How do I keep my top employees?

Have you ever received an unexpected resignation letter from a top-performing, long-term employee? Arrrrgggghhh! Why did this happen?!

Let’s talk employee retention strategies. Doesn’t sound very exciting does it? However, thinking about, developing and putting into place an employee retention program can save you time, money and pain.

Employee retention strategies should include a variety of things including (obviously) competitive compensation and benefits, but may also include less tangible things such as good communication, mentoring and/or training, good communication, employee development, good communication, work/life balance, and evaluation and feedback. See a trend here? Let’s start at the beginning…

Employee retention programs really should start during your final hiring interview. You selected the candidate and are making an offer. Take some time to communicate your company’s mission and values to the candidate. This is an on-going process, but one that should start immediately.

Make sure the new employee has a good first day, first week, first month. Take the time to greet them when they come in the first day, show them their workspace, introduce them to co-workers.

Think about pairing the employee with a mentor. It shouldn’t be their supervisor or you; it should be someone experienced in the company who can show them the ropes, someone they can talk things over with. This is good for both mentee and mentor; the mentee benefits from the real-world experience of the mentor, and the mentor benefits from the fresh approach of the mentee.

Sharing company information such as values and specific goals on a regular basis with your employees is one of the best ways to get employees to buy in to the program. Do they know what they’re fighting for? Make sure they do. Periodically share with them how the company is doing and how they have contributed to these goals. Study after study has shown that employees tend to stay at companies when they feel a part of the company.

Give them lots of feedback. An evaluation once-a-year is fine, if done properly, but that’s a long time to wait to see how you’re doing. Regular feedback is much more helpful, both positive and negative. Make sure the positive is sincere and specific, or it won’t mean anything.

Do you have a compensation program that allows for regular raises or bonuses? Is it based on performance? Most likely it is so make sure you’ve communicated those parameters and benchmarks to your people.

Can you offer your employee optional benefits such as flex-time, free bagels on Fridays, dry cleaning pick-up and delivery? Some can be very small things that don’t cost much, but they can really make a difference. Help your employees to balance their work and home lives. Let them know this is important to you and the company. You will benefit as much as they do.

Promote from within whenever you can. This is a strong message for your employees. Give them opportunities to get additional training (inside or outside your company) to prepare them for a new position or new responsibilities. Make sure they understand you value them enough to help them develop new skills so they can move up. Make sure they understand there is a future for them right here in your company.

An “open-door” policy is great of course. But take it a step further. Some people may feel like a pest coming to you all the time with comments or questions. Go out to them. Make a point of talking to your people on a regular basis and just shoot the breeze (aka MBWR-managing by walking around). How’s it going? What’s happening? Show them you value their input by acting on the concerns or suggestions they offer you.

Empower your people to do their best. Give them the training, resources and structure they need to succeed. They will. And they will love you and your company for it. And you will both love the success that comes as a result. After all, they helped you get there; make sure they know it.