Employee Retention Program

How to Design an
Employee Retention Program that Works

“EVERYTHING matters.”

~ Dave Olsen, Starbucks Chief Coffee Buyer ~

Client Robert Asks: I’m losing people right and left, and I don’t understand why. I’d think that, in this job market, people would be happy just to have a job. We have a good orientation program. But my turnover rate is through the roof and I know it’s costing the company money. What can I do to stop the bleeding? I think I need to design an employee retention program.

Coach Joel Answers: You’re right—losing employees is an expensive proposition. Companies that deal successfully with this issue don’t just rely on an orientation meeting and an employee handbook. An effective program to retain employees involves the entire company and can last a month or two, or even six. Successful on-boarding is the key to employee retention and your program needs to focus more on emotional take-aways than just a list of activities to be checked off. You need to answer these three questions for every new hire:

  • Who are we?
  • Why am I here?
  • Where am I going?

1. Who are we? Most new employees already know something about the company because they’ve been through the recruiting process, so don’t waste a lot of time and energy on company history. Instead, spend time talking about how the company is structured and who reports to whom, both formally and informally. Visuals are helpful here—organization charts, annual reports, and promotional materials, for example. Talk about the company’s value proposition. What sets us apart from our competitors? How do we make money? Why are we successful?

Emphasize how the company treats its customers and clients. Introducing new employees to key clients as part of the formal on-boarding process is a great tactic, but at the very least, have some anecdotes and experiences to share. This makes it real.

2. Why am I here? Establish a clear understanding in each new employee’s mind about how their department and specific job fits into the overall company picture.  Make them feel important. Be clear about what you expect from both the department and the employee. This includes short and long term goals, major projects, deadlines and deliverables. Show them how the work gets done. Don’t worry too much about rules and red tape at this point. Instead, get them started on a key project or activity right away, so they know they are adding value to an already valuable business enterprise.

3. Where am I going? The first two steps in the program lay a good foundation for retaining employees, but retention won’t really take hold until the employee feels at home. You can make this happen by helping new employees become a part of the organization as quickly as possible. This starts with introducing them to colleagues and company leaders but that’s only the beginning. Your job is to make them feel that they are part of a great company and that you feel lucky to have them as part of the team. Let them know that relationships count and that their colleagues and the company are there to support both their growth and their contribution. Let them know you’ll have their back, so they are not afraid to try new things.

Show them the path ahead, which includes how to navigate the corporate ladder, what kinds of training, coaching, and personal growth programs are available to them, and how they fit into the company’s future. Remember, it’s not about you—it’s about them. Make them feel emotionally involved and committed, and they will be yours for life!

Are you struggling with turnover and retention issues? Contact Joel today to find out how you can create a turnaround.

Talkback: Have you tried some employee retention programs that worked? What do your employees say? Share your story here.

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