The Secret to Retaining High Performers

Senior-level prospects care about more than just their salary, says a new study by 3P Partners. Defined expectations, career growth, and remote work and flexibility are also key reasons that employees stay or leave their job. Even C-suite leaders!

October 7, 2019 – In today’s competitive market, it is increasingly difficult to attract and retain high-performers. 3P Partners, which provides search services to the food and agribusiness industry, recently polled clients in its network about the reasons they would look for a new job and what drives them in the workplace.

“We spend the majority of our day reaching out to candidates who are not actively looking for a new job so that we can provide a wider talent pool to our clients,” said Rachel Quinn, managing director at Davis, CA-headquartered 3P Partners. “We are tasked with understanding why someone would accept a new job when they are happy in their current role?”

To find some answers, the firm surveyed a wide range of professionals within its network. These participants had varied technical competencies and years of experience. Here are 3P Partners top four findings:

1. Money Isn’t Everything. 

“Our survey debunked the common misconception that a higher base salary is the sole deciding factor in employees pursuing other employment opportunities,” said Ms. Quinn. “We saw that more senior-level candidates – in other words, those with 15 to 25 years of experience — valued career growth just as much as salary.”


Rachel Quinn founded 3P Partners in 2013 when she relocated to the U.S. from Australia. She has a solid track record of placing C-level food and agribusiness industry executives. Her team is dedicated to providing top level service and building long-term relationships with both candidates and clients. Rachel holds a Bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia


“Opportunity for a greater bonus was ranked as the third most common answer given by more junior level candidates – in other words, respondents with less than 10 years of experience,” she said. “Although this seems like a popular reason within this group, it did not have the same weighting for individuals with more than 10 years of experience. There was also a significant variance depending on the industry focus. For example, participants in commodity trading put a greater emphasis towards the importance of a bonus, compared with those in engineering.”

2. Expectation Setting is Critical.

All candidates – from each and every experience level, industry, and position – reported that the lack of expectation setting had a significant impact in deciding to leave a company. “The solution is simple,” Ms. Quinn said. “Managers should establish clearly defined goals and objectives with their employees and reward their employees if they do what is expected of them.”

“It should be a mutually beneficial scenario,” she said. “If an employee’s performance exceeds expectations, the key is to follow through with what was communicated as a result of exceeding their goals, which has a direct correlation with satisfaction and engagement levels.”

3. Identify Opportunities for Career Growth.

More than 50 percent of respondents listed opportunity for career growth and progression as one of the main reasons why candidates left their companies, regardless of the years of experience or industry focus.

“Engagement levels and productivity are positively correlated,” said Ms. Quinn. “The majority of the candidates that we speak to would benefit from more frequent, informal catch-ups with their managers. Tracking performance against what is required for their next promotion, and identifying opportunities for training and development is critical — even if it is shadowing a more senior colleague or suggesting tips to improve their output.”

4. Flexibility does not Decrease Productivity. 

The 3P report found that the ability to work remote and flexible work schedules were among the top five reasons respondents in all categories gave for seeking new employment.


Achieving Work/Life Balance Sometimes Means Working Weekends
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“In the smart phone era, juggling work commitments with other priorities has become much more attainable,” said Ms. Quinn. “As long as expectations are clearly established, granting flexible work schedules or allowing employees to work remote, should not hinder work performance. Not only should it have the adverse effect, but it would enable managers to tap into a broader talent pool.”

“There is no single solution to retaining high performers,” Ms. Quinn said. “Our survey proved that employees have diverse criteria for leaving or taking a new job.” But, she added, “If you dedicate the time to understand your team and their individual drivers, set clear expectations and deliver appropriate rewards and/or recognition, identify opportunities for training and development, and consider alternative flexible work schedules or work environments, you will boost employee engagement levels and attract and retain your high-performers.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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