Small Business

5 retention tips to help keep top employees

As a business owner, one of the most critical things you can do to ensure the long-term success of your company is learn how to keep your top employees around. Despite what you may think, however, the antidote to high turnover isn’t offering your employees infinite work perks (though complimentary gym memberships and Tuesday lunches don’t hurt). The secret to a high retention rate is learning how to create an environment where your employees feel validated, supported, and respected.

Creating that environment takes time and consistency, but there are certain strategies you can adopt to get there. Here are five smart retention tips to keep your top employees engaged and fulfilled.

1. Provide regular feedback

Giving your employees feedback on their work performance, be it praise or constructive criticism, is crucial to keeping them engaged.

A 2009 Gallup Inc. study of over 1,000 employees in the U.S. found that employees who received positive feedback from their managers had a 61% chance of staying actively engaged in work, while employees who received negative feedback had a 45% chance of staying engaged. Those who received zero feedback? Just a 2% chance. Offering feedback on a consistent basis, even if it’s not overwhelmingly positive, shows your employees that you care about their contributions to the company.

Keep in mind that feedback doesn’t always have to take the form of monthly reviews and quarterly assessments — it can be as simple as thanking your employee for a job well done or offering a quick suggestion for improvement when you notice something.

2. Ask for suggestions

Consider holding monthly meetings with your employees to ask what (if anything) they’d like to change or improve upon. If you know your employees may not be openly vocal about their ideas, try putting out an anonymous suggestion box where they can drop their thoughts. The more often you give your employees opportunities to share constructive suggestions, the more they’ll feel comfortable chiming in.

Here’s the deal, though: you actually have to take action in response to your employees’ suggestions. Simply listening isn’t enough — you need to address their concerns in a clear, timely manner to building long-term satisfaction and trust.

3. Give your employees more freedom

As an employee, it’s important to have some degree of autonomy over your work responsibilities and schedule. A study published in Health Promotion International found that employees with greater autonomy in the workplace didn’t just report a higher level of work satisfaction overall — they were also less likely to leave the company.

As a business owner, it’s a good idea to ask your employees where they could benefit from having more freedom at work. Do they want to be more involved in conversations about quarterly team goals, for example, or spearhead more employee-led initiatives? Or maybe they’d prefer to have the option to work from home once a month? Once you identify what your employees want, look at ways you can tweak your company policies and culture to meet their needs.

4. Tap into their different skills

Encourage your employees to contribute to the business in a way that feels meaningful to them. Sit down with them one-on-one and brainstorm ways you could help them tap into their different talents at work.

If you’re hosting a clothing drive and your IT person has years of experience with volunteer work, for example, ask him if he’s willing to lead the initiative. Or, if your copy editor has a knack for idea conception, invite her to assist on your new marketing campaign. Employees who feel like they can use the full spectrum of their skills are more likely to want to contribute in areas that fall outside their typical job duties.

5. Provide opportunities for employees to grow

Give your employees the tools they need to grow and learn, both inside and outside the company. Encourage them to attend an industry conference or workshop, present them with opportunities to travel for work, or subsidize a course that’ll help them develop skills they can use in their role. When your employees feel stimulated and challenged in the workplace, they’re more likely to stay engaged in what they’re doing.    

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