From the Desk of Brad Smart: Retaining Employees with Huge Praise Failed: Here’s a Better Way

If you’re a CEO/President/COO or Head of HR, you’ve been partially mis-lead with the non-stop advice on how to retain employees. You know all about The Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting. You’ve read Wall Street Journal’s “research” (hearsay) that suggests you suck as a leader – “78% of people quit because they dislike their manager.” You’re not “every manager” but as CEO those “every managers” report to you, so you’re to blame. You raised pay to keep people while being scolded, “Raising pay will not convert employees who don’t like you or your organization “culture” into loyal, motivated team players.”

Particularly with remote employees, the overwhelming advice from SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management, the largest organization of its kind in the world), leadership authors, and business professors is: build a warm, accepting organizational culture by looking for opportunities to praise employees. Show your appreciation. Celebrate their wins. Ask them regularly what they like and don’t like about the job and listen. Listen, listen, listen!

All this is good advice, but NOT SUFFICIENT! It’s true — most employees feel unappreciated, but THAT DOES NOT MEAN GUSHING WITH PRAISE AND APPRECIATION AND LISTENING EMPATHETICALLY WILL RETAIN HIGH PRODUCERS. We hear all the time that “young people are unbelievable – they are narcissistic because their parents doted on them, socially awkward because the pandemic glued them to their phone, and lack initiative because mommy and daddy made decisions for them.” Sure, they appreciate praise and listening, but many expect it … and if you don’t fill their high needs for praise, recognition, and listening, they will feel frustrated and ticked off.


A Players want to work with A Players, so every A Player you hire will recommend their A Player friends and associates. If you have only 25% A Players (that’s typical) the lower producers out-number your high performers and they are what psychologists call “passive aggressive” when you embrace Topgrading. They will hate you hiring better producers and undercut you. They are the complainers who want you to pay them more, let them take a “mental health day” as often as they want, and they want you to LOWER their performance standards, because they are in existential pain. As I write this the Wall Street Journal recently had an article about how more and more mommies go into your office and demand to know why their perfect kid didn’t get the promotion.


When you finally have a team of majority of A Players, THEY (not just you) will require A Player standards, and they (not just you) will listen to every employee and praise REAL accomplishments.


Download our free eGuide and start using the methods that tripled the number of A Players for thousands of companies. You’ll see – the methods are common sense.

Dr. Brad Smart is Founder and CEO of Topgrading, Inc. Topgrading is dedicated to helping companies of all sizes maximize the hiring of high performers. Topgrading assesses candidates for senior positions (where the costs of mis-hires are high) and trains all managers to create teams of almost all high performers.

Brad has seven published books on hiring; the most recent three (the first, second, and third editions of Topgrading) were all best sellers. Brad, and President Chris Mursau’s new book, Foolproof Hiring (Forbes Books), is available for purchase by clicking here. After just six weeks, Foolproof Hiring, has achieved Amazon Best Seller status.

Brad can be reached at

To learn more, download our free eGuide or attend our next Topgrading Webinar. Our webinar explains the most effective recruitment methods, how to immediately identify the most honest, high performing applicants, and how to (finally!) verify what candidates tell you (since reference calls are usually worthless).

Contact us to learn more.

Improve your hiring success with Topgrading. Our proven hiring process will transform your selection methodology so that you get better hiring results across all industries, including hiring HR professionals.  Our leadership and candidate assessment tools will help you assess, hire, retain, and grow outstanding team members. Contact us to learn more!

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