Employees are our most valuable assets, but we often don’t spend enough time making them feel valued. Have you taken time this week to recognize anyone for a specific achievement or contribution to the team? Do you have professional development conversations with your team membersHave you identified your high performers?  

It’s not surprising that a new survey from the American Psychological Association listed the top factor that influences employee satisfaction and trust in their employer is leader support. By connecting and building relationships with our team members, we can increase employee retention 


An Harvard Business Review report revealed the three top communication issues that employees experience from their leaders are not having time to meet, refusing to talk to subordinates, and not knowing employees’ names. How much trust can you have in someone who doesn’t acknowledge you or know your name?

When leaders intentionally take an interest, employees are happier and more productive. Good leaders know the value in connecting with both the emotional and rational sides of each team member. It establishes the leader as a trusted advisor and better positions them to have authentic conversations about growth and professional development with their employees. Communicating better to build relationships not only improves employee retention, it’s critical to an organization’s success.  


Employees want: 

  1. A relationship with their leader 
  2. Opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills
  3. Consistent feedback for improvement 
  4. Recognition and appreciation  

Employees also want to know that their input matters. Leaders are expected to be excellent listeners. By listening, a leader demonstrate that they respect their team’s input. Leaders also have to be highly reliable and always model the right actions and behaviors. 


To provide relevant feedback and recommendations for improvement, it’s useful to know the level at which each employee is performing. It helps us to know how much support an employee needs. Every employee deserves the chance to be supported and developed in the right way. In most organizations, there are about 30% high performers, 60% are middle/solid performers, and only 10% low performers. Once we identify what level of performance each employee belongs to, we can begin connecting to help them advance

High Performers…

  • Have a positive attitude
  • Always role model the organization’s values and behaviors 
  • Take responsibility and ownership for their work and mistakes 
  • Strive for continuous personal and professional development  
  • Bring solutions to the table, rather than only identifying problems  

“High performers do their best and their best makes a difference; they deserve for us to give our best to them.” – Dr. Janet Pilcher 

Solid Performers… 

  • Are usually loyal employees with good attendance
  • Have the desire to be successful 
  • Need direction and support to improve 

“Middle performers tend to move in and out of living the values and need specific coaching and direction to keep them on track. And, that’s okay.” – Dr. Janet Pilcher 

Low Performers… 

  • Display negative attitudes and behaviors including positioning leadership poorly, acting resistant to change, and blaming problems on the leader and other team members 
  • Lack of ownership and the motivation to meet deadlines and goals 
  • Don’t accept feedback from others, and are reluctant to update skills or knowledge 
  • Show little interest in improving their own performance or the organization’s performance 

“In the eyes of the low performer, it’s someone else’s fault.  When in reality the way they behave is an individual choice.” – Dr. Janet Pilcher 

Before engaging in conversations with employees, we recommend using the differentiating staff guide to determine the performance level of each employee. Then, refer to the following tips to prepare for connecting with your team.  


High Performer Support 

  • Identify specific examples of the employee’s contributions and characteristics. Use them to start the conversation with acknowledgment and gratitude. Ensure your high performer understands that they are a valued member of your team.  
  • Ask what they need to be a long-term employee. What can you do for them? Reiterate the important role this person plays in achieving the organization’s mission.  
  • Coach this individual to take on new responsibilities or reach new levels of performance. 

Solid Performer Support 

  • Begin the conversation by easing the anxiety this person likely feels. Let them know you want to retain them, that they are valued, and that this will be a positive, productive conversation. 
  • Describe what they do well that you want them to continue doing. Identify one single thing they can improve which will have the greatest performance impact.  
  • Ask for their ideas or provide recommendations for specific training or mentoring to improve or develop. 
  • Set small goals to help accomplish big goal, and celebrate small wins along the way. 

Low Performer Support 

  • Describe the behavior causing concern. Use quantitative results and specific examples.  
  • Explain the impact of their specific behavior. Show and tell them what needs to be done to improve. What are the specific steps they need to take?  
  • Before ending the conversation, clearly state the consequences of continued low performance and schedule a follow-up 


To drive employee retention and satisfaction, it is imperative to devote more time to nurturing leader-employee relationshipsDon’t wait for an employee’s yearly performance review to get startedHave conversations with employees about their progress and development at least once per month. Leaders who make an effort to connect with their employees about more than just their performance will benefit from a stronger relationship with their team.  


Start building a relationship from the moment a new employee joins the team. New employees are anxious and adapting to the organization. Offer specific support to keep new hires connected and on board. Make sure they feel welcomed and that they have all the tools necessary to do their job.  

Listen to stories and examples of how to better support your employees on our podcast series about performance conversations. Start with episode #16 High Performers: Who Are They?  

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