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Companies put so much time, thought and even anguish into recruiting new employees. All too often, though, the effort stops once someone signs on. Employees who feel neglected or undervalued are prime candidates to move on, leaving you to wonder what went wrong. Turnover isn’t only frustrating, it is terribly costly both in expense and lost productivity.

You can increase employee retention if you make it part of your company culture. Many small business owners and managers think they are powerless to retain excellent people. But that’s not true. And if you project your firm as less-than-desirable, why would anyone want to join you in the first place? These four steps will help you gain confidence as well as a higher retention rate.

 

  1. Create a retention strategy with clearly-defined goals.

Your strategy should address ways to boost your overall retention rate. That requires understanding why employees choose to stay or go. It’s rarely money or perks. Your people want to do well in their job, know what’s going on, believe you care about them and love coming to work at your place (because it’s their place, too.)

Communicate with everybody. Nothing is more counter-productive than keeping information from some or all of your employees. Let them know long-term and short-term goals, so they know why they’re doing certain things and how their work contributes to company growth and profitability. Keep them apprised of progress and bumps along the way.

Not doing this signals you don’t trust your employees. Besides, when problems arise, who better to put their heads together on a solution than your entire crack team?

 

  1. Create personalized retention plans.

You want to keep the best of the best and help the good become great. So communicate one-on-one as well as company-wide. Each employee is an individual, with different personal skills, talents and goals. Clearly stated, measurable objectives make it a lot easier to see progress or see where things are falling through the cracks.

Working with each person to develop their plan will ensure goals are achievable and motivating. And offering constructive feedback on a regular basis is the only way your staff can know how they’re doing.

 

  1. Consider conducting “stay” interviews.

Waiting till someone has one foot out the door to ask why they’re leaving doesn’t make sense. Yes, you can learn a lot from exit interviews, especially when you aggregate what you learn to spot negative patterns in your hiring or daily business practices. That may help in the future, but right now you’ve just lost another great team member.

The latest trend in smart retention practices is “stay” interviews. Checking in with people at strategic times during their tenure shows your ongoing interest in them, and it can head off problems before they fester.

These are not performance reviews, so space them well apart from discussion about salary, etc.

Because you want to get off on the best possible footing with new hires, hold at least two stay interviews within the early “retention danger period” – the first weeks or months in which employees in that category are most likely to quit.

The point is to strengthen your relationship with each employee. Focus on what they like (or not) about their job, how they’re getting on with their team and supervisor and specific ways you can help make their working conditions even better.

 

  1. Nurture employee-employer relationships.

Loyalty is earned. In a business environment, if you aren’t there for your employees, they won’t be there for you, either. They may check out mentally, or they may quit and go elsewhere. Everything you do, every day, can build loyalty. Be the company everyone wants to work for. That requires more than ongoing job-specific measurement.

Do you listen? And respond appropriately? Are you flexible enough to accommodate different working styles and schedules? Do you actively promote and support professional and personal development? Do you say “please” and “thank you” and “great job!” — individually and in the form of broader recognition? Even the shyest person secretly appreciates praise.

These things build engagement and “buy-in.” And an environment that fosters diversity, creative thinking and collaboration provides a sense of movement and excitement. Why would anyone even consider leaving?

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