Employee Retention Programs

3 Solid Strategies to Keep Your People From Jumping Ship

“The idea of a work/life balance is much more important to younger workers than it ever was with baby boomers. Companies are looking at retention issues.”

~ Jen Jorgensen, Marketing Strategist ~

Client Sandy asks: Our company culture is big on a lot of the rah-rah stuff. We have a softball team, monthly pizza feeds, suggestion boxes in every department, and a costume contest on Halloween. It all looks like fun, but lately we’ve lost some of our best people and I’m feeling the need to create some more substantial employee retention programs. As HR manager, I’m committed to hiring and keeping good employees. But there are so many kinds of retention programs out there that I don’t know where to start.

Coach Joel Answers: When you create a workplace culture that fully engages and rewards employees at all levels, you win in three important ways: you build a loyal, committed workforce; you develop a great reputation among clients, customers and the public; and you avoid the financial losses that high employee turnover creates. Here are three hallmarks of a good retention program.

1. Avoid gimmicks. You mention your pizza feeds and suggestions boxes, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with those. Who doesn’t love a good pizza? But these are short-term, cosmetic kinds of programs and they don’t build employee loyalty that lasts. When you’re designing a program, you need to include several important factors. First, you need to align with your company’s strategic objectives. You need to consider what your competitors are doing and look at best practices in your industry. And most important, you need to include your employees in planning and implementing any new initiatives. People support what they help create.

For example, one of the best ways to retain good employees is to design a personal growth program that’s customized for each individual. Work with your managers to develop a checklist they can use that includes things like in-house and external training programs, executive coaching, job-sharing, and cross-training.

2. Bridge the gap. The generation gap, that is. Employee retention is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. There’s a big difference between the needs and wants of baby boomers and Gen-Xers, and chances are you have some of each.

Because baby boomers are thought to be the healthiest generation out there, they have plenty left to offer and many still want to make their mark in the business world. Provide them with opportunities to be creative, express initiative and pass on their knowledge to the generations coming up behind them.

Gen-Xers, on the other hand, place a high value on quality of life issues such as work/life balance and public service. At the same time, they are known to have much less commitment to the corporation and are much less reluctant to switch jobs, companies, and even careers. Set up a two-way mentoring program where the generations can interact with and learn from each other. You’ll solidify your relationship with both of them.

3. Count the cost. You already know that employee turnover is costing you money. But there are costs you can see and costs you probably don’t notice. According to the Bureau of National Affairs, employee turnover averages around 14% in most companies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the average cost to replace an employee in private industry is about $14,000. These are hard costs that drop straight to your bottom line. But what about the hidden costs? Consider these questions:

  • How much stress and poor performance are created when employees have to pick up the workload of someone who leaves?
  • How many customers do you lose when stressed-out employees give poor service?
  • How many other employees might be lured away by an employee who leaves?
  • How many employees start to think about other options when a valued friend or trusted colleague changes jobs?

When you implement the strategies we’ve suggested, you will have taken a big step toward building a satisfied, committed workforce. And you’ll see the results in higher productivity, better customer service, and bigger profits.

Joel would love to discuss specific employee retention programs that can work for you and your employees. Contact him today.

Talkback: Is turnover causing you problems? Or have you tried some strategies that really work? Share your story here.

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