employee retention

5 Tips to Hold on to High-Performing Employees

Even before the pandemic, employers complained of labor shortages. Now, they’re experiencing an even tougher time finding and retaining high performers.

How challenging is the marketplace for businesses looking to fill seats with talented professionals? As of 2020, ManpowerGroup reported that 69% of companies were having trouble snagging candidates. And by 2030, Korn Ferry predicts that up to 85 million roles may go unoccupied

If you’re at the head of a growing organization, you can’t afford to take these figures lightly. Certainly, your current team may appear engaged, focused, loyal and stable. Do you want to take the chance that one or more of them may be lured away by hopes of better employment elsewhere? Definitely not. Therefore, you need to put some measures in place to ensure that you don’t lose money on employee churn.

Becoming a sticky company where folks hang around

Your goal is to hold onto the amazing people you bring into your startup, franchise or other emerging business. To do that, you may want to make a few changes in an effort to improve the employee experience for everyone on your payroll.

1. Support and demonstrate communication between supervisors and employees.

Bad bosses cause workers to head for the exit door. One way to combat poor supervisory behaviors is to encourage all managers to meet with their direct reports. Don’t assume that these types of get-togethers are happening, either. Instead, set up an expected rhythm and check in to ensure that supervisors and employees are touching base.

For instance, you could gather your managers and let them know you want them to schedule a one-on-one meeting with each team member every other week. Explain that one-on-one meetings should be led by their direct reports and are opportunities for open discussion about everything from work priorities to problem-solving. These meetings should not be used for disciplinary purposes. Rather, they are a time for managers and workers to build common ground. They also may turn into informal mentoring sessions.

To help your managers understand how to approach any type of communication, be prepared to illustrate it yourself. That is, make sure you set up one-on-ones with your direct reports, too. This creates potential for a trickle-down effect. Additionally, it shows that this is something you take seriously.

2. Formalize and document repetitive processes.

Does it sometimes seem as if everyone in your office performs similar processes differently? Even small variations can lead to big headaches and friction points. Take your customer service representatives. If they’re each coming up with unique ways to solve customers’ issues, you could end up in hot water. One customer might get the gold treatment and feel heard. Another one might leave you a one-star review on Google.

The best thing you can do for your employees is to work with them to identify their repeated processes. Then, consider using a process documentation template to make formalizing and streamlining your workflows simple. Just remember that some processes may need to be crowdsourced to ensure that nothing’s missed in your documents.

Once you have most of your processes in place, be sure to make them readily available. Whenever you bring someone new into the team, use the process documents as part of your training. It can be a huge relief to know that no matter who’s handling a repeated process that it’s being done the same way every time.

3. Ensure your corporate culture includes heavy doses of gratitude.

Showing that you respect and honor your workers doesn’t have to be hard, especially if it’s an intuitive part of your culture. For example, your office may arrange to send out weekly corporatewide “thank a coworker” emails. Or you may ask employees to leave notes for colleagues on a “Couldn’t have done it without you!” physical or digital noticeboard.

It may seem like adults wouldn’t need to be recognized but they do. No one likes the feeling of being taken for granted, especially after working hard on a project or going out of their way to keep a client. Therefore, spend time nurturing a positive work environment where team members go out of their way to support one another.

As your company grows, be sure to hold onto the “thumbs up” vibes. It may be feasible to nominate a committee to ensure that gratitude is never sacrificed for growth.

How to Build Great Teams Within Your Startup

4. Upskill your employees.

The world keeps changing at faster and faster paces. Your employees recognize this and want to keep up. Consequently, give them what they want in the form of continuous opportunities for training.

You might balk at first at the idea of paying for workers to upskill, get certificates or even earn degrees. Nevertheless, look at the investment with a long-term view. The more training your employees receive, the more valuable they are to your company. Plus, the more likely they’ll be to remain loyal. After all, they know you’re underwriting their progress.

Of course, you aren’t obligated to train for skills that aren’t going to be useful at your organization. There’s no reason you have to pay for someone to take a pottery class—unless you need someone to make pottery dishes or platters. On the other hand, don’t be shortsighted. If a marketing assistant wants to learn technical skills to move into an IT role one day, offering the assistant retraining could be great for the tech side of your business. 

5. Offer work-life flexibility.

Maybe you’re like so many other companies and you’ve flirted with remote or hybrid working. Perhaps you’ve moved everyone back in-house because it’s just more convenient. Regardless, consider ways that you can provide your employees with flexibility.

Take being able to leave for appointments or go on a spur-of-the-moment vacation. Do you allow workers to control their schedules? When you treat talent like trusted professionals, you show them that you believe they’re going to act in the best interest of the company. 

The pandemic changed the way many people thought about work. Many are unwilling to accept being treated as anything other than people with outside lives, interests and responsibilities. So give your employees a little breathing room within acceptable parameters. 

Turnover is way too expensive, particularly if you’re running a startup. Avoid losing exceptional employees by changing and honing your operations and atmosphere. You’ll be glad you did when you hear competitors grumbling about the labor shortage that isn’t affecting your company.

Originally published April 5, 2022.

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