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Common Comp Crises: How to Retain Top Performers

No matter your position — or your organization! — you’re bound to encounter some sticky situations at work.

I mean, that’s just the reality of life in the office, right?

But you’re on the compensation team (or, if your company’s on the smaller side, maybe you are the compensation team) so you likely deal with more tricky problems than other employees do.

And for that reason, you’re your organization’s superhero-in-residence! 

But even superheroes need help sometimes.

That’s why I’m here to offer easy tips and tricks on how to handle some of the most common comp crises you’ll find yourself in.

The first category of conflict I’m going to cover?

How to identify, properly compensate, and retain your organization’s top performers. 

Sticky Situation — Identifying Your Organization’s Top Performers

Here’s the skinny: An executive asks you to identify the top performers at your organization.

The challenge at hand? Making sure you identify the right people.

But don’t worry — the solution to this sticky situation is simple.

Step one?

Determining what your organization’s goals are.

Maybe, you already know them. (If you do, round of applause to you! 👏)

But if you don’t know them? 

Meet with the executive who’s coming to you for help. They can explain exactly what your organization’s working towards.

Once you’ve done that, proceed to step two: figuring out which employees are instrumental in accomplishing said business goals.

Simply put? You need to do some fieldwork. 

Get on the ground and meet with managers — develop a real sense of who’s providing organizational value on their teams.

Finally, once you determine who’s contributing what, you can narrow down which employees are your organization’s top performers.

Superhero status? Renewed.

Sticky Situation — Keeping Top Performers Once They’ve Been Externally Recruited

Oh, man. This one’s all too common.

A high performer at your organization — let’s call her Karen — has been recruited by another company! They’ve offered her a competitive title and a significant pay raise.

So, should you try to retain Karen?

Start by weighing the pros and cons.

What are the pros of keeping Karen? 

Does she have some amazingly rare skills that would be hard (or expensive) to replace? Is the work she’s doing critical to your business’ greater success?

Then, quickly outline the cons of keeping Karen.

Can you afford to bump her pay?

And if you did increase Karen’s pay, how would it impact the rest of her department? Are other members just as valuable, and would they deserve more pay, too?

Would you have to change your pay philosophies?!

Take this all into consideration when making your decision.

Ultimately, you’ve got to make an important call: is it more detrimental to your company to compensate Karen competitively, or to deal with the cost of losing her (financial and otherwise)?

If you decide to keep Karen onboard?

Do what you do best! 

Define the pay markets. Share them with your worried managers or execs. And present to Karen a new, competitive, strategic offer.

And if anyone comes knocking on your door with objections? 

We explain how to handle that, too. Just download our complete e-book, The Comp Strategist’s Field Guide, for more info on this sticky situation.


With all that said, it’s crucial to stay communicative when it comes to building a bridge between comp strategy, talent strategy, and organizational goals.

Want to learn more about how to do this?

Download our free e-book, The Comp Strategist’s Field Guide

It details tons more sticky comp situations you’ll likely find yourself in. Trust me — you’re gonna want to keep this tool in your arsenal.



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