The best companies thrive because their employees are valued members of the company – everyone’s labor matters and they know it.

Are you thankful for your employees? And do you see your employees as a cost line of your P&L or do you consider them an asset? In my experience in working with many companies across a wide range of industries, geographies and company-sizes, it is 100% true that those companies that consider employees as assets thrive – hands down.

Succeeding in today’s new normal business environment requires a well-thought out and fundamentally different strategy than five years ago.  Standing out from the crowd requires innovation.  I’ve yet to find a client with an innovative culture that didn’t value its employees. Top on the list is to view your employees as assets. According to LMA Consulting Group Inc. research, 87% of manufacturers and distributors are experiencing a skills gap. Thus, it doesn’t require a Harvard PhD to see the value of retaining top talent.

A few simple yet highly effective strategies to retain top talent include: 1) Find your stars. 2) Focus on your stars. 3) Be an effective leader.

1. Find your stars: Your star employees will make the difference between being stuck in survival mode and THRIVING. Thus, you must begin by identifying these stars. Many times, these employees are overlooked – heads down, delivering results, leading projects, etc.

Since they aren’t typically focused on politics, they are likely to be under the radar. And worse, since they are focused on delivering results, they are likely to bring up uncomfortable topics and ask for tough decisions. Thus, they might not be considered a star. Unfortunately, I’ve found that leaders tend to think stars are those who are liked, agreeable and hard-working. For example, employees who work long hours are in this category; however, that doesn’t necessarily relate at all to whether the employee achieves and accomplishes anything while working hard.

Instead, look for those leaders and employees who consistently deliver results. You’ll have to look hard, as they might not have time to promote their results since they are focused on ensuring they occur. Who is not complaining? Typically, when employees complain, we immediately wonder about the person being complained about. Why? The deviation from standard is the person complaining. It’s fascinating how we can chase our tails without considering the facts. Look for informal leaders. If someone has an issue (not a complaint), who do they go to for help?

2. Focus on your stars: I cannot tell you how often companies make the HUGE mistake of ignoring their star employees. What could be easier to deliver your growth & profitability numbers than leveraging already-existing assets? Why must leaders jump to the conclusion that they can solve “all the company issues” by replacing star leaders and employees? Sound ridiculous? Absolutely; however, it occurs every day. And why do they treat the leaders and employees delivering results poorly? In my experience, it’s because the pragmatic approach to management can be uncomfortable.

It requires hard work, commitment and integrity. Unfortunately, there are no short cuts. For example, instead of focusing on understanding roadblocks, emphasizing results and being an example, isn’t it easier to say “if we replace Sally, it will solve our problem”? After all, is it more comfortable to want to spend time in meetings with those who will agree with everything you say and appear supportive than those who push back and bring up potential roadblocks?

Those companies who THRIVE will be those who not only identify their stars but also focus on them. Find out what they think. Ask for their ideas. Promote them. Appreciate them. Explain how their value contributes to the company’s success. Invest in them. The bottom line: Treat them like your #1 asset.

3. Be an effective leader: Last but not least, star leaders and employees crave effective leadership. I could write another 500 pages on effective leadership; however, a few musts include: 1) Establish goals and discuss. Both easy goals and unrealistic goals are not only ineffective but are also a de-motivator. Goal setting isn’t simple but it’s core to success. 2) Provide support, tools and appreciation on an ongoing basis. The hard work begins. These cannot be empty promises with your star employees. You will work harder than ever before to succeed. 3) Continually work together to find opportunities and evolve in a way to ensure success.

My passion surrounds delivering bottom line results with people. It doesn’t require capital or cash; instead, it boils down to leadership. Is it worth investing effort into your people to grow your business and accelerate business results?