4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Keep Your Best Employees

Editor’s note: Laura Kerekes is the Chief Knowledge Officer for ThinkHR. She will be contributing regularly to TLNT.

The first quarter of the calendar year is the best time to consider employee retention efforts.

Everyone is back from their holiday vacations, and work is in full swing. Your employees have had a little time off, and during that time your best employees have been assessing their careers, work, health/family issues and planning ahead.

Talented employees always have options

By now, your employees have also received their W-2s and annual benefits/total compensation statements and are considering the value of continuing to develop their careers with your company versus looking at other career options. What can you do to keep your high performers engaged and excited about your business?

You’re a good employer and follow all of these best management practices, right? Remember, your most talented performers always have options and will find other employment.

Other good but less talented employees might also disengage from your business but might not physically leave – they emotionally leave you while still showing up for work and giving you less than 100 percent of what they are capable of doing.

What you can do

These four tips are mostly common sense — and they make good business sense, too. Now is a good time to audit your management practices to keep your best people, so consider the following:

1. Be clear about your expectations and employee policies and follow them. Nothing causes more employee discontent than unclear rules and expectations and inconsistent application of established rules and policies.

This “shifting sands” scenario leaves employees feeling unsure of their own footing and questioning the firmness of the company’s foundation. And it is probably the number one reason why employees join or actively petition to form a union too.

2. Take a sincere and active interest in your employees and follow the “platinum rule.” All of the management experts advise us to be actively engaged with our employees, manage by walking around, getting to know our people as complete human beings and not just workers, etc. It sounds a little bit soft, but it does affect the bottom line.

Numerous studies have been done that show the positive goodwill managers receive when they take the time to get to know their employees and use the “platinum rule.” We all know the “golden rule” (treat others the way YOU would like to be treated). Today’s Gen X and Gen Y/Millennial workers expect more from their managers, so use the “platinum rule” (treat others the way THEY want to be treated).

To follow the platinum rule with your employees, you need to know them first.

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A positive way to show respect

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate and show respect. This follows from the “platinum rule”. Keep your employees informed about the business and treat them like the adults they are. Actively seek input and welcome ideas for improvement.

Don’t talk about one employee with another, unless you are having discussions with other managers to improve a subordinate’s performance. Nothing erodes trust and respect more; when you discuss another employee’s faults openly with someone else, that person will wonder what you are saying about him behind his back.

A positive way to show respect is to follow up on employee complaints, questions and emails with genuine concern and care. Don’t ignore them or treat employee concerns as irrelevant.

4. Provide a competitive pay and benefits package, including options for career development and career enhancement. This is very important, but not at the top of the list. In fact, studies have shown that employees will work for less pay and benefits if they believe that they are working for an employer they believe in and where there are opportunities for career advancement.

Employers who provide fair and competitive wages and benefits are less susceptible to having employees leave them for the “pay issue” or “taking offers for employment they just couldn’t refuse.” Employees talk to other professionals in their field as well as their friends and neighbors from competing businesses and are quick to realize when they are being paid less than others.

To the extent that employees feel they are earning less, they will be more likely to believe that they can get more somewhere else. Participate in wage-benefit surveys when you can and make sure you are competitive in your industry and your location. If your position in the community is not at the top of the scale, be prepared to explain why, including the trade-offs of the other non-monetary advantages of working at your company.

Keeping your best employees to help you meet your business goals should be a key strategy, along with your sales, operations and financial goals. By following these four tips, you’ll be well on your way to a successful year!

Laura Kerekes is the Chief Knowledge Officer for ThinkHR. She applies her extensive human resources and general management experience to a broad range of services for her clients, including: strategic HR consulting, interim human resources executive assignments and compliance/OD/training. Contact her at lkerekes@thinkhr.com.

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19 Comments on “4 Things You Can Do Right Now to Help Keep Your Best Employees

  1. This is a great post! Employee retention is a challenge HR is faced with all the time. As you mentioned, great employees will always have options. These tips are certainly all valuable ones when it comes to making sure great employees stay on board rather than exercising their other options. In addition to these, better hiring practices can lead to higher retention. If you and your candidates know each other better before the hire is made, they will more likely be able to determine if it is actually the right fit. Practices such as video interviewing can achieve this, and will lead to higher retention.

    – Alex

    1. Alex, you are absolutely right. Making the right hires and reinforcing expectations up front make the retention challenges easier to manage.

  2. Its a great article. However sometimes employees leaving for career advancement is good as this gives leeway to employing new people who might have more or even better insights to offer in terms of experience, ideas and positive contributions to the organisations/

    1. Sue, you are right that some turnover can be healthy, both for the employee and the employer. My thinking, however, is that companies are better off if they can plan for the turnover so that operations run smoothly as an employee exits and a new one comes on board. These tips were suggested to create a positive employee relations climate overall.

  3. Interesting post, but in these days of more people chasing fewer jobs, I think employers have the advantage. Certainly in the company I work for they know that finding other work with better or similar benefits and salary isn’t easy in this region, and so have started to play hard-ball suggesting that if employees don’t llike what is being offered they’re free to find work elsewhere. Knowing of course that most employees won’t be able to, despite many of them being very qualified and very experienced. Ultimately it erodes moral and when the economy turns, as it will eventually, and jobs become more readily available, those increasingly disgruntled employees will be the first to leave. The company loses years of experience and training and mountains of good will.

    1. David, I couldn’t agree with you more! And we are seeing that in certain areas, that shift is already starting to take place, which prompted me to write this article for employers to take care of their best employees. Those employees always have options.

  4. Lovely, and totally agree with you Laura. However, the HR professionals should consider these useful approaches in order to sustain and attract the talented employees.

  5. Sorry Ms Kerekes, but I’m going to re-write one of your lines in your first point.

    “Nothing causes more employee discontent than….” the removal of all vacation, holiday and bonus pay.

    It isn’t my fault that the company cannot properly manage their money, so why should I have to pay for it? Why did all of the employees get new office chairs, and why is said company now spending money on upgrading all of the bathrooms… yet I lost out on a benefit I worked 28 years for?

    Don’t even consider the fall-back line of “Just be lucky you have a job”. Thats another American business pet peeve of mine…vindictive solutions.

    1. What happened to you with the cut in your benefits and pay is terrible, and that is part of my point #4. Anything that an employer does to try to raise the employee relations climate will fail if employees feel that they are being treated unfairly, as you do. Thanks for reinforcing that point.

  6. Employees always have a choice and employers have choices as well. As a recruiter, I am always happy to hear a potential candidate say they are very happy with his/her career. Most recruiting calls find employees who are entirely willing to talk about other options available to them.

    1. Exactly! The point of this article is to create the climate where employees feel valued and well-treated. If they leave the organization, then it is truly for an opportunity they simply couldn’t pass up to advance their career.

  7. There is an old adage (based on survey) that states “the most common factor for someone staying or leaving a role is their manager” and I’m still a strong believer in that as a manager of many years. Several of these points play to this point and I think it’s critical for companies to invest in understanding and managing the working relationships between manger and employee.

    Without that trusted adviser/supporter/manager THEN it falls back to pay/vacation and all the other things that many satisfied employees will say are secondary in nature.

  8. A good post to read ! I vote for the fact that : Employee connected
    = Employee engaged. Today in Ramco Systems, while we talk about MUSIC…Gen Y
    ERP, we also keep thinking proactively and come up with various measures to retain
    the “Star performers” and bring in a culture to suit the Gen Y workforce. Getting
    Mobile, Keeping employees informed about business -Effective internal
    communications, ‘Evil Thoughts’ – Creating an opportunity for employees to get more creative and come out with a new business idea and get rewarded, Flexible mode of working – Work from home, reduced working hours, Cross functional opportunities, Strategic roles in Product development, attractive project based incentives and other
    Rewards & recognition schemes are already in line for our employees. It would be great if we get inputs on few intuitive ways to keep our employees engaged:)

  9. I feel this post holds true for rest of the industries except IT industry in India. 90% IT professionals think of change only for a good salary, this is on high priority then anything else.

  10. Laura, This is an excellent article. What do you think of a very young manager with no experience who takes what one employee says negatively about another employee and approaches the talked-about employee as if what was said is gospel. Also, this manager does not bring the accused and accuser together ever. Is this appropriate managing? He also constantly tells the accused that “exit plans should be made.”

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