How to Get Employees to Stick Around

The worker-employer relationship can involve a complicated give-and-take. A serial entrepreneur reveals some of his techniques to promote staff satisfaction.

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By Mike Kappel • Oct 14, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

After you hire new employees, your job is not done. Actually keeping them happy is sometimes the hardest part.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers should start paying closer attention to voluntary employee turnover within their companies. Now that the economy is improving, high performers may see an opportunity to take their talents elsewhere.

While you can't expect staff members to stay around forever, it does make financial sense to try to retain them, since an employer might spend 21.4 percent of an employee's annual salary to replace one.

I'm not suggesting managers should cater to employees' every whim: They are adults and have been hired to do a job. The employee-employer relationship can be a complicated give-and-take and there's no standard formula of perks and benefits that automatically results in long-lasting worker satisfaction every time.

But even if you don't have the resources of Google (to provide a fleet of buses to shuttle employees back and forth or to hire a barista to serve fancy coffee), you can show your appreciation in tangible or intangible ways.

Related: Banish 'Annual' From Your Performance Review Vocabulary

How do you know what employees want? I have found that when you take the time to get to know your employees, you begin to learn what's important to them.

Many of my employees have young children and aging parents. Members of my staff want to be able to care for their families, so I let people work remotely when necessary. Employees also have a relaxed dress code. Because there's no walk-in traffic, my employees can wear jeans, sandals, shorts or whatever makes them feel comfortable. They appreciate this flexibility, and I believe this helps keep turnover low.

Providing competitive salaries and benefits is also important. My employees have the opportunity to receive raises or bonuses twice a year after completing a performance-review process. I have set up a stock-options program for employees, giving them a stake in the organization's growth.

Offering a healthy working environment is important, too. More than a year ago, my group of five companies, Charis Holdings, moved from a dark, 100-year-old converted office building to bright new facilities in a better part of town. Each employee received new desks and chairs, and every work area is comfortable and filled with light. This has done wonders for employees' spirits, although some think that new hires should visit the scary old building just for fun.

Setting up this newly renovated building was a huge expense, but I felt it was necessary to keep my group of companies moving forward. The old building was unhealthy and it affected employees' morale and even my own. We also now have oudoor green space, where employees can eat lunch or even work on projects in the fresh air.

Related: Culture That Counts -- 5 Ways to Dramatically Boost Employee Satisfaction

Now that we're settled in, my five companies occupy five different suites in the building. One common thread is the "Way to go" slide show displayed on a large screen in each suite and that serves to build a sense of community among all the companies. Through it we share moments from employees' birthdays and work anniversaries, fun facts about staff members, photos from our last get-together and notable accomplishments. (Walking by the silly group picture from last year's Christmas party is guaranteed to lift someone's spirits.) We also posted pictures of the old building to help us remember where we've been.

I arrive to work at the same time as my employees, and I'm often the last person to leave. I think it's important that my co-workers see me there, showing up every day just as they do. I work with my door open, and employees know that they can pop in to share any concerns or struggles they're having. I don't have much time for chitchat, but if someone appears, I will stop what I'm doing and listen to what they might bring up. I want to make myself available to employees.

Finally, when my co-workers leave for the day, I say thank you. I started this practice more than 20 years ago and at first people were surprised. I don't think they were used to an employer saying that. I want them to know that I truly appreciate the time they devote to the job and their hard work -- whether they've had a productive day or not. I think this goes a long way to helping employees feel appreciated.

When you take a look at your workplace, think of tangible and intangible ways to make employees' lives a little easier. What is most important to them? What will really make a difference? Chances are, it's something more than just a cup of fancy coffee.

Related: 7 Ways to Say I Love You

Mike Kappel

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Writer

Serial Entrepreneur, Patriot Software Company CEO

Mike Kappel is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder and CEO of Patriot Software Company, and its subsidiaries.  Patriot Software, LLC is a developer of online payroll and accounting software for U.S. small-business owners.

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