careers and managers can align the individual’s professional goals with the strategic goals of the company, thereby simultaneously boosting employee engagement levels and improving succession planning. This approach applies to contract employees as well, as they expect to develop new skills on each assignment they accept.

3. Encourage mentoring

Mentoring goes along with career pathing, as it is an effective way to develop top-performers for upper-level roles. A study by the American Society for Training & Development found that 71 percent of Fortune 500 companies use internal mentoring programs to train top performers with high potential. Mentors share valuable insights with mentees, not only on business knowledge, but also on important soft skills like how to effectively communicate with a range of stakeholders or efficiently manage teams. These relationships help top performers develop a more robust understanding of their company, its workforce and its industry. Mentorship motivates top-performers by demonstrating that the company is committed to their success. Contract employees are often overlooked when it comes to mentoring, but they too can benefit in ways ranging from being able to adapt more quickly to a new environment to developing a sense of loyalty to the company.

4. Don’t micromanage

Most employees don’t want to be micromanaged, but top performers are especially sensitive to it as they consistently show that they not only excel in their job duties but also regularly go above and beyond what’s expected of them. Instead of interfering with top talent’s day-to-day work, take a step back and learn from them, advises Jeff Miller in a blog for HR services company Insperity. Top performers often have created novel workflows and unique processes that save time, increase output or improve performance. This is particularly true of contract workers who bring to an assignment knowledge that they have gained from working on their previous assignments. Smart managers are open to change and feel excited, not threatened by, ambitious employees with new ideas. They’re genuinely curiously about how top performers work and are eager to have conversations with them about how to adopt their ideas on a larger scale. This recognition makes top performers feel appreciated and motivates them to continue innovating.

“Behaviors matters,” concluded Hyman. “How managers engage with top-performers has a significant impact on retention of both the permanent and contract employees who are critical to your company’s success. When a leader cares, it shows. Leaders who consistently demonstrate the four behaviors above will demonstrate that you care in the employee’s career and personal success.”

Recent CDI Analysis

“How managers engage with top-performers has a significant impact on retention of both the permanent and contract employees who are critical to your company’s success.”

Bill Hyman
Chief Human Resources Officer
CDI Corporation

Employment Situation (U.S.)

The pace of job growth in the U.S. slowed down somewhat during March 2018, by comparison to the month before. On a general level, indicators for this period continued to exemplify the sustained boom of the American economy. Nevertheless, some concerns exist among business leaders and economic experts regarding what the reduction in pace might signify, particularly for trade in the near future.

According to the latest edition of the Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm businesses in the U.S. added 103,000 jobs. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, remained static at 4.1 percent for the sixth month in a row. This newest figure does represent a drop of some magnitude when placed next to the 326,000 positions (revised from a preliminary total of 313,000) that American companies created in February 2018. Bloomberg reported that it fell short of the median prediction issued by the financial news network’s economists, who thought the various industries of the U.S. would add 185,000 jobs.

Industries most responsible for the gains that occurred in March included professional and business services, and mining. The former led the pack with 33,000 jobs added, continuing on a growth path that has spanned 2018 thus far. Mining rounded up the notable sector-by-sector expansions in employment for March with 9,000 new positions on its payrolls.

Construction experienced drop-offs in its payrolls, with 15,000 jobs lost. However, because this decline followed up considerable surges in February -adding 65,000 jobs that month, it should bring little to no detriment to the sector in the long run.

Wages for March 2018 went up 2.7 percent on a year-over-year basis, while average hourly earnings rose 8 cents between February and March of this year, BLS figures found. This increase is seen as one of the most positive figures in the latest Employment Situation Summary, as previous months in early 2018 and late 2017 saw static or slow wage rises despite all of the robust additions to companies’ labor forces. March also saw the year’s first hike of interest rates by the Federal Reserve – one of the initial actions by newly appointed Fed Chair Jerome Powell.

The Washington Post reported that most concerns regarding the American economic picture center around the recent tariffs the White House imposed upon steel and aluminum imported to the U.S., leading to inventory shortfalls and rashes of abrupt materials purchases. The construction and manufacturing industries, which have historically used a considerable amount of foreign steel, could see impedance to their operations based on price fluctuations and other effects of trade disputes regarding these metals. In its latest Report on Business, the Institute for Supply Management cited respondents to its queries for elaboration on these matters:

"Accurate, long-term planning has become incredibly difficult, as distributors that historically held costs for at least 30 days are now, in some cases, committing to only seven days, as prices can change drastically in that time," the ISM report stated.

However, the big picture of the U.S. economy is likely a fairly bright one due to wage gains and increases in figures like the labor force participation rate, which rose to 62.9 percent in March 2018. This increase represents an 0.2 percent uptick from the previous month and another positive step on the path toward pre-recession labor participation figures of 66 percent or greater.

The full Bureau of Labor Statistics report can be downloaded by
clicking here.

Employment Situation (Canada)

March 2018 marked a positive month for the labour pool of Canada. According to the latest release of the Labour Force Survey from Statistics Canada, businesses throughout the nation created 32,000 new jobs. This influx constituted a considerable increase from February, which saw a gain of 15,000 jobs but due to jumps in only a few trades, multiple prominent industries saw declines.

Nevertheless, March showed undeniable signs of strength in the Canadian economy, which could be harbingers of a good year on the horizon. The country’s unemployment rate, which had fallen to 5.8 per cent in February, remained at that level despite a month’s passage.

The fields of construction and public administration were responsible for the lion’s share of Canadian job growth in March, with the former creating 18,000 new positions and the latter seeing an addition of 12,000 roles. Educational services also experienced a notable increase in employment, with an influx of 8,400 new workers, and agriculture was not far behind with its 8,100 positions created.

Most of the job losses within various industries were small enough that the gains of leading sectors balanced them out for growth overall in the month of March. Prominent sectors of the Canadian economy to experience notable drops in employment were the field of information, cultural and recreational services, which lost 8,700 jobs, transportation and warehousing (8,400 jobs), and manufacturing, the latter going through a decline of 8,300 positions from February to March.

Looking solely on the surface level, these numbers may appear somewhat small. But when shifting the focus onto year-over-year metrics, it becomes more readily apparent that Canada is in the midst of a sustained economic upturn. Total employment within the provinces rose by 296,000 as of March 2018, constituting a 1.6 per cent increase from March 2017. Also, industries like transportation and manufacturing, which both saw month-to-month degradation, are in the midst of longer-term recoveries: Transportation employment is up 6.1 per cent between March 2017 and 2018, and manufacturing has risen 2.4 per cent.

Statistics Canada also found that total hours worked increased 2.2 per cent, which further indicates a labour force working hard at its various tasks. Additionally, the agency released its first 2018 report on the state of Canadian labourer wages, which found average earnings to be on the rise at a slow but steady pace. Mean weekly pay for January 2018 was $996 – a small change from December 2017 but a noteworthy 3.2 per cent uptick when measured on a year-over-year basis. Those working in finance and insurance saw the largest percentage gain in average weekly earnings – 9.1 per cent – with accommodation and food services employees close behind due to an 8.2 per cent increase.

Reuters reported that all of these positive and promising indicators bore a significant share of the responsibility for the rise seen in the Canadian dollar on April 6. BMO Capital Markets chief economist Doug Porter spoke positively of the numbers but also said he wasn’t sure how they would affect investors’ hope for increases in interest rates.

"We did see an initial jump in the Canadian dollar, partly because of a bit of a disappointment in the [U.S.] jobs report initially and a nice headline on the Canadian number," Porter told the news provider. "I don’t think it meaningfully changed the outlook for the Bank of Canada."

Given the careful attitude currently exhibited by the national bank, economists think another rate hike before May is less than 50 per cent likely. However, the Bank of Canada implemented three increases between July 2017 and March 2018, which may well be indicative of general faith in the Canadian economy.

Canadian ES Report:
Labour Force Survey, March 2018

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