How to Hold On to Your Best Employees

The rules of employee retention have changed. Smart business owners realize that loyalty can no longer be bought with big salaries, hefty bonuses, and rich benefit packages alone. Today it’s job satisfaction that drives retention.

It takes a combination of intangible, non-monetary rewards to create an atmosphere in which quality employees feel valued, respected, and satisfied with their jobs. Creating that optimal combination requires a new way of thinking and an openness to different ideas about managing your staff.

What you can do. Here are some practical suggestions for enhancing employee growth, opportunity, and job satisfaction.

· Give a real review. The concept of the annual performance review seems to have become distorted in recent years. For many employees, the apt review question is no longer “How am I doing?” Instead, it has become “How much am I getting?” For many managers, the review process is just another administrative hassle, another set of forms to complete.

With studies showing that most employees value appreciation and involvement over money, why has the annual review process come to revolve exclusively around the pay raise? Retaining good people today requires that employers review their review processes.

A review should be a dialogue, not the mere reading of an employee’s “report card.” Both parties should have an opportunity to recognize accomplishments, define responsibilities, and air and settle differences.

Create a casual environment for your review. The conversation will be far more productive if it feels more like a dialogue between colleagues rather than the critique of a subordinate by a superior. Consider talking over a cup of coffee. Use your form (if you have one) to record notes and the specifics of your discussion only after the fact.

Listen attentively. After all, a review is also a chance for employees to critique your effectiveness as a supervisor. Offer ample opportunity for them to voice concerns or opinions.

And why wait? There’s no logical reason to wait 12 months to build this kind of rapport between management and employees. Schedule reviews quarterly or at least every six months. Consider simple, non-monetary ways to reward top performers at review time; for example, lunch out, a small donation to the employee’s favorite charity, or even something as simple as a thank-you note.

· Pretend every day is the day they give notice. Look carefully at what usually follows a valued employee’s two-week notice of resignation. Conversations extolling the employee’s virtues, testaments to his or her talent and value, lunches with friends, greeting cards, friendly notes – all the things that, had they happened as a matter of regular course, might have prevented the resignation in the first place. It’s easy to take employees for granted – especially the good ones. Remember that the best time to show your appreciation is when an employee is an active, vital part of your team.

· View payroll as an investment. Payroll is the largest single controllable expense for the average retail jeweler. Those with a loyal, tenured, professional staff, however, recognize the inadequacy of that statement. In fact, payroll is the most significant investment you will make in your success. As with any investment, the real skill lies in managing your resources efficiently to achieve a maximum return.

Unlike inventory and cash, however, human resources must be managed as much with your heart as with your head. An employee’s decision to stay or leave often relies on the emotional bond he or she has formed with you and your business. Think about actions that would make you feel valued, then treat each associate with the same level of concern and respect.

· Recognize the value of education. Strengthen the tie that binds employees to your business through ongoing professional education. Expanding their knowledge will solidify their commitment and help you nurture a team of skilled, productive professionals who are satisfied with their jobs.

Look for convenient and cost-effective opportunities to train your associates. Consider ideas like an at-home subscription to a favorite trade magazine; paid attendance at a seminar offered by a local bank, business, or Chamber of Commerce; or a trip to a trade show or convention. Get the most out of your education investment by having associates share their newfound knowledge and skill with the rest of your team.

· Don’t forget the fun. Every job comes with its share of stress and bad days. But in order to ensure employee commitment, a job must also be uplifting and enjoyable. Do your people actually look forward to getting out of bed each morning and coming to work?

Try to come up with ways to make the job more fun for your employees. The best ideas often cost little or nothing but are priceless when it comes to boosting morale.

· Accentuate the positive. Believe it or not, most people do work hard most of the time. Unfortunately, we react instinctively to the negative much more quickly and strongly than to the positive.

Remember the high school term paper that came back with an “A” grade and the lone misspelling circled in red, with no comments about the content or style that merited an “A”? Have you ever given an employee a review with an overall rating of “very good” but spent the entire conversation going over the areas that need improvement? It’s important to discipline and redirect associates when objectives are not met. Just be sure to give more praise than criticism..

· Respect personal time. It’s not unusual for employees to take on more work as your business grows. In fact, your best employees thrive on the added responsibility. Most people don’t resent hard work. They do, however, resent unreasonable deadlines, last-minute surprises, and a lack of respect for their free time. If you have an event, meeting, or project that’s going to require additional hours, let staff members know as far in advance as possible and let them work out their own schedules to get the job done. When you ask employees at 3 p.m. on a Friday to stay late that night to complete a slow-moving inventory, they might well consider updating their résumés.

Of course, there will be times when extra work pops up unexpectedly. Whenever possible, managers should be the first in line for late duty. A manager’s actions speak volumes toward building teamwork and communicating respect.

· Walk the talk. A recent survey by the Council for Communication Management found that 64% of employees believe their employers are less than honest with them on occasion. Employees who detect mixed signals and broken promises from their employer will become resentful and restless. That resentment may not surface until the exit interview.

Actions speak louder than words. To help ensure that your actions match your words, consider a strategy that aligns rewards with company objectives. For example, if customer service is a top priority, reward the employees who take the best care of your customers. If you’re seeking to reduce expenses, reward employees with a percentage of the savings. Make your employees partners in your efforts – partners who will stick with you for the long haul.

Applying the effort and energy to keeping your best employees happy and satisfied is a major key to long-term success. Offering growth and opportunity will build loyalty and professionalism. Clear communication will lead to increased job satisfaction. A strong, long-tenured team will inspire consumer confidence. And confident consumers spend more money. Seems pretty simple, doesn’t it?