Fast-growing companies can’t afford to lose their talent, but how do you keep star performers on board?

Hazel Cameron
Head of Portfolio Talent

All fast-growing businesses share something in common. They’re proud of their people.

But as the business grows, roles change and priorities evolve, senior leaders need to keep proving that they understand the workforce is their most valuable asset.

Otherwise, they risk losing the talent that brought them success in the first place – and they will find it increasingly difficult to recruit new people.


The same principles apply during periods of challenge, change and uncertainty.

When the business faces difficult times, keeping the team together is what will get it through.

During the Covid-19 pandemic and its fall-out, for example, companies that have worked hard to ensure staff feel valued and part of the business – even where they’re working remotely or even stood down for a period – have fared better.

Importantly, this isn’t just a question of money.

While staff remuneration is of course a factor, your star performers won’t regard the financial package you offer as the only thing that matters.

Rather, you need a broader focus on employee engagement: how will you make sure your people feel they are doing something meaningful and authentic? Do they understand your business’s values and purpose, and do they share them?


One way to build this sort of culture is to avoid the hierarchical model with which employers have traditionally structured their businesses in favour of a more collegiate and collaborative approach.

That starts with the tone of how you communicate. For example, when asking people to perform tasks, explain why you want them to do something and how will it help move the business forward.

Crucially, this approach to management is based on trust. People are more likely to feel part of the business when you give them responsibility for getting on with the job.

You’re trying to build an environment in which people feel empowered to work autonomously towards a shared vision for the business.

That may mean giving them more freedom to experiment – and developing a “fail-fast” culture in which your best people feel able to try things that may not work in the interests of moving the business forward.

‘Overcommunicating’ with your people is also valuable to developing a team that knows its worth and feels appreciated.


It is hugely important that they not only know that they are valued, but also that the impact of their contributions toward the company’s success is identifiable – and relayed back to them.


There is still a place for accountability.

For example, competition between staff can work very well in growing businesses focused on securing particular objectives or results. But learn to celebrate your successes as a team, where everyone takes pride in what has been achieved. This is particularly relevant where teams are working remotely and it may be harder to hold onto that sense of culture and business DNA.

As for remuneration, make an effort to understand what your best people are looking for and be prepared to be flexible.

It may be that your most senior staff are less concerned with pay and more focused on some form of stake in the business, including an equity stake. This aligns their interests with yours.

It’s also possible to offer more junior staff the chance to invest in the business, perhaps through some form of share option scheme. But spend some time finding out what they want from a benefits package. Often, the answer will be greater freedom than large corporate employers offer – more room for manoeuvre on holidays, part-time working or remote working, for example.

Flexible benefits packages, in which employees choose from a menu of options, are often much more attractive than the highest salary.


You should be investing in your staff in other ways too.

They’re more likely to remain committed if your actions show you believe they have a long-term future at the business.

Focus on their career development and skills, leveraging external training providers if you’re not able to offer this in-house.


Finally, think about how you will maintain these practices as the business achieves its growth objectives.

As the company scales up, it may be more difficult to operate with such a culture than in a start-up where everyone has regular one-to-one interaction. How will you respond as teams grow in size, people are working from different locations, and change begins to affect all staff?

If your set-up does change, keep people informed about how they will be impacted – who they will report to, for example and how their performance will be assessed – and look for their input.

Your business will need more formal structures as it grows, but that shouldn’t mean giving up on values such as transparency, inclusion and communication – all key to keeping your best people.