After a few rounds of performance appraisals, you’ve been able to identify who your high performers are. Unbeknownst to you, these high performers are dissatisfied, and have one foot out the door. How do you solve a problem like this when the employee has already set their sights on another position at another company? You have to manage performance before high performers leave. Now, this doesn’t mean 3 weeks before they leave you start kicking it into high gear; you have to manage performance for these high performers from the beginning. Here’s how to do it right:

Understand Career Plans

This is a perfect topic for the performance review conversation. Because you’re looking for areas to help your employees grow, and they want the training and experience to help them reach the next step in their professional career, take this time to thoughtfully devise goals that satisfy both ends of the performance appraisal. To help them move towards their goal, before they find a company that will give them that opportunity, give them options for training or professional development. Karie Willyerd, Coauthor of The 2020 Workplace, said:

“Two-thirds of high performers reported that their bosses did not deliver on supporting them for formal training programs. Even with limited funds for training, framing assignments from the viewpoint of what the high performer will learn can make a difference.”

Give Balanced Feedback

Despite the predominant glowing conduct at work, high performers still need a detailed inventory of both successes and areas that could still use some improvement. It keeps them engaged by developing their skills that aren’t quite as on track as others. While it’s important to include areas that could use a little bit of work, don’t let good work from your high performers go unnoticed. And, as Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce noted, some high performers naturally stand out in the crowd, others have a tendency to fall under the radar. With performance reviews, you can give these under-the-radar high performers the balanced feedback and recognition they need.

Include Examples

With that balanced list I mentioned above, you also need to include examples of the pros and cons of their work. You did a wonderful job on the quarterly report, but it was finished 2 days behind schedule. With specific examples, employees are able to easily translate your feedback into actionable benchmarks towards the bigger goal (for both the organization and the employee). Instill in your team a culture of accountability. It’s difficult for employees to do exceedingly well on a project if they don’t feel they have true ownership of it; it gives them the intrinsic rewards that have a deeper impact than the physical rewards organizations are so apt to give.

Minimize Surprises

Unless it’s an unexpected raise, don’t surprise your high performers. As high performers, they are more productive than their peers and in negatively surprising them, it increases their flight risk. That is not only a costly recruitment expense for you, you’ve just lost a high performer who is on average more productive, more engaged, and has a longer tenure than their coworkers. Gallup noted that high performers often have a decade or more of experience at their organization, they are extremely engaged in their work, and they are in positions that align well with their innate talents. Don’t risk losing the ideally fit, tenured candidate because of a simple negative surprise… give them a peek into what the performance appraisal will cover.

Just like any other employee, it’s important to maintain a high standard of performance management. However, with high performers, they require a dedicated understanding of their ultimate career goals and they need you to provide some sort of development to help them get there. With the right balance of feedback with examples, you can both recognize great work and help solve problem areas. No one likes bad surprises, so before any news that’s less than neutral, give them some insight. With these few tips, you can effectively manage high performers before they leave.