Insider Intelligence: How to Nurture Your A-Players

Sept. 7, 2023
Investing in these high-performing individuals not only boosts performance and innovation but also mitigates turnover and creates a positive work culture

This article originally appeared in the September 2023 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

A-players, often referred to as top performers, are the driving force behind an organization’s ability to outpace its competitors. Their dedication, passion, and ability to consistently deliver exceptional results elevate the overall performance of the company.

Prioritizing investment in A-players is a strategic move that yields numerous organizational advantages, and their impact resonates across departments and projects, inspiring others to perform at their best. These employees often challenge conventional thinking and drive innovation, leading to groundbreaking ideas that keep the organization ahead of the curve.

A-players naturally assume leadership roles, whether formal or informal. Their positive influence and ability to inspire others foster a culture of collaboration and growth. These individuals are driven by a strong sense of purpose and take ownership of their responsibilities. Their dedication motivates their peers and contributes to a more productive work environment.

A-players thrive when their skills are acknowledged and utilized effectively, leading to higher job satisfaction and increased loyalty, and when A-they feel valued and supported, it creates a positive work culture that attracts and retains top talent while preparing a strong leadership pipeline for the future.

The Pitfalls of Neglecting A-Players

On the other hand, neglecting these employees or not holding poor performers accountable can lead to adverse consequences for an organization. Too often, A-players are given all the tasks that poor performers cannot complete, stretching them beyond capacity, instead of taking the time to correct the poor performance. As A-players pick up the slack, it can lead to burn out and employee turnover.

Usually this occurs if leaders are facing the “Tyranny of the Urgent,” where they struggle with what is urgent vs. what is important. In this scenario, the task the leader hands off to the A player what is considered urgent; however, what is important is to coach the poor performer on how to execute properly, which takes time. Leaders must prioritize and create time to invest in their people’s development in order to avoid the Tyranny of the Urgent.

Furthermore, recognizing poor performers as you would top performers sends a disheartening message to top performers, which can lead to employee turnover, demotivation and disengagement, and perhaps a tarnished company reputation.

Fostering a Culture of Recognition and Growth

Leaders must prioritize and create time to invest in their people’s development. To harness the potential of A-players and safeguard against the negative consequences of overlooking them, organizations must adopt a culture of recognition, appreciation, and growth. This involves several best practices:

  • Regular Feedback: Providing constructive feedback helps A-players understand their contributions and areas for improvement. Regular performance discussions enable them to align their goals with the organization’s objectives.
  • Tailored Development Plans: Crafting individualized development plans demonstrates the organization’s commitment to A-players’ growth. This not only enhances their skills but also communicates that their progress is valued.
  • Equitable Recognition: Ensuring that recognition is distributed equitably reinforces a sense of fairness. Celebrating the achievements of A-players alongside other team members fosters unity and shared success.
  • Opportunities for Impact: Offering A-players opportunities to take on challenging projects, mentor others, or participate in strategic initiatives showcases their value and demonstrates trust in their abilities.
  • Leadership Support: Leaders play a pivotal role in recognizing and advocating for A-players. When senior management actively supports and mentors top performers, it reinforces the significance of their contributions.

Striving for equity in recognition, providing growth opportunities, and fostering a culture of appreciation are crucial steps in harnessing the potential of A-players and ensuring their long-term commitment to the organization’s success.

Brooke Erickson is director of learning and development for PSA Security Network. Request more information at