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Craft strategy to retain your best employees

08/23/2013

I love my job chalkboardIt’s getting a lot easier for your most valued employees to find jobs at other companies. And if your retention efforts aren’t better than your competitors’ recruiting, you stand a good chance of losing your star employees.

Fact: If your employees believe you aren’t bending over backward to keep them, they won’t hesitate to bolt. Employees do pay attention: A survey by staffing firm Spherion reveals that just 13% of workers believe their companies are trying hard enough to retain them.

Don’t let your superstars get away! Retaining them will keep you productive and competitive. Plus, you’ll save the hassle, expense and downtime of recruiting and training newbies to replace highly skilled defectors.

2 core retention tactics

Spherion’s Emergent Workforce Study points to the success of companies that consider retention drivers critical to the bottom line. Con­­clu­­sion: Suc­­cess­­ful firms invest significant money and time to retain their best employees.

Two best retention practices, from the study:

  • Career development. The study revealed that just 28% of workers are satisfied with their career progress and earnings potential. More im­­por­­tant, fewer than 30% say they understand how to advance at their companies. Tip: Offer robust career development and training programs that include tuition assistance, online career development tools, mentoring and attention to individual career paths.
  • Work/life balance. Formal flexibility and work/life benefits are im­portant to post-recession workers, who are placing more value on the balance between work and family. At the same time, the study notes, work schedules have become more demanding. Among the employees in the study, 93% ranked work/life balance programs as the most attractive job characteristic. Top programs: flex-time, telework, paid time off for community service, sabbaticals.

Keep your stars engaged

Both of those tactics keep employees engaged in the work they do for you. A high level of employee engagement is a significant predictor of low staff turnover.

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In a recent OfficeTeam survey, more than 60% of workers admitted they would be likely to leave their jobs if they felt disengaged—and more than a quarter said their companies do too little in terms of motivation.

The key culprit for disengagement that kills retention, according to the study: The sense that staff can’t reach their professional goals or understand how they contribute to the organization’s big-picture objectives.

Four tips from the research:

  1. Be transparent. Share your company’s financial status and goals. Explain how they affect employees and their jobs. Employees who feel connected to the organization are less likely to leave it.
  2. Seek feedback. Ask employees to weigh in on the organizational or work-process changes you are considering—and do it while there’s still time for employee input to affect implementation, not when the changes are already set in stone. Make it easy and comfortable for em­­ployees to approach higher-ups with suggestions and concerns.
  3. Help employees stretch. Offer opportunities for employees to take on responsibilities and projects outside their comfort zones. You can even make it a formal job requirement. Such assignments demonstrate that your organization has confidence in its employees. They also help employees develop new skills.
  4. Talk about the future. Encourage routine conversations between employees and their bosses about career goals and opportunities for professional growth. Looking forward that way keeps employees focused on their future with your organization. It helps them envision what they are working toward.

Don’t forget pay

The most traditional of all retention tools, of course, is the pay raise.

While employees in dozens of job-satisfaction surveys have ranked training, flexibility and other nonmonetary rewards higher than pay, nobody disputes that money matters to employees. It’s a huge driver when high performers weigh the merits of multiple job offers and when deciding whether to leave an organization or stay put.

The 2012 WorkTrends report from recruiting firm Kenexa bears that out, showing that employees who believe their pay relates to how well they perform at work are about two-thirds less likely to quit their jobs than their colleagues who don’t see the link.

The impact of that is more acute for high-performing employees: The study says 47% of them don’t believe their compensation is based on how well they do their jobs.

Hidden culprit: Just 26% of front-line supervisors in the study said they know how pay and performance are linked. So they’re not able to share that important tidbit with their own teams.

How to pay: Offer significantly higher pay raises to the high-­performing, high-potential employees that your organization most wants to retain. Example: A compensation planning survey from Mercer estimates that star employees received base pay increases of 4.6% in 2013, while average performers drew 2.6% and low producers got 0.2%.

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