In a booming market for job seekers, how can we retain our superstar employees? It is an age-old question, and below are some time-tested suggestions and secrets that I have learned from great leaders. After investing time and effort training employees and seeing them grow into top talent, how do we make sure we get the return on that investment? It is a painful loss when employees take their developed skills to competitors or elsewhere in general. Retaining top employees goes far beyond compensation.
Over years of experience as an HR Leader and Leadership Instructor and Facilitator, I have come to value specific retention and engagement tools, and I am pleased to share my top 10 with you. Part of leadership includes making other people stronger and better. I have been fortunate to learn from mentors who have generously shared their best practices. In my experience, the best leaders tend to be the most generous in sharing their knowledge.
- Show Genuine Care and Concern: We spend so many hours at work together with our employees that managers and leaders who have an ability to connect with their teams are more likely to win hearts and minds.
- Recognize Contributions and Good Work: Everyone likes to be appreciated and recognized when their work warrants positive feedback. Ask your employees if they prefer to be acknowledged when they are coming onboard. This way you can customize displays of appreciation. The very fact that you took time to understand their individual preferences shows that you care
- Create and Promote Development Plans: Help your team set broad and individual goals to uncover areas where they can improve. This can be done through day-to-day feedback, performance evaluations, and/or leadership assessments. Set broad and specific goals. As a leader, you have the ability to impact your team members for the better. Take opportunities to coach employees to be reflective and find their own solutions without micromanaging.
- Develop People Skills and Emotional Intelligence: It is important to develop your own people skills and emotional intelligence. Ask people you trust for feedback and challenge yourself to be reflective of areas in which you are strong, and of areas to develop. There are many books about Emotional Intelligence. I am a fan of the book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves. It comes with an assessment so you can evaluate areas of your own development. After reading the book, you get a second chance at the assessment to see how you have improved. If you have strong people skills, you are more likely to engage and connect with your team members.
- Use Delegation to Challenge and Stretch: Delegation is a management tool that can be used to create efficiency, and it is also a leadership tool that can help you develop your team members. Select assignments based on the level of expertise of the team member who will carry out the assignment, and give more autonomy to more knowledgeable employees and employees who contain necessary expertise.
- Frequent Check-Ins: The current trend is to replace problematic one-time annual reviews with frequent check-ins. I am in agreement that checking in with your team members on a regular basis is important. Note that I use the term “Check-In”. This is different from “Checking Up On”. Check-ins are beneficial if they are implemented as opportunities to give and receive quality feedback.
- Celebrate Life Events: Celebrating individual team members’ life events like marriage, having a child, work anniversaries, and birthdays show your team that you care about them as people and not just what they can do for you. While I am all for boundaries, I think that showing your human side is a plus, and if you experiment with it, you are likely to get great feedback.
- Foster Team Work: Coming to work is a pleasure when you are part of a highly functioning team. My favorite book about team work is a book called “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni. In his fable about a dysfunctional team, the author reviews the importance of trust, productive conflict, commitment to the team and goals, presence of accountability, and ultimately a team that strives for results.
- Connect Employees to the Big Picture: In order to achieve optimal engagement, employees should know how their work impacts the company goals. Every job is important, and employees should be made aware of how their contributions foster the company’s outcomes.
- Make Pay-For-Performance Meaningful: I saved compensation for last as compensation has been shown to have little impact on motivation and employee performance. With that said, if compensation is perceived to be unfair, it could likely serve to demotivate and disengage employees. High performers want to know that they are being rewarded for superior contributions.