How to Keep Your Rockstar Employees

You’ve just hired a rockstar employee—now you’re wondering how long you’ll be able to keep her.

Competitive wages and benefits are not enough to ensure that your best and brightest rockstars will remain engaged. In fact, I bet you will find that when you interview your employees about what they value most at work, very few — if any — will say salary.

Rather, employees are most likely to say something like “even-keeled bosses who made time for me, who helped me riddle through work issues by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who are attentive in employees’ lives and careers.”

For example, consider new hire and rockstar Jill — an outstanding, experienced Property Manager recently drafted at considerable expense from one of the hiring company’s main competitors. Despite her outward success and the success of her newly acquired property, she’s unsure how she’s performing, where she stands in the company, and how she fits into the overall goals of the agency. Her pay is great and she loves the autonomy of not being micro-managed, but over time, she finds herself feeling dispirited by the lack of communication and checks out.

The loss of rockstar performers like Jill doesn’t just leave a talent vacuum to seal; it also leaves a wide hole in the bottom line.

Keeping rockstars engaged comes down to creating a culture of communication — one in which employees know the organization’s direction, how they factor into it, and what’s expected of them.

Following are three strategies to create this culture.

  1. Have a Great Training Program. The average Starbucks barista gets more training in a year than the average employee in a property management company. For most employees, the single most important motivational factor is the capability to learn; yet most property management companies have a huge disconnect when it comes to observations about company training. Many apartment community employees say they learn by figuring things out on their own, but generally feel confused when not provided with enough direction.

  2. Deliver Steady, Constant Feedback. Employee feedback is a precarious part of the education progression, and shouldn’t just be consigned to the annual review. To be effective, feedback needs to be specific and actionable.  Unfortunately, time constraints and the inevitable fire of day-to-day property management life often get in the way of such feedback.  

    In a study by Leadership IQ, 53% of employees believed that when their boss praises excellent performance, the feedback does not provide enough beneficial information to help them repeat it.

    Additionally, 65% responded that when their boss is critical of poor performance, they don’t provide enough beneficial information to help them correct the issue.

    Feedback, both positive and constructive, is most effective when given right away. Negative feedback given a month after the fact can lead to a passive-aggressive environment in which an employee feels powerless to act on the advice.

  3. Publicly and Overtly Recognize Good Work. Frequently, managers see motivation in terms of financial compensation, but money is far from the only way to successfully reward rockstar employees.

A 2009 survey by McKinsey Quarterly revealed that “praise and accolades from an immediate manager” (67%) and “attention from leaders” (62%) were the top two incentives most effective in motivating employees.

Praise and accolades go a long way in making employees feel distinguished and appreciated. And the power of a pat on the back is increased when it’s done visibly. Employees not only feel the support and reverence of their manager, but the entire organization as well (including top-level executives). Creating an outline for “social recognition” will inspire a culture of appreciation throughout your firm.