Costumes and Ladders: Recognizing Star Employees

February 21, 2019

Just like a wig, glitter and feather boa-adorned reveler perched high atop a ladder in a sea of parade goers, rockstar employees should be easy to spot. But as anyone who’s ridden in a Mardi Gras parade can tell you – those standouts are easily lost in a crowd. And even harder to reach with the coveted rewards. Are your organization’s leaders prepared to notice standout employees amid the chaos of everyday work life? More importantly, are they trained on how to nurture and enable their top performers without overwhelming them?

Let’s take a look at what makes a rockstar employee, and what keeps them performing at their peak.

Recognizing Talent
According to a 2015 study of more than 4,000 employees, best performers (the top 10%) are actually 43 percentage points more productive than average performers. And they possess nine key traits that put them at the very top.

So what makes a stand-out employee? According to the study, the top traits of star workers are: providing honest feedback, being resilient, using good judgement, staying accountable, taking initiative, embracing change, volunteering to represent the group, working collaboratively, and setting stretch goals.

HR administrators and department leaders can use these benchmarks as part of performance reviews and one-on-ones to make sure their best talent is recognized and rewarded for their behavior. It can also help those employees floating just under the realm of greatness reach their full potential.

Keeping Talent
With rockstar employees in your krewe, there is a delicate balance between challenged and overworked, and the group dynamic of the team can suffer. Let’s take a look at how you can keep your top performers around longer and at the top of the bedazzled ladder.

Prevent Burnout
Managers have to stay aware of how much they’re relying on their top talent to get their department’s long list of projects and tasks completed. Over-achievers will rarely say no, even when they’re burning out and getting bogged down with more mundane, tedious assignments. Keeping task and project lists updated in shareable drives, along with weekly goals and progress tracking helps keep this in check. It’s also important to encourage personal time and socializing. Highly driven people will often have a number of passion projects that they can work on to balance their mind, while still meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations.

Just the Right Amount of Praise
When a star performer does an extraordinary job on a presentation or project, they absolutely deserve recognition or rewards. It’s essential to their continued success. But excessive public praise can be discouraging for the rest of the team. If you notice resentment building, make sure you’re addressing and recognizing the rest of your team members’ motivations and progress. Top performers can also be “pace-setters”, working at rates that are unrealistic for other team members. If the team sees constant praise bestowed on the superstar, they’ll want to keep up, potentially burning out in the process.

Put Them on Track
They don’t work this hard for nothing! It’s essential to help your superstars build toward their career goals. Ask them, “where do you want to go next, and what experiences do I need to give you to get there?” Provide them with training, networking opportunities and clearly defined career paths. Then let them march toward their goals – offer autonomy by showing trust through delegating authority and responsibility, and never, never micromanage.


Netchex is the leading HCM partner helping you improve workforce management and optimizing benefits for your employees. Our powerful, yet user-friendly technology simplifies the business of HR and bring self-service features to your company to provide more independence for your team.

Talk to us to find out how to put Netchex to work for your company. Take a look at our full suite of HCM solutions that grow with your business, including payroll, compliance, HR, benefits administration, and time & attendance, backed by experts and the best technology in the industry.