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How to retain your best employees for the long-term

Michael Miller Dec 25, 2013 12:30:00 AM

The long-term health and prosperity of your company largely depends on keeping your employees around. Retaining your best staff helps keep customers happy, sales healthy and co-workers satisfied. This preserves vital institutional knowledge – the ins and outs of how your company works.Best Employees

Some analysts say that high turnover rates are a sign of the times. According to economist Katie Bardaro, young workers feel less loyalty to employers, particularly after witnessing the older generation struggling in recent years,

"They saw what happened to their parents during the Great Recession," Bardaro told Business Insider. "They saw them lose their pensions and lose their jobs."

On the other hand, high turnover in hot technology markets shows the many opportunities for workers in certain sectors, she added, noting that numerous studies indicate that employee loyalty is at "an all-time low."

Losing staff has many downsides, including greater time and investment on training, lost company knowledge, expensive hiring searches and lackluster employee morale. Simply put, the health of your company is deeply linked to employee retention. When vital staffers start heading for the door, expect employees in their department to start to follow soon after.

So keeping employees around is important. Here are some ways to do it.

Clear expectations

Employees who are happy at work know what is expected of them every day on the job. When staff are uncertain about what’s expected of them, they’ll be on edge and stressed out. While this doesn’t mean you have to keep employees tied to a single role, there must be a framework that gives staff members a clear direction about what’s expected of them. This framework should correspond to the motivations of the workers.

Consider this example: one tech support company maintained a turnover rate of just 11 percent, compared to a sector-wide average of 75 percent. This is an achievement that human resources consultant Tanya Seiliakus attributed, in a recent blog post, partly to mutually understood expectations by managers and workers, determined through consultation sessions with employees. Management figured out what motivated them, and adjusted accordingly.

Quality supervision

How well employees are being supervised has a direct link to their retention. In fact, staff are more likely to leave their supervisor or manager than leave a job entirely.

Anything they do that makes an employee feel unwanted or unvalued will only fuel turnover. Staff should also have a clear sense of their earning potential, get solid performance feedback and be involved in discussion and meetings to keep them informed.

Freedom to speak out

Input from employees is good for the company and for staff. Letting a worker say what is on his or her mind helps keep them around, and their ideas and feedback can go a long way to improving operations. Make sure they’re comfortable sharing their opinions on workplace matters, and can criticize the way things are done. Staff who bite their tongues can become frustrated and eventually leave.

Tapping talent

A happy employee who stays around is one who wants to be further involved in work by contributing to roles outside their job description. Encourage this by getting to know staffers’ experience, talents and skills. Then go one step further by tapping into this potential by giving staff flexibility to step outside their department. If you ignore eager staff, you may be speeding up their search for another job.

According to research by Catalyst, 35 percent of women and 32 percent of men - both in senior-level positions - stated they would leave a job for the chance to "develop new skills and competencies." This factor was second only to increased compensation. This underlines the importance of developing talent within your company.

Fairness counts

Being fair to your employees is good for its own sake. But making sure employees see themselves as being treated fairly is important too. Clearly communicate decision that may breed suspicion in the workplace. For example, when a new sales associate gets given a high-commission account, ensure other staff know why. Recognize that decisions have an impact on others in the office.

This is linked to a more general need among employees: to be treated with respect. Turnover tends to increase when employee dissatisfaction develops due to perceived disrespect by managers or fellow workers.

This could signal a need to abandon old systems of authority that are no longer considered relevant among young workers, according to author and CEO of HCL Technologies Vineet Nayar.

"They have little interest in hierarchy and are not particularly impressed by titles and positions within the traditional pyramid structure," wrote Nayar in a recent article. He added that increasing the two-way flow of information helps give workers a sense of mutual responsibility.

 

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Topics: Employee retention