J.T. O’Donnell, Founder & CEO, WorkItDaily.com

They say employee turnover is at an all-time high right now. Given the low unemployment rate, talented employees have options. If you aren't keeping yours happy, they can (and will!) take their skills elsewhere. And unfortunately, when top performers get poached by the competition, you’re under the gun to fill the void left by their departure. You can try to hire new rock stars. But, unless you're willing to throw huge amounts of money at the problem (i.e. lure people from your competitors with big salaries and bonuses), it can be tough. So, here's an alternative:

Rank Your Employees, And Act Accordingly

Right now, I guarantee if I had you rank all your employees from "best" to "worst" you could do it. Every manager secretly ranks their employees in their heads. Once you've done this, you should first focus on making sure the employees at the top of the list are truly happy and won't be tempted to leave you for a big payday elsewhere. Next, you should identify which of your average employees you want to turn into top performers. Upskilling your average workers is a lot cheaper than spending outrageous sums of money trying to get top performers to come to your company. Who, by the way, will still require training and on-ramping time. 

Take Them Through The 'Core, Reach, Passion' Journey of Excellence

After years in the corporate HR world, I ended up developing a very simple pyramid process to teach all employees how to become top performers. I use it to help my staff understand the steps they'll need to take to find greater career satisfaction within our organization.

In short, I show them how to become not only valuable to their employer, but to feel in control of their career and like what they're doing. It takes just three simple steps:

1. Core — Get clear on the foundational aspects of their job and make sure they are fully proficient and highly effective at the tasks they are required to do. Eventually, they should get to a point where they feel they can do their job in 80% of the time or less, freeing up at least 20% of their week to move to the next level.

2. Reach — Identify stretch goals that require the employee to learn new skills. Give them the outside resources and training to do so.  You can send them to seminars, or give them time to take online courses, etc. Just make sure the skills are valuable in that they can save or make the company money. The employee then uses this time to get educated and proficient at harder, more exciting tasks, which they also now know are considered valuable to their employer.

3. Passion — When the employee has clearly upskilled, they're asked to identify on their own a project or initiative they want to lead that would let them showcase their new skill sets. This allows them to choose what they want to work on next. As long as they can prove it will add value and is in alignment with company goals, then it is approved and they are in charge. Once they achieve success on this project, we look at the results and act accordingly — i.e. provide praise, recognition, etc.

What I love about this process is while we use it for everyone, it's tailored to suit each employee's unique employment needs. Along with this process, we also use a tool called, The Career Decoder, to help them identify the way they prefer to add value on the job as a way to help them realize what direction they should choose to go in. No two employees are the same, and therefore, the journey they take to become a top performer (who is also insanely happy at work), isn't the same either. This format helps to effectively shape the dialog and the steps taken to ensure our employee-employer relationship stays a win-win situation.