Ten Tips for Retaining Employees

Have a job opening you can’t fill because there are too few good applicants to choose from?  It’s happening across the country, especially for technology jobs.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Computer and Information Technology jobs are projected to grow by 13% between now and 2026—faster than the average for all occupations.  This includes areas such as cloud computing, collection and storage of big data and information security.  Many of us already know how challenging it is to fill these positions, and today’s tight labor market makes things even tougher.  The BLS also reports that every month, three million Americans leave their jobs in search of something better — because they can. When an employee leaves, it can cost the company up to double that person’s salary to replace them, according to studies conducted by the Center for American Progress (CAP).  Retaining your best people is more important now than ever.

Unemployment rates in the U.S. and Europe have fallen to some of the lowest rates in decades. Of course, this means fewer available workers to fill openings.  For all you job seekers this is an advantage but it’s a big challenge for companies looking to hire and retain skilled workers.  The hiring process takes time too.  From a few days to up to four months, on average, according to a global survey conducted by LinkedIn.  Once you find them, it could take anywhere from six months to two years for that employee to be trained in their new job according to many Human Resource managers polled in the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM).  

So, what can employers do to retain their most talented people?  This was a hot topic at a meeting of ecommerce CEOs I recently attended.  We spent a lot of time sharing our own best practices for employee retention and I thought I’d share some of those ideas with you.  Here are ten that came out of that recent meeting of ecommerce CEOs:

  1. Prioritize Culture Fit— Culture is arguably the most important factor when hiring a new employee.  It’s easier to improve someone’s job skills than to fix a bad culture fit.
  2. Stress Growth Potential–Make sure applicants are aware of their opportunities for growth and development.  When one can visualize their future at your company, they’re less likely to seek that future elsewhere.
  3. Keep Communication Open—One of the CEOs shared that she has lunch with a different employee every day.  Not everyone will want to do this, of course, but if you can, it creates a comfortable environment for sharing honest feedback and showing that you take employee concerns seriously.
  4. Offer Flexibility— Not everyone fits into the 9 to 5 mold anymore.  More and more workers are looking for opportunities to work from home or on an alternate schedule that accommodates things like school pickups (for parents) and taking care of other personal issues with less of a hassle, while still being able to get work done.  More and more businesses are offering flexible schedules to stay competitive for top talent.
  5. Provide Nourishment—Speaking of less hassle, if employees can get a healthy, satisfying lunch in the office without having to go off site (sometimes far), any upfront cost to the company is paid back in productivity and of course happier employees who don’t have to worry about preparing lunch or figuring out where to eat.  
  6. Motivate with a Mission—Corporations are re-focusing their priorities on employees, as well as other stakeholders, over profits at any cost, according to a recent report by the Business Roundtable.  Companies are responding to a changing world where, among other things, employees want to work for companies that reflect their values.  If you can develop a vision and values that employees will be proud of – centered around honesty, integrity and leadership – people will stick around. 
  7. Invest in Professional Development—Provide educational and training opportunities through workshops or conferences, tuition reimbursement or inhouse mentoring programs.
  8. Verify Their Value—Offer rewards – anything from bonuses to paid time off.  Get creative, know your employee and find something that would provide value to their lives.
  9. Make Work Meaningful—Provide opportunities for stimulating assignments where employees can make a difference either in the company or the community.
  10. Know Why They Stay—Take time to understand why people choose to stay.  Interview current employees for insights into why they’re happy and identify policies that contribute to employee retention.  Open feedback is always key.

Employee retention boils down to just a few important factors: Treat your employees with integrity and respect, then challenge and reward them along the way.  Keeping a happy employee today is much more productive than searching for a new one tomorrow. 

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