When asked what their company's No. 1 asset is, smart leaders will answer that it's their employees. Yet a whopping 50 percent of employees who leave a company do so because of their relationship with the boss.

There are obvious consequences in lacking a culture that embodies positive company values and due appreciation of its employees. Valuation expert Dave Bookbinder sheds a new light on the importance of such a culture in a series of articles he's publishing called "The New ROI: Return on Individuals."

"It's no secret that a happy work force is a more engaged work force, and a more engaged work force is a more productive work force," writes Bookbinder. "It's important to recognize that the people are responsible for translating that productivity into an increased value of the overall business enterprise. Conversely, a disengaged work force can destroy a company's value."

How can you build this value into your company's overall worth? "In the valuation world, where people are referred to as human capital assets, it's the positive difference makers, or high performers, who are the greatest asset," Bookbinder says. Difference makers are the ones who ask the right questions, see the whole picture, and go outside of their networks to gather ideas from a variety of perspectives. Difference makers know that good enough is never good enough. And since they get great pleasure from a sense of accomplishment, they take ownership of every project they touch.

According to Bookbinder, retaining these difference makers will help you, not only in the short-term, but also in successfully implementing your long-term strategy. Building value now will pay off in the future.

Here are some of the things that are most important to difference makers. Build a culture that allows them the opportunity to make a difference, and your top performers will remain happy and productive for years to come.

1. Understand their goals.

Take the time to discover their personal goals and find a way to tie them into the goals of the organization. For example, if someone has aspirations to start a business, allow him or her to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors inside the company. By aligning the individual's goals with those of the company, you will turn a mercenary (someone who works for the top dollar) into a missionary (someone who believes in and is loyal to the organization). 

2. Invest in them.

Professional development, training, and coaching are investments, not perks. If you view people as expenses, they will behave accordingly. Human capital is an asset after all, even if it doesn't show up on a financial statement. An average CEO may ask, "What if we invest in our employees and they leave?" An outstanding CEO will ask, "What if we don't invest in our employees and they stay?"

3. Create a connection.

Difference makers are looking to make a deep connection with not only their work, but also the people they work with and work for. If you are a managing a difference maker, adopt a leadership style that resonates with him or her. Your actions must be in alignment with your words. Remember, these people don't quit their jobs, they quit their bosses.

4. Develop the stakes beyond salary, benefits, and perks.

For difference makers, it's about more than money--it's about meaningful work and being a part of something bigger than the task at hand. Yes, the compensation package has to be appropriate, but allow your difference makers to ask their probing questions and identify areas that need improvement without being judgmental. If you let them have at it, there is a good chance that they will improve upon it.

5. Surround them with high-caliber colleagues. 

Just as no single great athlete can make a team successful, difference makers also need to be surrounded by talented players. Allow your top talent to collaborate and reap the exponential benefits of that collaboration.

All in all, your top performers are inspired and motivated by internal factors, not external ones. They're not the people who are just working in wait for the weekend to come. By creating this type of culture, you might just inspire a whole new group of difference makers that you didn't even know you had.

Published on: May 3, 2016
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