6 Ways to Retain Your Best Employees

Every company wants to attract and keep the best talent. Turnover is expensive: studies show that it costs approximately 6-9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them, with numbers even higher for top-level positions (Source). Not to mention the cost and direct impact a bad hire or the departure of a loved and respected team member can have on the culture of your organization.

Not only that, but a lack of tenured employees means a lack of tribal knowledge about the organization that can contribute to its long-term success, and a limited ability to foster a culture of loyalty and commitment.

It is in every organization’s best interest to prioritize employee retention efforts, especially in today’s market with so much disruption and change. Consider these six ways to keep hold of your very best employees and attract even more of them.

1: Hire the right people up front

If you do not bring in high-quality employees at the onset, they are unlikely to turn into them after coming on board. Evaluate the characteristics of your best employees — both tangible and intangible — to understand the commonalities between those that are happiest and most productive for you. These personality traits, soft skills, and hard skills should all become criteria for hiring managers to be looking for as they recruit for new positions.

One of the greatest culprits of dissatisfaction at work are mismatched expectations: incorrect understanding of roles and responsibilities, inflated promises, or lack of advancement opportunities. Ensure that new employees have a clear understanding of what to expect when they join your organization. Transparency early in their experience with you will pay off in spades in the future.

2: Promote leaders, not bosses

It is common knowledge that people don’t leave poor-fit jobs, they leave poor-fit bosses. Conversely, people follow leaders: they’re inspired by them, motivated by them, and loyal to them. Invest in your people managers in order to best support your employees training them in areas such as setting expectations, conflict management, personality management, and more.

Effective leaders should have clear direction and vision for the future of their department and your company, competent to handle challenges, and inspire confidence in their teams. They should also make themselves available to employees for discussion, feedback, and problem solving. Create a management structure that helps employees feel secure in their role and like they have an advocate.

3: Be a place they’re proud to work for

The importance of culture in today’s world cannot be understated: the environment you are creating at work is a driving force behind your employees’ satisfaction in their roles.

Clearly define your core values as an organization and let them guide your decision making for both what you do in your business and in your community: engaging with charities, non-profits, or other causes. Help employees feel as if their work fits into their overall vision and values in life; this instills long-term loyalty.

4: Promote engagement

We’ve talked before about the importance of asking your customers for feedback, but many organizations forget that the same is true for employees. Establish an employee engagement program in your organization, surveying your teams twice per year for their feedback on the company. Intentionally gather feedback on their perceived clarity on their role, financial safety, and psychological safety as well. Measure these things over time to gauge progress and identify areas for improvement.

Your employees likely have great ideas for improving things in your organization, from how to approach a client problem to ways to create efficiencies in your processes. Cultivate an environment where these ideas are encouraged and valued.

5: Invest in them

Your best employees are your greatest assets, and your best-performing assets should be invested in. Doing so invests in the future of your company and promotes reciprocity: employees that feel taken care of are more likely to stay committed to your organization and invest their own time, energy, and talents in your success.

One of the characteristics you likely appreciate most in your best employees is their desire to grow. Cultivate this desire by making ongoing education and training available for them to continue to grow in their careers. This may take the form of professional development funds, in which employees can select and choose from resources to pursue on their own, conferences, or in-house training.

In addition to investing funds in your employees, maybe more important is investing your time. 1:1s with managers and team building engagement activities should occur on a consistent and reliable basis.

Don’t forget that the benefit of investing in employees is that you won’t just retain your best employees; you’ll attract them, too. A strong reputation for employee development can be a huge differentiator when talent is evaluating you against your competitors.

6: Reward appropriately

Each of the retention strategies we’ve discussed thus far are incredibly important, but the fact is that salary, benefits, and incentives are important if you wish to keep your best employees over the long term.

Ensure that your compensation packages remain competitive in today’s marketplace, evaluating them annually at the very least. In addition to base pay and bonus structures, consider other ways to reward and incentivize: offer new or upgraded equipment, extra vacation days, flexible work schedules, monthly lunches catered for the team and other “perks.” When combined with a solid compensation foundation, these things go a long way.

One of the most expensive things your business can do is lose valuable employees. But retention doesn’t happen by accident: it happens by intentionally engaging employees, fostering open communication, and acting on feedback.

In order to retain your best talent (and attract high-quality talent in the future), your organization must be intentional about creating a culture that cultivates loyalty and commitment. This begins with the hiring process, all the way to the seemingly small day-to-day interactions with your teams. When done well, you’ll find that your best employees will continue to give their best work year in and year out, becoming just as invested in the business’ growth as you are.