Employee Retention Strategies that Actually Work

By Donald Cooper

In Part 1 of winning the war on talent, I provided six steps to help attract and hire extraordinary people. This final instalment devels into how to keep the talent you just hired, as it is necessary to truly be victorious.

Welcome a New Employee the Right Way
Get new people off to a good and welcoming start. The week before a new hire begins, send an announcement to everyone in the company, if small, or their department about them — their name, what they’ll be doing, business background and who they are as a person. Invite everyone to welcome the newcomer. And be sure to have their workspace ready for them on day one.

Of course, every business should have a ‘new employee welcome booklet’ that describes the company’s history, awards won and special achievements, and includes statements of purpose and values, a commitment to physical and psychological safety, a list of rules and anything else a newbie needs to know to hit the ground running.

Each new employee should receive a tour of the entire business so they can see the bigger picture and understand how their job fits into it. This impresses upon them the importance of their position. Smart companies also assign a team member to serve as a ‘guide,’ answer questions and help the new person fit in.

Training is imperative from the get-go and should be an ongoing part of every job. However, it’s about more than just conveying basic information. Training should be tailored to each new hire, based on what they already know and what they need to know.

Hear What People are Actually Saying
A vital part of communication is listening. Sit with each employee at least twice a year and ask them how they think the job is going, what additional training and coaching they’d like to receive, where they’d like to be in two to three years and how you can help them make that happen.

Hosting quarterly ‘idea fests’ in each area of your business is another way to demonstrate listening. This creates a space for employees to voice their thoughts, making them feel they are active participants in the company. It also democratizes the knowledge-creation situation by creating a level playing field. Set aside a few hours for each team member to brainstorm and deliver at least one idea to serve customers better, be more efficient or a better communicator.

Don’t Monitor Employees’ Every Step
Micromanaging imparts that you don’t trust your team enough to work the right way, damaging morale. Employees will lose interest and become complacent. If you have to micromanage, it’s a sure sign that either they’re the wrong people for the job or you’re an ineffective manager.

Instead, create a culture of accountability by agreeing on clear and specific outcomes. When a task is assigned, ask, “By when can we agree that this will be completed?” Document the commitment and always follow-up. Reschedule dates when necessary but never create ‘orphans’. An ‘orphan’ is anything someone has committed to do that doesn’t have a specific date attached to it.

Acknowledge, Reward and Celebrate Success
Recognize and reward top contributors, encourage and develop those with potential, and invite poor performers to ‘move on’.

Also, look for reasons to celebrate, from birthdays to special occasions to achievements, as this connects people. Send a card to each person on your team on the anniversary of their employment with the company. Thank them for one more year of sharing the passion, vision and commitment of the business. According to surveys, one of the main reasons people stop trying is the belief they don’t make a difference. A simple ‘thank you’ is a little thing that makes employees feel appreciated.

Donald Cooper has been both a world-class manufacturer and an award-winning retailer. Now a Toronto-based business speaker and coach, he helps business owners and managers rethink, refocus and re-energize their business to create compelling customer value, clarity of purpose and long-term profitability. Donald can be reached at donald@donaldcooper.com.

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