Retaining Employees: 6 Tips for Keeping Your Best Talent

In our last blog post, we talked about 7 ways you can ensure you’re attracting and choosing the best candidates for the job. Now that you’ve spent the time and money finding a good employee, let’s look at some ways you can foster an environment that leads to a high level of employee retention.

Companies spend, on average, over $4,000 to hire a new employee. It takes resources and time to find the right person for the job, so it makes sense to have systems in place that increase employee loyalty and retention.

Our experts are back again this month to share their tips on retaining employees:

Christine Langley is the Director of Organizational Development for a defense contractor in Florida and has been an HR professional for over two decades.

Mary Napier is the founder and owner of Napier Executive Search, an employment search firm specializing in higher education positions. She has over 30 years of experience in recruiting and higher education.

Here are some tips, along with their expert insights, to help you formulate a plan for retaining employees:

Start Off on the Right Foot

What you do before the employee starts really sets the tone for their time at your company. That’s why, you need to have a comprehensive onboarding program. Onboarding is the process of introducing an employee to the company and providing them with the necessary tools to become successful in their position.

A proper onboarding process is critical to retaining employees.
Having a system in place that ensures new hires are receiving proper training and guidance to help them succeed is a vital part of employee retention.

Talentlyft, a company that specializes in talent acquisition software, offers an onboarding checklist you can download for free. It includes steps to take before the employee starts, a schedule for the first day, and topics to cover at the first, third, and sixth months. Langley said her company is in the process of revamping their onboarding process to make it more effective. (We’ll talk more about onboarding in our next blog post, so be sure to check back.)

Compensate Fairly

A 2018 Glassdoor survey found that 45 percent of hiring personnel listed salary as the top reason employees gave for leaving their current position. But, compensation isn’t just about pay. That’s why, it’s important to highlight your company’s total compensation package on a regular basis, including benefits such as the cost of health insurance, life insurance, and 401(k) contributions.

Compensation can also include intangibles, like flexible schedules. Napier said, “We pay our team members generously, but we also appreciate that there is more to their lives than work, so we provide them with the flexibility to attend to life’s key moments outside of work.” Langley’s company follows a 9/80 work schedule, where employees work nine-hour shifts most days, which gives them every-other Friday off.

Create a Thriving Culture

That same Glassdoor survey found that long-time employees feel that company culture is a more important factor for them to stay than pay alone. Company culture is a broad term that includes a number of attributes – the way you treat employees and customers, company ethics and values, and the general work environment. For instance, is your workplace relaxed and productive, or is it a stressful place where employees can’t wait to leave? The right atmosphere can make the difference between losing or retaining employees.

A big part of retaining employees is making sure their ideas are heard and valued.
Fostering an environment where employee feedback is heard and valued goes a long way toward creating a sustainable company culture.

Both Napier and Langley feel it’s important to say “thank you” to their employees on a regular basis. It may seem like a simple gesture, but it speaks volumes about how much you value and appreciate an employee’s contributions to your organization. And it doesn’t cost a cent. “It boils down to providing respect for each person,” Napier said.

Rewards & Recognition

Saying thank you is something you can do directly with an employee, but many times you’ll want to share employee news with the entire organization. Langley’s company has a bi-weekly All-Hands meeting that includes publicly recognizing employee achievements and milestones. Napier and her employees meet weekly to touch base and talk about both business and personal accomplishments.

In addition to recognizing successful employees, you can also offer them other incentives to show your appreciation for their efforts. Napier takes her employees on a company retreat each year. “We offer an annual planning and review meeting at a desirable location that allows us all to come together for fellowship and to set goals,” she said.

Offering incentives, like a company retreat, can go a long way toward retaining valuable employees.
If your company’s budget allows, consider hosting an annual retreat for employees to connect and build trust outside the office.

There are other ways to reward your employees if an off-site retreat isn’t economically feasible for your organization. Companies like Kazoo offer rewards and recognition programs to companies that allow the employees to earn points that they can then redeem for over 30,000 unique products and gift cards. Employees are also able to use their points to make donations to worthy causes. It’s a great way to give your employees the power to choose the rewards themselves.

What To Do When They Give Notice

Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” – Richard Branson

Turnover happens at every level of an organization at one time or another. What should you do when a star performer turns in their resignation letter? Do you try to hold on to them or wish them well? Our experts have some differing views on the subject.

Langley finds it’s best to let them go. “In my experience, this has never worked out in the long run. The employee becomes unhappy again in the future and resentful that they didn’t leave when they had the opportunity. Rarely is the exit only about money. The employee just doesn’t realize it at the time.”

A comprehensive exit interview can help you determine why employees are leaving your company.
Is it time to examine the turnover rate at your company?

Napier feels there may be times you try to hold on to an employee. “It depends if the departure of that person will negatively impact your company in the short and long term. However, you need to address whether this is an exception or the rule,” she said.

Why Employees Leave

The last step in the employee retention process is to find out why your people are leaving. An exit interview is an essential tool to discover where your organization is falling short. A comprehensive exit interview should cover all aspects of the employee’s experience. From pay and benefits, feelings about supervisors and other departments, to where they think improvements can be made. The Society for Human Resource Management offers an exit interview questionnaire that can give you an idea of how to approach an exit interview.

While the Glassdoor survey mentioned earlier found that salary was the biggest motivator for people leaving their jobs, both Napier and Langley have found that’s not the case in their experience. Napier talks to a lot of people who feel their employers just didn’t value their contributions. Others believed they had contributed all they could to the company and felt it was time to look for new challenges that their present employer couldn’t offer. Langley has also found that a lack of opportunity for advancement, whether real or perceived, prompted many employees’ departures. An effective exit interview can help you identify the underlying causes of employee attrition and give you guidance on how to reverse the trend.

Words of Wisdom

Napier and Langley offer similar advice for retaining employees. Langley said, “It’s important to let employees contribute by giving them opportunities to share and implement ideas.” Napier echoes that sentiment. “Provide your team with the opportunity to understand how their jobs contribute to the full purpose of the organization, and show your appreciation for the time they invest on a daily basis.”

Does this sound like your company? Maybe you have some of your own tips on retaining employees that you’d like to share. Leave a comment below on what works for you, or your plans for improving employee retention in the future.

Scott Schrecengost is a freelance writer based out of Central Florida. Formerly from Pennsylvania, Scott settled in the Sunshine State and promptly landed a job at Walt Disney World, where he met his wife Bethanne. After graduating Magna cum Laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in Advertising/Public Relations, Scott and his wife spent a year teaching English in South Korea.

In addition to his freelance writing, Scott enjoys cooking, gardening, and other manly endeavors. He is an avid environmentalist, having traveled several times to Guatemala to support the Alliance for International Reforestation, planting trees and building fuel-efficient wood stoves. In his spare time, you can find Scott with his wife, two kids, two dogs, three cats, and six chickens.

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