Keeping your best talent was easy when few companies were hiring and employees felt stuck at their jobs. But now, retaining the cream of the employee crop is a struggle again for many managers. When layoffs are frequent and retirement pensions are pretty much nonexistent, workers feel less loyal to their companies than they did in previous decades, and are willing to jump ship if they find better pay or better prospects elsewhere.
Where does that leave you? To build more loyalty and stave off an exodus, you may have to change your workplace culture.
Read on for five tips on how to hold onto your current employees, and how to hook new employees and reel them in for the long term.
1. Put money into supporting and training employees
This is an area that fell by the wayside when employers were cutting any extra costs just to get by. When you help employees learn new skills while on the job, you will get payback in the form of better performing workers who are both more productive and have a higher level of respect for the company.
Otherwise, prepare yourself for the reality that they may leave. Many young, talented managers have switched jobs specifically because of a lack of thorough training and mentoring from their superiors, according to research by Harvard Business Review. In interviews with more than 1,200 high-performing employees, researchers heard repeatedly about an expectations gap between the type of support and coaching those employees thought they would get, and what they actually received. Feeling frustrated, they were left to scroll through job listings during their lunch breaks.
2. Let go of the 9-5 mentality
Statistics suggest that companies with more flexible attitudes toward work hours are more successful in both attracting good talent and retaining it. In a recent Center for American Progress survey, 75 percent of adult respondents said they’d like their workplaces to offer more schedule flexibility, such as “flex time” contracts, which would allow employees to work from the comfort of their home for half the workweek. Whether it’s company-wide or for your high performers, be open to less traditional schedules, whether they come into the office early and leave early, or work from home on Fridays and dial in to important meetings. Keeping the focus on productivity and what the employee is accomplishing, as opposed to whether or not they are in the office for a certain number of hours per week, makes your employees feel valued and respected without sacrificing the company’s bottom line.
3. Give pats on the back
Your younger crop of employees want regular feedback, and your older ones expect that you’ll at least acknowledge their hard work every once in a while. Giving consistent feedback is always a great way to show that you care about and are engaged in your employees’ on-the-job development. It doesn’t have to cost much—verbal or email acknowledgements are free, after all—and giving small tokens for good work, like a Starbucks gift card or a nice one-on-one lunch can make employees feel appreciated.
4. Avoid stack ranking
Join the growing number of tech companies, including Microsoft, that are killing the practice of “stack ranking.” A common tool used to set apart the best employees from the rest, the stack ranking method grades people based on productivity. Those who score high get bonuses and promotions, while those who rank low are at risk of being fired.
While this practice can make layoff decisions easier, companies have found it has also increased workplace politics and stifled innovation. Employees can easily feel stressed and cornered in an atmosphere of constant competition that is reflected in their paycheck, and loyalty often falls by the wayside when someone feels their livelihood is at risk, leaving them to consider other positions that offer more job security or a lower stress workplace. Reconsider how you rank employees and consider how such evaluations affect morale and productivity.
5. Manage your managers
Keep your workplace a positive one for employees by making sure your managers know what they’re doing. In the average company, employees are promoted and thrown into management without any training—which can be a recipe for disaster. Instead of taking the risk of having ineffectual, uninspiring, or (even worse) divisive leaders in your company, which contributes to a negative workplace atmosphere and drives down productivity, send your upcoming managers to leadership courses or have them work with in-house mentors. The more positive an effect your managers have on the work environment, the more you’ll be able to retain your best and brightest team members.
When you’re attentive to your employees and company culture—usually in the form of support and training (but money certainly doesn’t hurt either)—the result is a happier workforce with eyes on moving the company forward, not on what other companies have to offer.