6 Ways to Retain Top Employees

Leadership strategies to reduce turnover.

For some time now, my son-in-law has been in a bit of a crisis at work. He’s a loyal, dedicated manager at his company, but for many months he has been out on a job search.

Does he want to leave his present employer? No, but he was feeling “stuck,” underappreciated, and like he was giving more to the job than it was giving to him.

This is not unique to him. I talk to friends and colleagues nearly every day who feel like their employer isn’t giving them enough. Enough what? That’s the issue. It’s a lot of things — lack of recognition, enough reward, enough attention, or opportunity to grow, develop, and move up.

Here are a number of proven strategies to help keep those valuable members of your teams.

1. Simple Recognition. When was the last time you said “thank you” to your team members? We are social animals and respond well to positive reinforcement — even if there are no tangible rewards. Regularly recognize the good work your team members do.

2. Personalized Gifts. While social recognition of saying “thanks” can be reinforcing, try coupling it with some personalized gift. Demonstrate that you know your team members well by giving them something that’s meaningful to them — a gift card for golf, shopping, a meal at their favorite restaurant, etc. As they say, it isn’t the amount involved but “the thought that counts.”

3. Focus on a Shared Mission. Make sure to focus on the purpose and mission of your team and organization and how that aligns with the employee’s sense of purpose. Let them see how their work contributes to team/organizational objectives and recognize their contributions. I know of one employee who helped create a valuable product that greatly enhanced the company’s revenue. The CEO often went out of his way to recognize that contribution and let the employee and others in the organization know about it.

4. Focus on Employee Career Development. Schedule one-on-one sessions with each team member to regularly discuss their career development. What sorts of training do they need to enhance their skillset? What areas would they like to develop? What are their career aspirations in the organization, and beyond? Some employers worry that if you invest in developing employees, they will eventually leave, but this can actually increase their commitment to the organization and allow you to find opportunities for them to move up.

5. Be a Positive Role Model. There’s a saying, “employees don’t leave their jobs, they leave their bosses.” By being an exemplary leader — one that employees can look up to and be proud of — you will have a good chance of creating the kind of environment that employees will want to stay in.

6. Reward Specific Performance. All too often, employees are given an annual “cost of living” increase, or some version of annual merit pay. Yet it is critical that employees make the connection between the work they do and their compensation. Make sure to tie any raises or perks back to each team member’s individual performance. Let them know that it is their contributions that are being rewarded, not just showing up (or, in the case of sub-par performance, let them know what needs to improve for future rewards). In short, take performance evaluations seriously.

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