When your business goals are productivity, profitability and growth, one of the premier strategies is greater employee engagement . Aligning employees with your vision, helping them get fired up about the possibilities and setting up teams who are pulling together toward a common end – that’s the work of a successful leader. You might already be working toward cultivating higher levels of employee engagement. But there’s no time to lose – as the business scales up you’ll need to harness all of the high quality horsepower you can get.

Unintended turnover is expensive, and it’s also costly to sustain nonperforming human assets in your business. So let’s do a quick assessment of the human capital in your business.  For our purposes right now there are two factors that help you assess your “horses”- effectiveness and commitment.  Use these two factors to create quadrants into which you can categorize each of your employees.  Go ahead, draw four blocks like a window with four panes.  Write the first name of each of your direct reports in the quadrant that best describes his or her job performance. And since we’re talking about horsepower here, let’s give the categories some fun names to amp up the imagery.

  • The Showhorses – high in effectiveness, high in commitment– Thank heaven for these employees, because they are helping your business reach its potential. Include them in your strategy and decision making. Continue to develop them, and recognize their contributions. Invest your energy on these folks rather than on the others if you are short on time. Let them feel the love and they will return your investment tenfold (at least).
  • The Broncos -Low in effectiveness, high in commitment – These workers have the right attitude, but have training issues that need to be addressed. Develop these people, and make sure you deploy them in roles where they can best use their natural talents. They want to do their best for you. So help them find their best slots and acquire the skills to do so.
  • The Nags – Low in effectiveness, low in commitment – Why are these employees still hanging around the company? Is the effectiveness issue resolvable through training? Do they care enough to make the most of your investment in training if you were to decide to do so? Why is their commitment low? Is it that your job was their last resort when they needed one, or is there something in the work climate that creates fear, suspicion and detachment? This performance problem might be about them, but you and your leadership behaviors might also be a factor.
  • The Mustangs – High in effectiveness, low in commitment – Why is this person not fully on your team? Part of engaging high performers is sharing the vision with them and enlisting them in a sense of purpose, showing them an internal career path and progression. If you don’t take the steps to engage them, the highly effective folks have a lot of choices and they are likely to keep scanning the horizon for opportunities with a bigger paycheck, title, etc. Until and unless these individuals can attach to a company vision or an individual leader they feel compelled to follow, they are likely to continue to hop to anything that looks like a better deal.

Continuous talent management and the development of an invigorating work climate – these are your two key strategies to keep your top performers on board to help you grow. Employee engagement and employee development might sound like items on “Someday Isle”, things that will be nice to work on when you have time. But they are strategically important to your business’s future, and they won’t happen overnight.