What are you doing to keep your best employees?

Are you trying to hang on to your best employees? Who isn’t? It’s so difficult to find new employees; smart companies are doing what they can to keep the ones they have.

Many companies use exit interviews to query departing employees in the hopes of discovering where they went wrong. The answers are usually predictable; "I’m leaving for more opportunity." "They’re offering me more money." In fact, we all know that exit interviews aren’t always reliable. People don’t want to leave a burning bridge behind them.

A 1999 survey in the Wall Street Journal confirms what I have believed all along. See what you think. The top reasons people leave their jobs:

1. Disrespect for the individual; feeling their contributions are not valued.
2. Stagnation; lack of growth and challenge in the job.
3. Poor communication.
4. Unclear expectations; little or no feedback on performance.
5. Little or no involvement or participation in decision-making.

In the next ten years, the statistics don’t look good. The labor shortage is likely to get worse and it will loom even larger as the problem du jour. Here are just a few ideas from a tips booklet I’ve just published, 125 Tips for Retaining Talented Employees:

Recognize and value employees.

§      Treat interns like gold. Give them meaty assignments, not just backroom copying duties. Assign a "buddy" to answer questions and make them feel at home. Send them a "care package" during the school year, so they want to return next summer.

§      Conduct interviews with new employees, 60 days after they are on the job. Find out if the job was what they expected. Step in and make adjustments, if necessary.

§      Pay more than market value. Offer flexible benefits that each employee can customize.

§      Give managers a pot of money to use for recognizing employees’ efforts. For example, a dinner for two, theatre tickets, an on-the-spot bonus or a group pizza party.

Challenge your Employees

§      At least once a year, ask each employee, "What percentage of your job is routine? What new things would you like to learn?" Give each employee at least one "stretch project" each year.

§      Host a monthly "Lunch-and-Learn." Bring in outside speakers, ask a company executive to speak, conduct a mini-training session or discuss a good business book, chapter by chapter.

§      Ask every employee who attends a conference to come back and share what they learned with everyone else.

Open, Honest Communication

§      Convene all-company meetings at least twice a year. Share the good news along with the bad. Break into smaller workgroups and discuss how the information affects each area.

§      Insist that managers meet regularly with their employees to discuss ways to approach current issues and problems.

§      Do a 360-degree feedback process for each manager. Collect feedback from peers, employees and their bosses and help them develop a personal improvement plan.

Set Clear Expectations and Provide Ongoing Feedback

§      Involve managers in their new employee’s orientation. Give them a sample discussion outline they can use to clarify expectations during the first week. Expect managers to meet with new employees weekly.

§      Once a year, managers and employees fill out a form that asks each of them three questions: What can your manager/employee do more of? What can your manager/employee do less of? What should your manager/employee keep the same? They meet to discuss their answers.

§      Expect each manager to have a thorough, annual performance discussion with each employee.

Involve Employees and Make Them Feel Like Owners

§      Give employees flexible hours. Outline the parameters that must be met and let them figure out a schedule that will work.

§      Create employee-run committees. Some examples are a Fun Committee, a Quality Committee, and a Recognition Committee. Involved employees stay put.

§      Give employees some spending authority over some part of their job; give them a budget they have control over.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 354-9500, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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