No-one wants to see their high performers hotfoot it to a competitor firm or different industry sector. Especially if they’ve invested time, money and effort to recruit and train them. And especially now in a tight job market when a replacement may be hard to find.

As a leader of an organisation, what can you do about it?

Retain your people! Here are some tried-and-tested employee engagement strategies – five ways to retain top talent in your business. They are based on an employee engagement framework developed by former Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer in his book The Leadership Star: A Practical Guide to Building Engagement. The book is aimed at business leaders, who, according to Harzer, are responsible for creating an environment where employees feel emotionally engaged and connected.

The Leadership Star comprises five Cs. For each C, we provide a basic definition followed by our suggestions on how you could implement the strategy to retain top talent in your organisation.


This is about viewing and treating every person in the organisation as an individual and a human being. Leaders should demonstrate a keen interest in individual development and results (with consequences when they’re not achieved).

  • Check in with high performers on a regular basis to discuss their professional goals and progress towards them.
  • Offer coaching and mentoring with a senior manager.


Here, Harzer says the question to ask is “Why does the organisation exist beyond just making money?” People need to feel connected to the purpose of the organisation and feel that their job matters. Individual motivation and values need to be aligned with the purpose of the organisation.

  • Ensure that high performers have a deep understanding of the organisation’s mission and vision, e.g. through training and clear, consistent messaging at company presentations and in written communications.
  • Actively show that top talent is highly valued and a crucial component of company success. Celebrate their achievements, large and small! (For more on this, see the “Celebrate” section below).
  • Ask high performers for their feedback, demonstrating the importance of their input and ideas to the organisation.


This big C is divided into three smaller cs:

Role clarity: individuals need to know what their job is, what is expected of them and who they are meant to work with.

Goal clarity: individuals should reflect on what is “good” and what is “great” in their job.

Behavioural clarity: some behaviours are ok, and some aren’t in an organisation (with consequences for undesirable behaviours).

  • Ensure there are clear job descriptions for roles in the organisation and that these are regularly reviewed in consultation with job holders to allow scope for change and creativity.
  • Provide high performers with guidance on targets to achieve and encourage them to go above and beyond.
  • As a leader, role model desired behaviours, e.g. communication, collaboration and active listening.
  • Ensure the organisation has a clear code of conduct and disciplinary procedure, and that employees have an understanding of both.

Clearing the Way

All sorts of barriers can hinder people’s success, e.g. financial constraints, political issues, emotional barriers, confidence, and lack of access to tools and training. Harzer advises leaders to go in and ask employees what is getting in the way, then take action to knock over the barriers.

  • Identify and question processes, procedures, resources and emotional constraints with top talent. E.g. if a higher performer feels their advancement is slowed by a lack of management training, a leader can help organise access to formal and informal coaching.


Rather than focusing on pay and promotions to reward people, which is often the case, Harzer recommends creating a culture of appreciation where employees receive formal and informal recognition for the work they are doing.

  • Regularly acknowledge individual contributions and success, e.g. in team meetings, social media posts and annual get-togethers.

Care, Context, Clarity, Clearing the Way, Celebrate. The Five Cs are practical, effective employee engagement strategies that leaders can use to retain top talent – and employees at other levels in the organisation, too.

The Optimal Recruitment team is adept at helping clients recruit and retain top talent. Contact us today to discuss your requirements on info@optimalrecruitment.com.au or 02 8416 4181.