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Remember the last time you were recognized for a job well done? It felt good, didn’t it? Also, it motivated you to keep working hard because you knew you were appreciated, and your efforts were seen by others.

It is important to recognize any employee when they do a good job, which can be as simple as telling them ‘good job’ or recognizing them at a meeting; especially your top performers.

These are the employees who are on the management track and other leadership positions.

This article discusses what makes up a top performer and how they can come in many different forms.

What Is a Top Performer?

No matter the type of personality, a top performer can be picked out from a mile away.

Even if a top team player is introverted or more extroverted, they all have the confidence that inspires others to do their very best every day. All great leaders can offer up consistent results and hit their mark with poise. Great employees are always looking for ways to learn more. They advance themselves in the industry for the betterment of the company. Here’s how you can spot a potential top-performer:

Here are five things to look for when searching for a top performer:

  • Intellectual Firepower – From intelligence comes thoughtful analysis, asking the right questions, good judgment, and better decisions.  They should demonstrate that they are able to take on a leadership role. This could be someone who rose quickly in another organization and was rewarded with an important leadership job.
  • Values – All the intelligence in the world isn’t going to help a person who lacks basic integrity and compassion for other human beings. Honesty, decency, respect, kindness, generosity, and consideration are important values a great employee should possess. Have an interviewee speak more to their team-building experience in order to get a better feel of the integrity of their character.
  • Passion – The level of enthusiasm and interest in work and life that makes someone stand out above the rest. You either have it or you don’t
  • Work Ethic – You want someone who is passionate about the work they do, and they feel good when they’re highly productive. During the interview process, try to find out if they’ve worked weekends, what they’ve sacrificed at times to work instead of play. You often must make sacrifices for a greater good.
  • Experience – This is something that you can provide them. If the other four factors are there, the experience isn’t as important. Nonetheless, it’s always beneficial to have experience in the field.

Recognize Top Performers in a Unique Way

It is great to have an employee of the month to help highlight a person’s monthly success, but it becomes mundane over time and can turn into a popularity contest. But to properly recognize a top performer, it should come as more of a surprise. Having random announcements helps keep everyone on their toes and keeps everyone inspired.

  • Give your top performers varied and interesting assignments. Creative people get bored easily, so giving them varied tasks and letting them know that these tasks are important will help them to feel valued and more engaged in the work that they do. Need some new ideas on how to cut costs in your shipping operation while making it greener? Offer your high performers the assignment.
  • Let them be recognized and appreciated for the work that they do. The assignment to make shipping greener? Let them present their proposed changes to the board. Allow them to connect with other high performers and managers in the company to allow them to grow into new and higher positions in the company.
  • Provide your top-performer with a mentor to help them grow. Make sure that you assign them to someone who can and wants to talk to a younger employee.
  • Give them responsibilities, clear paths for growth, and advancement. If they fail, find out what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future. If things go well, reward them.
  • Let them know that they have a career path with the company. Take the time to work out a career path with them. With clear milestones, training, and assessments along the way. Give them various experiences so that they can grow into effective managers.

Implement Different Ways to Say Congratulations

Mix it up! Employees are smart and catch on quickly with how and when announcements occur.

Management should incorporate an element of surprise that is unique to the standout employee.

Have employees fill out an HR survey upon being hired. This is a quick and concise way to learn each employees’ favorite restaurant, favorite dessert, etc.

1. Reward Those Who Leave Their Comfort Zone

Congratulate a standup employee for going beyond their expertise. Something as simple as attending multiple marketing events can set an employee apart from the rest.

2. Reward Employees Who Take the Initiative to Learn a New skill and Come Back to the Rest of the Team and Teach it.

It shows that they are working to better themselves and giving back to the company to help others learn a new and important skill. Work with an employee to identify new skills or technology that can help the company. You can even fund any training that they need to further encourage them to make strides in bettering themselves.

3. Ask Employee Preferences

Happy Hour After Work

If you have a set of top employees that provide consistent and solid results, ask them how they’d like to be rewarded. It could call for a team building event or extra work from home days.

Even if you are not reaching towards a goal, if your employees say that the team needs energy or a morale boost, it might be time for a celebration. If to just say that you appreciate them.

Even a small celebration with food can be a special pat on the back. Tell someone they have done a good job and then tell them to redouble their efforts can come across as self-servicing and cynical.

By opening more communication channels with your employees, will allow for there to be more transparency when giving honest feedback. You want to keep your employees happy, so give them a choice with how they might be rewarded.

It creates healthy competition so other employees can challenge themselves.

  1. Celebrate milestones – set goals on the path towards a larger goal and celebrate when the goals are met. Keep things in perspective, have small celebrations on the way to a goal, and a larger celebration when the project is finished.
  2. Be authentic, if you don’t feel like celebrating other people can tell.
  3. Follow through on promises. Have a celebration if you say that you will have a celebration.
  4. Bring food, possibly drinks to the event. Any celebrations are more fun with food.


For business leaders, it is important to cultivate an environment that fosters, mentors, and encourages top performers to try new things and grow into their positions. They will always remember your company as a place that helped them to grow into a high-level position.

When they talk about your company as a place that encourages growth and development, others will want to work there too!

Written By
Emily Banks is a Bay Area Native who got tired of SF’s cold beaches and decided to move to San Diego. She is currently the editor for the HR section of 365 Business. When she is not typing away on her office keyboard, she can be found eating street tacos in the sunshine.

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