Six Steps to Retaining Your Best Employees

July 1st, 2007

By Gary Zelamsky
Founding Partner, Executive Alliance
July 2007 

Does it seem that no matter what you’ve done, your company still has high turnover? Are you resigned to running on the treadmill, constantly starting a new group of collectors, account executives, or other key employees? Do you feel like too many employees are leaving just when they finally learned the right way to do things?

Losing a good employee is costly. It can cause morale problems for those who remain. Resulting staff shortages cause operational problems and missed deadlines for customer projects. It’s expensive to hire and train new staff, and it takes a long time for new employees to reach full productivity. These are some of the reasons why you may want to place greater emphasis on retaining your good employees.

While many growing businesses have these problems, you don’t have to spend all your time dealing with these issues. There are steps that you can take that will minimize turnover of good employees.

First, please realize that it’s not just about money. Compensation is only one factor that may influence employees to stay or leave. While you want to make sure that you are competitive in the marketplace, you don’t need to be the highest-paying organization in order to have loyal staff. Here some other areas to think about.

Track turnover
What gets measured gets done. I suggest dividing the number of annual departures by the average number of employees. Unless you have very wide fluctuations, the average number of employees is approximately the number at the beginning of the year plus the number at year-end, divided by two. To be more accurate you can also count employees on a monthly basis. However you compute it, do it consistently so that you can track your progress. Collectors and customer service reps are more likely to turn over than management staff, but if you are above 50 percent, you have lots of opportunity for improvement.

Fair and consistent policies
As your company grows, it becomes more important to focus on how employees are treated. Do you have policies in place that are understood by all employees and applied on a consistent basis? Employees will feel slighted if they feel that there is favoritism.

Training and career development
Almost everybody wants a career path. People want to know that if they work hard and are productive, they will have an opportunity to grow into higher level positions. People expect and appreciate coaching and training that will prepare them for promotional opportunities. Although training costs money initially, it will provide returns many times over in improved operations as well as employee satisfaction.

Systems
Employees get enormously frustrated over problems that affect their life at work. In any company with two or more employees, you will hear complaints about how another employee/department is messing up. While fingers often get pointed at people, the root cause is often a process or system that needs improvement. Next time you are in a staff or department meeting ask this question: “How many of you came to work today and intended to foul things up?” Of course everybody wants to do a good job. I suggest implementing some form of a quality initiative that aims to improve systems and work processes. Reducing rework and repeat calls can have a very positive impact on employee satisfaction.

Vision
People need leadership and a sense of direction. What is your vision? Do you strive to have the best results, the lowest prices, or achieve recognition for a specialty? Whatever it is, share your vision with everyone, so that all employees in your organization know what you are striving for. This will serve to keep employees focused on doing things right and doing the right thing. It also helps minimize constant changes that are disruptive to an organization.

Recognition
Last but not least, rewards and recognition are extremely important in maintaining a satisfied work force. People can adapt to all sorts of situations but everyone has a breaking point. Appropriate use of recognition will do wonders to build loyalty. If you can get employees involved in designing reward and recognition programs, you will have a happier staff at very little cost.

There is no single solution to reducing turnover. And some turnover is good – upgrading an organization may mean letting go of lower-producing employees. Spend some time with your staff discussing the above ideas. See which suggestions have more meaning or value for your organization. Implement those that you think will be easiest to accomplish or will have the most positive effect. The end result will be a more content workforce, lower employee turnover, reduced costs, and perhaps even happier customers.

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