Employee Retention

Most of These 9 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees Don't Cost Anything

The best employees truly desire self-improvement.
Most of These 9 Ways to Keep Your Best Employees Don't Cost Anything
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Guest Writer
Entrepreneur & Startup CEO, CEO of VocaWorks & Truli Technologies
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We’ve heard great advice about how to hire the right employees, and have been reminded many times that preventing great employees from leaving is the best recruitment strategy. But keeping great staff isn’t just about doing a set of tasks; it’s about having the proper mindset. In today’s competitive job market, you consistently have to be engaged with your staff, let them know you care, and demonstrate it in all your actions.

1. Get to know people.

We sometimes are not mindful enough of the fact that we spend the best hours of the best days of the best years of our lives at work. It doesn’t mean that these people need to become as close as family or your dearest friends, but it’s certainly a shortcoming to not know more about them. What keeps them up at night, what they’re passionate about, what they enjoy when they aren’t spending hours with you and your colleagues. Over time, as you build trust, and people realize you are truly interested in getting to know them, you’ll have a chance to glimpse their vision and values and see how you can ensure that the work they do everyday is aligned with that (and continues to be).

Related: The One Person All New Employees Should Get to Know During Their First Week on the Job

2. Communicate.  

Many employees leave early on because they feel left to fend for themselves. Especially during onboarding, and in the months after that process is completed, it’s important to make sure that employees know what your expectations are, and more critically, that the door is open for feedback about how the process is going. They should know what the path to success at the company looks like -- not necessarily because they want to copy it step-by-step, but so that they have a blueprint for how they can forge their own path.

3. Recognize contributions.  

Every company does this differently, and the way you do it should be aligned with your company culture and values as well as the personality of the given individual. Maybe such recognition is more private and personal, like a thank-you note, a post-it or a lunch out. Perhaps it’s the opposite of that, and involves an @channel shout-out on Slack or a company-wide email. Whatever path you choose, make sure that it’s consistent, and don’t miss celebrating small wins at the expense of looking to celebrate only the biggest ones. And remember, if you know your team and have their trust and permission, you’ll be able to share their personal, non-work wins as well, which only gives the team more opportunities to bond and grow together.

4. Proactive benefits.  

While some of the top firms in the world offer round-the-clock catering, babysitting, dry cleaning, and the like, many employees just want to know they are more than a number and an accounting entry, and that’s seen in benefits -- not just the ones that are expected, but in the openness to those that might not be. Employees of many professions value flexible working time and conditions more than ever, so that should be something you consider, in accord with how your company performs best, delivering in abundance. There should also be an openness to asking employees for what kind of benefits they would like to see. These can be shared with the company and the ideas can be voted on, and if popular, implemented. Employees may not get every benefit they desire, but the fact that they were able to share and actually be listened to would go a long way.

Related: Netflix-Like Recommendations May Be in Store for Workplace Benefits

5. Get rid of dead weight.  

There are few things as demoralizing as underperforming team members. They bring down the performance of others and lead to a “is anybody paying attention?” attitude among your team, especially if the behavior is consistent and egregious. There’s no need to stage a major public firing. It’s just important to make sure your team knows that excellence is the standard and that those who aren’t committed to that, or to turning around a bad streak, have to go. No exceptions.

6. Opportunities.  

The best employees truly desire self-improvement. That’s why, more and more, there are numerous subscription sites where people pay their own money to take classes and learn skills online. Don’t wait for staff to upskill on their own time. Give them opportunities to cross-train and upskill on company time in different departments. Be proactive -- this goes back to having an open line of communication, established with them at the beginning -- about asking what they would like to improve in and how you can help with that.

7. Empower.  

Just as in the early days, it’s important to communicate expectations and be constantly soliciting for feedback about onboarding and growth, so too it’s important to allow developing and more seasoned employees to find their own way -- not just by not micromanaging, but by giving them opportunities to manage and direct on their own. Look at failures here as learning experiences and treat them as such, always focusing on encouraging their growth.

Related: Discipline Yourself for Greatness

8. Promote and pay.  

Employees expect regular pay and promotion possibilities. What they don’t expect is for you to offer either “out of schedule.” This doesn’t need to be done for every employee in every situation, but given the right success at a task or the right milestone, the occurrences of on-the-spot meritorious promotions or unexpected pay raises will leak out into the rest of the team and keep them inspired to not have to wait for a raise or promotion, but to seek it out by delivering their very best work.

9. Ask them to mentor.  

This should only be offered to your very best staff, but they should be given an opportunity to mentor new staff. This will naturally make them up their game, as they are being asked to be a model for someone else, and better, mentorship is a win/win for everyone. You reinforce whenever you teach, and helping someone at the beginning of a journey can only help lend perspective to those further along.

Final thoughts.

It’s easy to get complacent in life, be it regarding family, friends, and yes, especially work. Comfort sets in, and so does routine, and time passes. Understandably, even the greatest employees move on for various reasons, not necessarily related to what’s going on  But the best workplaces and the best teams never take anything for granted. Employers need to show that they don’t take great employees for granted; that they want to hire -- and more importantly, keep -- the best. That sort of engagement and focus is exciting -- and contagious.You might just inspire some of your best employees to stay and help you on that mission.

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