As the Economy Gets Moving, Will Your People Do the Same?

Five ways to keep your best and brightest motivated--and working for you

learn more about Burton Goldfield

By Burton Goldfield

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

According to Deloitte's recent annual "Ethics & Workplace Survey", one-third of employed Americans plan to look for a new job once the economy recovers. That's an astounding figure that, in many cases, could be mitigated if organizations invested in a long-term strategic approach to motivate and reward staff. Many companies assume they need to roll out extravagant rewards to make a big impact. This is not so, and I've found that a healthy retention rate can be achieved by following the tips listed below.

1. Management training builds morale and employee dedication: The status of an employee's relationship with his or her manager is the most sensitive indicator of whether he will stay or quit. It's not enough that a manager is nice; they need to communicate clear expectations to the employee, offer ongoing feedback about performance and provide a framework within which the employee can perceive success. Ensuring that employees are provided with clear feedback on their performance and that they clearly understand their earning potential will let them know they're valued and an important part of the long-term bigger picture.

2. Embrace employee opinions or risk losing their respect: As I wrote in June, corporate culture is the way employees describe where they work, understand the business and see themselves as part of the organization. If an employee feels empowered and comfortable to speak freely within the company, they are more likely to feel a part of the business. Ask yourself: Does my organization solicit ideas and provide an environment in which people are comfortable providing valuable feedback? If so, this will create a happy and more productive work force. If the company does not promote an open door policy for feedback, employees often disengage and ultimately go looking for a better fit.

3. Recognize your staff: Employees like to know that they're valued members of a larger team, and recognition for a job well done goes a long way in establishing company loyalty. If offering a raise, cash bonus or additional paid-time off aren't options, nonfinancial rewards, title promotions and new assignments are all great alternatives--and often mean more than financial recognition. Offer top performers a greater role in decision making or set them up with a mentor. If a business prefers to financially reward employees but cannot afford pay raises, bonuses are also an effective tactic.

4. Create a sense of community: One of the biggest benefits to working in a small or midsize business is the closeness of an environment where people know each other beyond just a name and a face; it can become a true community. Leverage this strength by holding potlucks, picnics and even the occasional social hour. Being part of a community can be a powerful counterpoint when a larger, more impersonal entity tries to recruit your star employees.

5. Transparency goes a long way in building trust: Share financial details and other company information with employees, and solicit their input. If employees feel they're part of the overall process of moving your business forward, they will not only stay productive, but they will also support new ideas that come from management.

I truly believe that to succeed and retain top performers, business leaders must provide an honest snapshot of the company's future goals. I hold an all-hands meeting quarterly to review the previous quarter, reveal company financials and asses the company's achievements in relation to the goals we set. This provides an opportunity for staff to ask questions and allows the entire company to hear the same message.

As validation of this idea, Deloitte's survey identified that 48 percent of respondents cited loss of trust in their employer, and 46 percent claimed lack of transparent communication from their company's leadership were the primary reasons for pursuing new employment at the end of the recession.

The bottom line is that employees are the one asset a company categorically cannot do without; the retention of key employees is crucial to a company's long-term health and success. As the economy stabilizes, many CEOs and managers are rightfully concerned that their best talent will look for greener pastures at other companies--an occurrence that will only escalate as the economy continues to improve.

Burton Goldfield

President and CEO, TriNet

Burton Goldfield is president and CEO of San Leandro, Calif.-based TriNet, an HR outsourcing partner to small businesses. He is responsible for setting TriNet's overall corporate strategy and providing guidance regarding its human capital offerings.

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