Key employee retention is critical to the long-term health, success and survival of any business enterprise. Retaining your best employees ensure consistent quality output, customer satisfaction, high sales, generally satisfied workforce, effective succession planning and deeply embedded organizational knowledge and learning.

Failing to retain key employees is costly to the bottom line, in addition to other organisational issues such as frequent hiring/replacement cost, training time and investment, lost knowledge, and insecure coworkers.  Employee retention is also critically important for a societal reason; over the next few years there would be a lot fewer people available to work, considering that the generation of Baby Boomers (age 40-58) would be retiring.

Employee retention is one of the primary measures of the health of your organization; if you are losing critical staff members, you can safely bet that other people in their departments are looking to fill positions as well.  Note that exit interviews with departing employees provide valuable information you can use to retain your remaining staff.

I have highlighted below some of the tips you can consider to retain your key employees:

1.   A satisfied employee knows clearly what is expected from him/her everyday at work; changing expectations keep people on edge and create unhealthy stress.  It robs the employee of internal security and makes him/her feel unsuccessful.  I am not advocating for static jobs and responsibilities, but rather, providing a specific framework within which people clearly know what is expected from them.

2.   The quality of supervision an employee receives is critical to employee retention: Statistics have shown that people leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave companies or jobs.  The supervisor has a critical role to play in retention, starting with clear expectations of the employee.  Frequent employee complaints center on lack of clarity about expectations, lack of clarity about earning potential, lack of feedback about performance, failure to provide a framework within which the employee perceives he/she can succeed.

3.   The employee’s freedom to speak his or her mind within the organization is another key factor:  Does your organization solicit ideas and provide an environment in which people are comfortable providing feedback?  If so, they can offer ideas, feel free to criticize and commit to continuous improvement.  If not, they bite their tongues or find themselves constantly in trouble until they leave.  This is a factor business owners should be mindful of as SMEs and small/unstructured businesses are most guilty of this; not creating an enabling environment to enable staff express themselves and contribute meaningfully to the business.

4.   Employees seek to use their talent and skills in the workplace:  A motivated employee wants to contribute to work areas outside of his specific job description.  How many people could contribute far more than they currently do?  You just need to know their skills, talent and experience and take the time to tap into it.  For example, in a small company, the owner engaged external consultants to produce a marketing plan when an internal sales rep with some experience in that area repeatedly offered to help.  His offer was ignored and he cited this as reason for leaving.  The recognition that the company did not want to take advantage of his knowledge and capabilities quickened his job search.

5.   The perception of fairness and equitable treatment is also important:  In one company, a new sales rep was given the most potentially successful, commission-producing account while current staff viewed this as taking food off their table.  In another instance, a staff person just a year or two post-graduation experience is given a huge raise over a six-month period.  Undoubtedly, the morale of several other employees would be affected since information like this never stays secret in companies.

6.   Tools, time and training are other issues we must not undermine.  The employees must have the necessary means to do their job well – or they will move on to an employer who provides them.

7.   Your best employees that you want to retain seek frequent opportunities to learn and grow in their careers, knowledge and skill.  Without the opportunity to try new things/challenges, be a part of significant teams, attend seminars/trainings and read and discuss books/new trends, they will stagnate.  A career-oriented, valued employee must experience growth opportunities within your organization.

8.   An employee never felt business owner or senior managers knew he/she existed.  Take time to meet with your employees, particularly new hires and make them feel welcomed, acknowledged and loyal.  Make out time to interact with your employees and feel their pulse on different issues, including their personal matters without coming across as intrusive.  Show them you care about their well being, besides getting work done and meeting deadlines.

9.   No matter the circumstances, never ever threaten an employee’s job or income.  Think before you say anything that might make people feel they need to search for another job.

10.   Your staff members must feel rewarded, recognized and appreciated.  This tip is ever constant because it is so critical to retention success.  Frequently saying thank you goes a long way.  Monetary rewards, bonuses and gifts make the thank you even more appreciated.  Understandable raises, tied to accomplishments and achievements, also help retain employee.

Take a look at your organization.  Are you doing your best to retain your top talent?  Employ these tips in your organisation to retain your desired, key employees and attract the best talent too.