Eleven Low-Cost Ideas for Retaining Employees

15 Nov

As the job market improves, labor force pundits such as the Society for Human Resource Management and the Texas-based professional employee organization Administaff predict that many employees will start looking for greener pastures. But that’s not the worst news for employers. According to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao’s 2001 State of the Workforce address, by the year 2008, the number of workers aged 25 to 34 will decline by 2.7 million people.

Business owners have a vital need to retain valued employees. Unfortunately, valued employees are the most likely to find better opportunities. And even when many small businesses are doing well financially, they still may not be able to offer benefits packages and salaries that compete with larger companies.

Fortunately, while money and benefits are important factors in employee satisfaction, a work place where people feel cared about and valued is also essential to retention. The following tactics can help you build a personal connection with your employees, reducing their interest in leaving.

1. Give recognition by thanking employees for a job well done. Leave them a handwritten note, publish worker accomplishments in the company newsletter and on bulletin boards or, if appropriate, publicize them in the local newspaper. Recognize groups as well as individuals in order to foster a spirit of teamwork.

If you’d like to establish a formal employee recognition program, you can obtain guidelines and resources at the National Association of Employee Recognition (www.recognition.org), particularly their FAQs and Recognition Articles sections.

2. When you notice a specific achievement, reward it right away with a bonus. You can also use non-cash items such as event or movie tickets or an extra paid vacation day. Keep your bonus-giving spontaneous since research shows that workers quickly adopt a sense of entitlement toward more regularly scheduled merit pay.

3. Offer flexible work schedules to help employees achieve a better work/life balance. For example, allow them to vary their arrival and departure times or the length of their work days/weeks with flextime. You could also offer compressed workweeks, for example, 40 hours in four days or allow workers to telecommute for at least part of their work time.

4. Exhibit the pictures and bios of new employees in a community area, whether it is your bulletin board, Web site or intranet. It makes the new employee feel valued, and if two or more workers find common ground, such as hometowns or hobbies, they’re more likely to stay in your work place.

5. Acknowledge individuals’ birthdays. Follow the example of Southwest Airlines, known for promoting a feeling of family among its employees. The airline mails greeting cards to commemorate birthdays, anniversaries, promotions, new babies and so on. Southwest also sends gifts to employees at significant times in their lives, so consider sending a gift or gift certificate along with your card.

6. Celebrate each anniversary of an employee’s first day with you with a meal, gift or some other token of appreciation.

7. Ask for your employees’ opinions and actually use some of their ideas. This includes asking what types of perks or benefits they’d appreciate or what they need in order to work more effectively. In addition, give them the chance to evaluate supervisors, provide input on decisions that affect their jobs and discuss the overall direction of the company. Try for annual one-on-one meetings in a neutral location or use materials such as questionnaires. For more sensitive issues, consider confidential climate surveys.

8. Facilitate your employees’ professional development, whether it’s with college classes, seminars, conferences, membership in a professional organization, or even cross-training for career moves within your company. Some companies pay for courses even when employees choose non-job-related topics. If you have budget concerns, consider offering this perk only to employees who have been with you a certain length of time.

9. Match the talents, traits and skills of individuals to their jobs. You may want to invest in personality assessments to better help current and future employees. The AdvisorTeam Web site (www.advisorteam.com) provides a free Web-based “Temperament Sorter” or you can have a consultant perform evaluations for you. The Myers-Briggs Foundation Web site recommends CPP Inc.’s SkillsOne service (www.skillsone.com) for ethical online delivery of the famous Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.

10. Create traditions such as a holiday dinner, party or charity drive. Your traditions also can be more informal, for example, a stress-busting treat after or during your busy season.

11. Hire the right people in the first place. Find people who are looking for the characteristics of your work culture, whether it’s fast-paced, laid back, structured or fluid. A good fit makes for a happy and valued employee who is less inclined to leave.


Pinal Mehta

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