I recently wrote a blog “Everyone needs a Buddy”, focusing on the Sydney Swans AFL footballer Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin.  The theme was around recruitment of star performers, following the Swans much publicised signing of one of the AFL’s most elite players from last year’s Premiership winning side, Hawthorn.

I spoke of the record cost of $10 million to sign him and his value to the Swans to justify such a high price tag.  Attracting a star like Buddy is one thing, but how do you keep star performers focused and engaged with the organisation and how do you make them even better?All-Star-Employee

Although it is only year one of his ten year contract, the Sydney Swans seem to have found the answer.

Results After Year One

Since writing that blog Buddy has not only been a major factor in the Swans finishing the regular season on top of the ladder, but he has also won the Coleman Medal as the AFL’s top goal scorer and came equal second in the ‘Brownlow Medal’ count for the AFL’s best and fairest player for 2014, only two votes behind the winner.  As a key forward this is quite rare as usually the top ten is made up of midfield players.  He has only finished in the top ten twice before (6th and 8th) and no key position player has won the medal since Tony Lockett in 1987, so it’s fair to say he has had an outstanding season.  If he had not been rested for the last game before the finals series he may well have won. He has slotted into the Swans line up magnificently.

On Saturday he lined up against his former side Hawthorn to contest the Grand Final and Buddy was one of the few shining lights in a losing side, kicking four goals.  The Hawks were just too strong on the day, but I have no doubt the Swans will be right up there in contention for several years to come.  Despite the loss on Saturday, recruiting Buddy has been a big success so far. Sydney Swans membership exceeded 40 000 this year for the first time ever and interest in AFL at an all-time high in Sydney, where AFL competes for attention with rugby league, union and football.

Keeping Your Stars Performing

Star performers, like Buddy, can make a massive difference in any organisation. Keeping them engaged is a critical issue and ongoing activity for leaders. Generally, star performers need challenging work, recognition and accountability for what they deliver, as well as clear performance measures to achieve high standards of output and productivity. Leaders should stretch high achievers and remove restricting internal processes that discourage high levels of discretionary effort. Allowing your high performers to challenge themselves and attempt tasks or functions beyond their usual reach can be a great way to keep them engaged and has the added benefit of providing an environment where they get even better and develop new skills. They often thrive when given challenging assignments, where they have the opportunity to work on new, interesting or meaningful work.  Unfortunately, managers don’t always pay much attention to developing and retaining their high performers because when everything is going smoothly, they allow their attention to turn to addressing the poor performers.

Star employees can be great ambassadors, raising the profile of the organisation and enhancing the brand. Buddy has certainly done this for the Sydney Swans with average match day crowds at their highest level since 2006.  So keeping them motivated and prepared to go above and beyond is well worth the effort.

Everyone is motivated in different ways so knowing the things that matter most to employees is a key ingredient for skilled managers and essential to get the best out of high performers. With large teams across multiple locations and divisions, this can be a difficult exercise for a manager and one where the goal posts move regularly. Nonetheless, the importance of continuous connection and communication with the team is vital to not only keep your stars producing great results, but also ensuring everyone is consistently productive.

After all, good people make great organisations.

Ben Walsh – General Manager – Recruitment

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