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Employee Retention Tips:
How to Reduce Employee Turn-Over

Use the Best Employee Retention Ideas

Use these employee retention tips (such as employee mentor programs and employee recognition ideas) to keep your most important resource, your people, performing effectively at all times and to keep them committed to your business.

Most businesses focus on retaining staff during the good times but during slower business cycles they lay off or cut retention programs. Your best employees may leave for better or different jobs if you don't focus on keeping them working for you.

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Business owners need to retain their good employees; high employee turn-over can have a negative impact on your business and your time. Even during tough economic times and/or an economic slowdown (when there are more people looking for work), it's important to retain employees and minimize your employee turnover rate.

Top performing employees can be hard to find and even harder to keep. And you need to keep your top performing employees!

During tough times, many businesses lay-off employees. But it took a lot of your resources to recruit, hire, train and develop those employees. If they are top-performers, you don't want to lose them - even during tough times. In fact, those top performers could help your business get through the tough times.

Focus on effective utilization of your human resources and then make sure you find, and use, the best employee retention tips for your business.

Some Employee Retention Tips to Consider:

  • Keep your employees engaged in their work, and the business.

    Cross-train employees to do more, and different, job responsibilities.

    When times are touch, you may have to lay-off some employees. Keep the employees who can do more than one task (and that you have trained to do more), who are capable of performing well in a number of different areas. If business is slow, one talented, cross-trained person may be able to do the work that three others used to do (when you had the work to keep three people busy).

  • Don't surprise your staff, tell them and show them that cross-training will make them more valuable employees.

  • Ask employees if they are willing and able to work-share: maybe one job could be shared by two employees. Or maybe five employees would each have one unpaid day off per week (effectively reducing staff by one).

  • One of the most effective employee retention tips is to build a strong employee recognition program.

    Use employee recognition ideas like reward programs: for example, for exceptional attendance and no absenteeism you might give the employee a gift certificate or a day off - which is relevant to the performance; for exceptional safety performance you might give the employee a fully kitted-out safety kit for at home; for exceptional customer service you might give the employee an entertainment package - dinner, movie, etc.

As a small business owner, you need to sit down and talk with employees about the challenges you face and the strategies you plan to employ during a downturn, or during an upturn. You also need to actively listen to input from employees; recognizing that you cannot always make all employees happy, that you will have to make staffing decisions to best-fit your business and financial realities, even if that includes employee lay-offs.

Employee Retention Tips are Only Effective if You Understand the Reasons Why Employees Quit:

  1. Employees feel that there is no link between performance and pay
  2. Employees can't 'see' opportunities to learn and advance.
    • When conducting performance appraisals, discuss the career development path with the employee; put together a joint action plan (include on-the-job training, build specific employee mentor programs, education, experience and time-line).
  3. Employees don't feel their work and contribution is recognized.
    • Develop an employee recognition program - use employee recognition ideas that fit what you want to recognize.
    • Remember to thank individual employees for a job well done.
  4. Employees don't clearly understand what the job is when they accept the position; particularly true if new to the industry or new to work (recently graduated).
    • Clearly define what the job expectations and duties are; include the good and the bad. Ensure that job descriptions, clearly define the position responsibilities. It is better to lose job applicants in the interview stage, then after you hire and begin training.
    • Provide a comprehensive new employee orientation program and an employee handbook that communicates your policies, practices and guidelines. Use employee mentor programs internally - if you can (this involves pairing up a senior, experienced employee with a junior or new employee - this works well for specific periods of time and for specific projects or goals).
  5. Employees do not like or respect their managers or leaders: often employees don't quit the business, they quit their manager.
    • If the manager or leader is rude, abusive, uncaring, a poor communicator or worse, employees will not stay for long. Do exit interviews and find out why employees are leaving; act on information that is consistent (for example, Tom's department has the highest turn-over). Provide leadership and communication skills training for leaders.
    • Hold managers or leaders accountable for turn-over; provide incentives for reductions in turn-over.
    • Make sure that your expectations are reasonable; don't expect the impossible (at least not time after time), what you will get is burn-out, fear of taking risks, accidents, stress, absenteeism and finally the employee will leave.
  6. Employees feel that the company favors one employee over another.
    • Be conscious of how you treat all employees; you don't need to like everyone you work with but you need to treat everyone fairly and consistently.
  7. Employees feel threatened and/or overwhelmed by constant change and re-organization.
    • If your business is constantly changing, develop strong managing change policies and practices to help your employees cope with an ever-changing environment.

If retaining high value employees is important to your business (and it should be) then, during good times and tough times, you need utilize employee retention ideas to ensure the environment for developing, training and retaining employees is positive and productive.

If Employee Retention Tips Don't Work:

If, even after you focus on employee retention, your employee or employees resign, then make sure you do an exit interview.

Often the employee is reluctant to talk to their direct manager about why they are really leaving; this is the time to consider the advantages of outsourcing. Engage a human resources specialist to do your exit interviews; you will find value in this cost, particularly if your employee turn-over is high.

Ensure that your exit interview asks questions about:

  • what the employee liked best and least about their job;
  • ask about how they felt about their job description: did the description accurately reflect the job;
  • ask if they have any suggestions for improvement;
  • ask why the employee is leaving, ask them to compare what they think is better in the new company (compared to the one they are leaving);
  • ask for feedback on management, working conditions and culture at your company and how they saw their opportunities for progression.

Build your employee retention tips from this feedback.

Once the exit interview is complete, you must have a process to learn from it. Do you need to re-write the job description; change your performance evaluation program; adjust employee compensation and/or benefits; provide leadership and/or supervisory training and development; and so on. Put a plan together to apply what you have learned from the exit interview.

Your employees are your most important resource. Use employee retention tips and techniques to keep your high performing employees. Learn how to develop, retain and value high potential employees because they will help you achieve your small business plan for growth and success.

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Increasing New Employee Success

New employees have a better opportunity for success when you provide a strong orientation for them on day one.

But follow up on that orientation, make sure that they understand what's expected of them and that they have the training and the support to do well.

During the first week, set aside some time each day to check in with them and debrief; listen closely to what they have to say and see if they highlight areas of business or process improvement: sometimes new employees see things that existing staff just don't see anymore.

Be sure to communicate progress and expected results regularly. Provide a written summary performance review after the first month - not at the end of the probationary period - by then it may be too late. Make sure the summary provides both the good results and the areas for improvement - with feedback on how that improvement can be achieved.

Communicate the organization's plan for the future and how the employees contribute to those plans and mission.

Make sure that the culture of your organization is one that attracts the type of people you want working for you. Assess your environment objectively - or hire someone to come in and do an employee survey or assessment for you.

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Performance Evaluation Best Practices

Provide feedback regularly and consistently (and frequently for new employees or those that appear to be struggling).

Recognize good work openly and in front of other.

Consider poor performance as an area for improvement: focus on only one or two improvement areas at a time.

Provide employees with the opportunity for input into their evaluations - this should not be a one-way communication effort, rather it needs to be a two-way effort.

If there are action items that come out of the performance evaluation, and typically there need to be some goals or actions in each evaluation, then follow up - do not wait for a year to go by to check in.