Hey, CEO. What are you doing to retain your most valuable employees?

A nonprofit CEO has a wide range of responsibilities, including insuring that programs and services are being carried out effectively, engaging the board, and the never-ending raising money to keep the doors open.

But an often overlooked responsibility is staff development.

And when a CEO focuses on the staff, it’s often aimed at the under-performers.  How can we get better work out of this person?  Are her skills keeping up with the growing needs of the job?  Do we have no alternative but to end this person’s employment?

Those are all important issues for staff who aren’t contributing as much as you think they can.  But this attention to under-performers can often come at the expense of paying attention to your stars – the people who are doing a great job, who don’t need much supervision, and who make you look good.

What are you doing to insure they aren’t motivated to consider opportunities at other organizations? What are you doing to insure that they want to stay on your team for a long time? 

 Here are a few specific things you as the CEO can and should do for these stars.

  1. If you haven’t done so recently, tell them directly and explicitly how much you appreciate the work they’re doing.
  2. Money is always tight, but consider a modest, mid-year raise that will surprise and delight them.  That’s a lot cheaper in the long run than having to recruit and train a new person, who might not even be less expensive.
  3. Ask them to suggest a couple professional development activities that your organization will pay for.  What conference, workshop, class, or other activity would they like to attend that gives them a few days away from their routine, and hopefully expands how they can contribute to the organization’s success.

It’s easy to ignore or overlook the stars when your time is taken up worrying about under-performers and all the other parts of a busy CEO’s job.  But what has a bigger payoff:  Getting a 10% improvement from an under-performer, or a 5% improvement from a star?

The three suggestions above are just a few ways to support a star.  What would you add to the list?  Feel free to add your comments below.