5 Reasons Why Your Top Talent Suddenly Underperforms And How to Fix It

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals, Advice for Start-ups and Entrepreneurs

You worked so hard to score top talent for your business. When your dream team was assembled, you could hardly believe your eyes. The most competent, capable, motivated, productive people in the world made a wealth of difference for your workplace, bringing in customers and revenue. That is, until they didn’t.

If your top talent begins underperforming, seemingly out of nowhere, it’s time to examine a few crucial aspects of your workplace. Is it solely because your talent has stopped caring as much as they once did, or are you making critical errors on your part?

1. They’re Deep in Burnout

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy with high turnover rates. Undoubtedly, it’s best to allow your top talent to handle the most important projects. You can’t afford to leave enough room for error to dole these tasks out to the average employees. The problem with the best and the brightest is that they’re always stuck with the hard stuff. Even if initially they enjoy the challenge of difficult tasks, after a while, they really start to resent it.

If you’re swimming in difficult projects and tossing them off to your top talent, they may underperform because of burnout. They’re tired, they’re stressed out, and they’re desperately seeking dry land. Remember to give them plenty of breaks, gaps between difficult projects, and to let them come in late or go home early once in a while. They’re more useful to you when their stress levels are down.

Another thing you can do is assign another employee, or employees, to help your best talent finish the most challenging tasks. Even the most difficult projects usually consist of a few easier parts which you can delegate to the rest of your team. This way not only do you take some burden off of the shoulders of your top talent, showing them that you care, but you also let other team members participate in the most difficult tasks. They will learn more about the challenges involved, and may soon be able to work on some of those projects themselves.

2. The Environment Isn’t Satisfying

Make work a place they love to be, rather than a place they feel trapped in. Redecorate the office. Incorporate color, art, and fresh flowers. Let them bring their pets to work. Make it easy for them to have healthy snacks at work. Let them work remotely on occasion. Take hiking trips together, and have employee movie nights in the break room catered. When work feels more like home, your top talent will be comfortable. They’ll feel motivated to push themselves because they’re deeply embedded in company culture and they know a reward is right around the corner.

3. They Want More Than Money

No one will ever reject a salary bump, especially if they’re doing the same work for more pay. If you can afford to give your top talent a salary bump, it’s only right that you make that move. Even though a pay raise is great, it might not solve everything especially with working with millennials.

Consider offering your top talent more than money. Give them the opportunity to travel and represent the business. Create a tuition reimbursement program for employees who want to learn more and do greater things. Put a gym in the office or work out an arrangement for discount memberships at the nearest gym – your employees will love that you’re prioritizing their health. A fulfilling career is something that will give them so much more than a paycheck. When they see all the ways it benefits their lives to have more than money, their attitude towards work will likely change.

4. They’re Too Ambitious

There’s a highly talented ambitious employee in your workplace. Let’s call her Barbara. Barbara worked very hard for the recognition, rewards, and promotions she’s received since she was onboarded to your company. Barbara has now been in the same position for two years, but the fire is still burning bright. She’s not done learning, climbing, and achieving great things. She feels like there’s a wall in front of her that she can’t break down, no matter what she does. It becomes hard for Barbara to love her job, so she just starts phoning in it.

If you’re dealing with a Barbara, you need to treat her appropriately. She’s going to lose interest if she doesn’t understand her career trajectory and what it takes to move up. Sit with your ambitious employee who has suddenly become disillusioned. Work with that employee to create a plan that will help you both benefit – she’ll get to move up, and your company will grow stronger from that move.

5. You’re Expecting Too Much

Sometimes, bosses lose sight of who employees are as people and not just their outsourcing service agreement. They’re what makes everything function, and unfortunately, it’s easy to look at them as parts of a machine. If you keep increasing the burden and you aren’t offsetting it, even the most productive employees may not be able to keep up.

The best thing to do in this scenario is to apologize and speak to your employees about what they need from you. Some of them may prefer that you hire more employees to redistribute the weight of the workload. Perhaps, reducing your expectations and being a little more patient is the best idea.

It might not be easy for you to identify which reason may be causing your top talent to underperform. If that’s the case, simply ask them. Meet them with compassion, hear them out, and take steps to make changes that will benefit them. Conversation is the key to success.

Michelle Arios