Published On: May 31st, 20222231 words11.2 min read

We’ve all heard about the Great Resignation, and we previously wrote an article about how to prevent your workers from leaving. We work with a lot of businesses and like to support them as much as we can, so we found some additional ways that our clients can retain their existing talent.

As all business owners know, it’s expensive to onboard new staff. First you have to find them, which can be expensive and often time-consuming. Then you have to hire them, in a market which is no longer quite so favorable to employers. Which means that your company needs to be attractive to jobseekers! 

Once you’ve convinced them to sign on the line that is dotted, you need to spend time and energy onboarding them. In a way that suggests to them that they’re valuable and that you really want them to work for your company.

In other words, you’re looking at a process that at the very least is going to take some time and energy, and potentially cost a lot as well. It’s so much more efficient to retain talented staff. Yet it comes down to the same issue that you’ll have with jobseekers anyway: your company needs to be a compelling place for them to work.

Assuming you’re providing competitive compensation, money is not the reason why people leave. Workers want to feel heard, cared about, and respected, and to feel that they’re serving a purpose with their job. 

The three suggestions we made in the previous article were:

  • Competitive compensation

This includes not just wages, but other benefits like retirement plans, healthcare, and so on. If you can’t pay out as much cash, consider providing the benefits talented people are looking for. Flexible scheduling is a big one. 

With a little creativity, even a cash-strapped firm can offer some perks to help retain your employees. But as we noted before, as long as the package is competitive, money isn’t the reason you might lose staff.


  • Caring about and respecting employees 

Gone are the days of top-down, command-and-control leadership. As a business owner, you need to inspire as well as direct your staff and management. Younger employees especially look for employers who hear them and are willing to hear out new ideas.


  • Sense of purpose

Hospital janitors who understood that they were the foundation of healthcare at the hospital, by keeping everything clean, felt a sense of purpose and happiness at their work. Those who just saw themselves as janitors didn’t feel that same sense of purpose and esteem. 

Explain to each staff member how their contributions directly feed the mission. And yes, you’ll need to remind them of that periodically. Especially when they’re having a rough day, it can be a kindness to remind them why they’re important to you and the company.

Yet those aren’t the only things for you to consider. There are additional tactics you can employ to keep the employees that you’ve identified as talented and who support your mission.


Provide professional development/upward mobility for your talent

Studies show that workers who have the opportunity to move around to different departments within the company tend to stay longer. If your business is small, there may not be a lot of room for them to move around. But you still may be able to rotate people around in different parts of the operation.

You can also support them in developing their professional skills. If you think you have a line employee who might make a good manager, help support them along that path. They might need a mentor or management training. Or both.

Or your talent may want to acquire a new skill that could help support the business in a different way. Don’t lose sight of the fact that education and training are usually tax deductible as long as they are related to your business!


Train your management

So very often workers who are talented at doing their jobs get promoted to supervisor or management… but they don’t know how to manage well. If you want to keep your staff, you need to ensure that you’re not being undermined, however unintentionally, by supervisors or managers who don’t know how to do their jobs. 

Invest in training for them (again, usually tax-deductible) to make sure that they can perform their management job just as well as they performed the work.

Helping managers get better at their jobs isn’t so much about hard skills, and may have little to do with them, in fact. Staff that are excellent at getting the work done may not have the soft skills that managers need, such as strong communication skills and empathy. 

They may also need some guidance in terms of looking at the big picture. When you’re “just” a member of a team, understanding the big picture is nice to have. But you can probably get your job done just as well without it.

However, managers and supervisors need to understand how each team member’s job fulfills  the mission of the department or section, as well as how the team fulfills the larger mission of the organization. 

Being able to direct a team can be different from working in the team, so understanding how teams work might be new for new managers. They also likely need to understand how to motivate people who are different from them, and how to manage different personalities inside the team as well.

That’s a lot of responsibility for someone who may not have needed any of those skills or knowledge as a worker. If your new manager can’t manage, you could end up with team members leaving for a better working environment elsewhere. Or the manager themselves may quit because they find the new duties too complex, taxing, or outside their “wheelhouse”.

Or worse… you lose both the manager and the workers! Wouldn’t investing in training be a lot easier for the company in the short run… not to mention easier (and cheaper) in the long run!


Be more family-friendly

One of the best ways to help retain your talent is to make sure that they feel valued, even if they need to take a break to have a baby, care for a baby, or care for elderly parents. Flexibility in scheduling is huge for working women especially, as is generous family leave policies. 

This also coincides with more scheduling flexibility in general. Not just great for families, but it’s something most workers are looking for.


Provide recognition

There are many companies that believe workers should do their best all the time with no special reward or recognition beyond the salary you pay them. This strategy might work with robots, but it doesn’t work with all human employees. 

Most people like being recognized for their accomplishments, and that helps motivate and engage them. Not only does recognition work for individual workers, but research according to Gallup shows that it actually increases employee loyalty and productivity for your company in general. 

But no participation trophies! Your recognition needs to be authentic, tailored to the employee and how they like to be recognized. Public awards and certificates are high on the list for many employees when they think about how they’d want to be best recognized. 

Yet some might like a company-wide party to celebrate their accomplishment; others might prefer a message sent via Intranet, and still others might really appreciate a nice card on the desk and maybe a gift card to their favorite restaurant.

The good news about employee recognition is that it doesn’t have to cost much. Balloons? Cards? Emails? Framing a certificate that you printed out? Spending a lot of money isn’t necessary – just making your workers feel valued and appreciated. 

While employees appreciate recognition from their line supervisor, sometimes just a few words or a card from the CEO can be a huge highlight. 


Socialization within the company

When staff have the ability to socialize and get to know people in other departments, they often become more engaged. Although you don’t necessarily need to provide formal mentorships or buddy systems, you might consider doing that if the employees are receptive to it (or have been asking for it).

And if not, you can still foster a sense of community by providing spaces and time where employees can mingle and get to know one another.

There are several tech companies who designed their physical spaces with break rooms between groups of offices. That was done on purpose so that employees with different functions would naturally interact with each other and spark more conversations and ideas.

It also helps workers make friends and connections across functions and departments, which helps them be more engaged. And of course as employee engagement increases, so does the likelihood that they remain with the firm. 

Many companies like to sponsor happy hours, but it extends the workday, which isn’t necessarily what your employees need or want. Women in particular often have a number of responsibilities at home, so spending more time with colleagues after hours isn’t always the right answer. 

If you support retreats or conferences for your employees, you can dedicate time for socializing and give them a nice place to do it in. If you’ve got virtual meetings and conferences, make sure they’ve got “regular” breaks as well as socialization breaks. 


Design feedback mechanisms from bottom to top

One of the key components in worker productivity and engagement is feeling that their voices are heard by colleagues and management. Listening is important, but so is acting on good ideas from your front line staff. Putting processes in place to ensure that ideas filter up and are actually considered, if not always put in place, is critical.

Granted, not every idea is going to be something that you either like or implement! However, when staff can see that some of their ideas are getting through to the top levels and actually executed, they’re more likely to feel valued and that their work is important. Even just putting a feedback mechanism in place shows the value of their input.


Remove busywork to the best of your ability

While some people enjoy busywork, most people don’t, and your talent probably doesn’t. Into every worker’s life a little busy rain must fall, but try to reduce it where you can. There are so many software applications for so many different functions and titles, that very few staff members should be working on spreadsheets or using calculators or paper pads.

Just make clear that the point of the software is to make their jobs easier so they can concentrate on the important things, not to automate them out of existence! If they’re good problem solvers, let them know that you want them to spend time on solutions, not on tedious, menial tasks. 

Or, you may be able to shift some of the work to someone who enjoys that type of work, leaving room for the talent to work on the more important issues in your business. A lot of administrative work can be outsourced to virtual assistants (VAs), who often can be paid on a contractor basis, saving you money that you can put towards retaining your full time employees. 

This may also mean rethinking the reports that you ask your team to fill out. If there are other ways to gather the data you need (instead of the fabled “TPS reports”), consider using them so you free up your talent’s time to do critical work. 

And if you’re measuring by results, how many reports do you need? Sales figures speak for themselves, and your equipment likely has output measurements that you can use. See what reports you can automatically run through your software and if that gives your management the tools they need to determine whether everyone’s performing according to their metrics.

Pay attention to cultural differences

Large, global companies often have some processes in place to help work out cultural differences. However, even if you’re not global, you probably still need to be aware of differences in background. 

For example, some cultures are reluctant to speak up when they see something going wrong, especially to their superiors. That doesn’t mean they agree with what’s being said, so you might need to find different ways to get their feedback.

Others may have expectations about their job or how they want to be treated that supervisors may need to help manage. There are people and cultures that still maintain hierarchies, and working in a relatively “flat” organization could be new to them.

Paying attention doesn’t mean that you separate people from different cultures. It’s important to acknowledge the differences so you can help bridge them. After all, everyone’s on the same team!


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