Keep your best employees as the economy recovers!

As I referenced in my free September newsletter (contact me if you are not already on the e-mailing list)...surveys of top level executives show that one of the biggest fears with the "down" economy is......what impact the recovery will have on their own staff!
It only makes sense that since many employees go into lock-down mode during a tough economy, as the market recovers and companies begin to hire again, employees become curious about checking out other options for career advancement. That said, the companies that understand the potential for losing employees (and the costs associated with turn-over) and address the problem aggressively, will be the most successful in retaining key employees.

Here are some of the keys to RETENTION that I've seen some of my clients be successful with...and some suggestions of my own:

1. Education/Skills/Career Development. Most employees aren't looking for "jobs", they are looking for "careers". Their is a significant investment by an employee into what they do for a living...sacrifices sometimes include - money, time, family, etc. They've given up a portion of free time and devoted themselves to being successful. With that in mind, good companies can contribute to that success by providing things like continuing education (skills training or tuition reimbursement), cross-training to develop new skills, certification bonuses, mentoring programs (both providing mentors and letting employees be mentors), and subscriptions to business/industry/trade magazines. Not only do these programs increase retention, they also make employees more valuable to the organization.

2. Company Culture. Work Companies that are fun to work for keep their key employees around. Happy employees are also more productive. Encourage development of an atmosphere where employees enjoy spending time. Strive for a work/life "balance". Yes, that soccer game is very important to a parent. Be open to having some flexibility in the work schedule. Next, encourage "PDD's" (Personal Development Days). For example, one client I work with gives employees half a day each month for personal development and/or community involvement. Give time for employees to read a book, volunteer in the community, plant a tree...whatever helps them be better people. Another "culture booster" is company memberships/discounts to warehouse stores, professional development groups, and even user groups. These are all great little perks that show employees that they mean more to the company than just exchanging their time/efforts for a pay check.

3. Rewards. Most companies reward production. That's great...keep it up. But, why not also have rewards for retention. I've seen the traditional "gold watch" idea for X years of service, financial incentives/cash bonuses for 2, 5, and 10 year marks, and other creative ideas tied to longevity. Make sure to tailor rewards appropriately. Typically, the younger workforce is drawn more to salary rewards while a mature workforce is drawn to other benefits - including health care bonuses, retirement contributions, etc. Get input from your staff and have options!

4. Be honest and frank about bad news. If there are concerns or less than positive situations, deal with them quickly and honestly. Don't be afraid to deliver bad news. Nothing can cause morale problems and turnover as quickly as rumors about what "could" be looming (ie..layoffs, firings, sales slumps), or even trying to cover up "bad news". When a layoff is necessary, be prudent and precise. Don't make layoffs across the board in an effort to "be fair"...make cuts where necessary, not everywhere. Productive teams shouldn't be treated the same as less productive groups.

5. Hire correctly. Establish and use a hiring process that works. Don't hire in a panic, but don't miss out on the best employees with a burdensome process either. Find what works for your company, whether it be a recruiter, ads, networking, etc., then refine the process so that interviews really do indicate which candidates will be successful. Look for employees like the ones you have - and try to find them in the same places. Most importantly, DO NOT UNDER-STAFF. It may seem cost effective at the time, but overworked employees will leave - regardless of how great your other retention programs are.

Hopefully as you employ some of these strategies into your company's retention program, you will see the results. Stop letting your best assets and intellectual property walk out the front door. Trust me, as a recruiter, my candidates very rarely leave a company they "love" just for a few dollars more per year. They leave companies that could have very well kept them with a small investment of time, money, and creativity.

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Comment by Charles Van Heerden on September 22, 2009 at 8:08pm
Great points Trevor and I agree it going to be a real challenge for employers to re-engage staff. Due to poor leadership a number of companies have introduced pay and hiring freezes, without considering the real impact on staff. We will see the full impact with the next round of employee surveys, unless companies consider suggestions such as yours.

It will be very interesting to see how companies will be "catching up" on pay to maintain their market positioning.

On the recruitment front, there will be multiple waves of activity: First wave as companies start recruitment again, second wave as employees are leaving and companies are experiencing skills gaps.

Your first point is most important for the individual, as they want to see and feel that they are being seen as important enough for the business to invest in them.


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