Retaining top talent is a concern among human resources (HR) professionals at companies of all sizes. While new hires can bring fresh ideas to the table, experienced employees understand the company’s particular culture and have accumulated priceless institutional knowledge about what works, what doesn’t, and why. In addition, failing to retain good employees is costly from a financial perspective; some experts estimate that losing a middle manager can cost a company nearly 100% of his or her salary. For employees, it can be demoralizing to work at a company where one’s co-workers are constantly coming and going.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic secret for retaining all employees. What motivates one individual and keeps him or her happy will not necessarily provide the same feeling of fulfillment to another. In general, though, HR professionals need to focus on creating a supportive work environment where employees are compensated fairly and receive clear expectations from management, but also have the freedom to experiment. Read on for a few tips on how to achieve this.
1. Make sure employees have the opportunity to use their unique talents and skills. Many employees want to contribute to the company in other ways beyond the requirements of their job descriptions. Managers should take the time to learn about the unique backgrounds and skillsets of all their employees and charge them with unique, out-of-the-box tasks that make use of these abilities. These opportunities provide a break from routine tasks, keep employees engaged, and make them feel like they’re having a positive impact on the company. Career changers may be especially suited for spearheading tasks that require expertise in multiple areas. In the end, HR professionals need to remember that engaged employees are happier and more productive.
2. Provide employees with high quality supervision. Not understanding expectations can quickly lead to frustration and burnout. On the other hand, employees who know what’s expected of them and have the ability to meet those expectations are ultimately more satisfied with their job. Poor management is one of the primary reasons people quit their jobs. Good managers understand not just how to communicate expectations, but also how to provide feedback in clear, engaging, and illustrative ways. In addition, managers should act with consistency and remain true to their promises. When employees feel like they can’t trust their superiors, they’ll begin looking for opportunities elsewhere. Ultimately, a manager needs to define what success in a particular role looks like, and provide employees with the tools necessary to achieve that success.
3. Give employees room for experimentation. When people feel micromanaged, they won’t work as productively as they would if they were trusted to get a task done on their own. Employees learn more when they have autonomy, and they may discover novel, more interesting, and efficient ways of accomplishing common tasks. Experimentation should be built into the culture of a company. Managers can give their employees a task and provide feedback and coaching while allowing them to decide how they’ll accomplish it—great managers understand how to guide people to a particular goal, rather than push them there. In addition, allowing experimentation is important, because it encourages a positive culture that treats mistakes and “failures” as learning opportunities. Shaming or punishing employees for failures, in contrast, makes people feel scared and will discourage them from trying new ideas.
4. Recognize the hard work of employees with excellent benefits packages. Employees feel appreciated when they are rewarded by their employers. Offering unique perks can keep employees happy, but competitive salaries and excellent benefits are also necessary. When it comes to employee retention, benefits are as much about the numbers as the message they convey to the employee. Cuts in benefits or perks send a message that the company doesn’t value its workers. Increases, on the other hand, or competitive packages to begin with, show that the company really appreciates the contribution of the employee. Benefits packages should include insurance, retirement savings plans, stock options and equity, and cash bonuses if possible. These benefits may cost the company money, but they’re cheaper than trying to find a new employee and starting from square one.
5. Acknowledge each employee’s contributions to the company. All employees want to be told that they did a good job. This sort of encouragement and positive feedback makes them more eager to tackle the next task to see if they can again set themselves apart from the rest. Feedback should come from all levels of management, not just direct supervisors. When employees feel like higher-level managers don’t notice them, they may feel as though they don’t have a future at the company and may begin thinking about new career paths. It’s also important to remember that not all people value the same sort of feedback. Some employees enjoy being acknowledged in a public setting such as an all-hands staff meeting, whereas others may value praise from their manager during a one-on-one meeting. HR professionals should encourage managers to learn what type of feedback their employees prefer.
6. Offer opportunities for training and career advancement. Nothing makes a person look for a new job faster than realizing that their current position offers no opportunities for advancement. Companies should work with their employees to help them advance and pick up new skills. Opportunities could range from mentorship programs within the company to tuition reimbursement for pursuing a new degree or certification. By offering this type of professional development assistance, companies can quickly identify the most motivated employees by observing who makes the most use of these resources. These opportunities are also a way for the company to demonstrate that it’s willing to invest in its employees.