Employee retention ideas: low-cost and effective

Two men talking in office

Unless you have unusual luck, hiring employees requires significant effort and expense. So for most businesses, retaining them is a top priority.

Fortunately, other than the staff time involved, many good retention practices are low-cost or free.

Effective retention

To understand how to retain good employees, you first need to know what they’re looking for. Today, the best employees want:

  • Career development opportunities and a chance to grow in their chosen field
  • Regular feedback on how both they and the company are doing
  • A chance to contribute directly to the organization and be recognized for it
  • Flexible work schedules that recognize their need for work / life balance
  • A good salary or wage and an opportunity to increase it over time
  • Benefits tailored to their individual needs

Key strategies

Good retention starts from the time you hire employees to the time they leave your company. Tweaking some of your employment practices can have a big impact on employee retention:

  • Recruitment and hiring. When there’s a good match between employees and your organization, retention is less likely to be an issue.
  • Orientation and onboarding. Treating employees right in the critical early stages of employment has been proven to improve retention.
  • Training and development. Training and development are key factors in helping employees grow with your company and stay marketable in their field.
  • Performance evaluation. When employees know what they’re doing well and where they need to improve, both they and your organization benefit.
  • Pay and benefits. While today many employees tend to rate factors such as career development higher than pay, good pay and benefits still count.
  • Internal communication. Employees need to know—and be reminded on a regular basis—how the organization is doing and what they can do to help.
  • Termination and outplacement. Employees who leave on good terms are much more likely to recommend your company, and in doing so, help you attract and retain future employees.

The power of the one-on-one meeting

One way to integrate a few of these strategies is to establish a practice of one-on-one meetings with direct reports. Digital communication is a necessity, but it misses a lot of meaningful communication that only face-to-face meetings can achieve.

Some experts believe that individual meetings are one of the strongest tools you can use to support an employee’s productivity as well as job satisfaction, according to a recent Harvard Business Journal article. It’s an opportunity to show interest in your employee’s success and growth, and also learn about the barriers they may be confronting.

They suggest:

  • Commit to regular meeting times in your schedules – consider weekly or monthly
  • Come with a list of discussion points and priorities. Specific questions like “What’s your favorite part of your job?” or “What’s the biggest opportunity we are missing out on?” often produce more meaningful results than a generic “How’s it going?”
  • Show up on time and keep your focus on the employee during the meeting
  • Start with a positive, and listen to how the employee would solve problems she’s confronting rather than jump in to tell her how you’d solve them
  • Talk with your employee about his future career plans
  • Close with an expression of gratitude for your employee’s work or effort

An employee who feels cared about, invested in, and who has major barriers addressed on a regular basis, is an employee who’s likely to stick around and get the job done – well.

For more on training and retaining your employees, check out CareerOneStop’s Business Center.

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