Large corporations, entrepreneurs, and startups increasingly struggle to retain great employees. They see the same cycle repeat over and over again: an energetic new employee comes on productive and full of new ideas for several months, but after the first eighteen months the employee stops taking initiative, their attendance and reliability changes and their work quality suffers. They aren’t likely to make it to the three year mark without leaving for another position elsewhere. What can employers do to retain the talent they worked so hard to bring into the company and keep them happy?
1. Provide ample opportunities for training and support self-improvement.
There are many types of training and you need to offer options that meet the learning styles of different employees. This means you may bring in training consultants to do department or company-wide group trainings, you may need to send employees out for training or you may need to help employees arrange one-on-one or online training. Everyone learns differently and providing training that works for your employees will go a long way towards showing them your respect their current skills and are investing in them to stay up-to-date. Knowing they have potential with the company is a great motivator.
2. Provide your employees the tools they need to do their job.
Most frequently this is about investing in sufficient technology, but it also means have the other supplies and tools they need to be able to efficiently and effectively do their tasks. Employees become frustrated quickly if they don’t have what they need to complete the things you ask for.
3. Be transparent about your company and their role in the future.
From the outset, be honest about expected company growth, how and when you expect the employee’s role to change and if you need flexibility or willingness to remain in one position for some time. Don’t sell them grand ideas of a rapid rise to management. If your department is reliant on funding be honest about the timeframe that you have secured funding for and efforts you are making to ensure sustainable funding. Part of retaining talent is bringing in someone who knows what they can really expect, and you’ll find that employee engagement flourishes when your hire feels they are getting the truth.
4. Provide growth opportunities and promote internally.
Make sure your employees know you value them and want them to stay. Like training, opportunities to grow into other positions motivates an employee to give their best. They will stay if you can offer them more than someone else can.
5. Structure salaries to remain competitive and don’t forgo raises.
Be competitive in your field and location, and make sure you give annual and cost of living increases. Nothing loses a talented employee faster than feeling underpaid and unappreciated.
6. Maintain one-on-one and open communication.
Direct supervisors should have scheduled meetings one-on-one with staff to discuss goals for the position and give the employee a chance to alert them to any concerns they have. Open door communication also helps your employees to feel safe to come to you if they feel overwhelmed or have any issues with completing their work.
7. Respect their personal time.
Respect that your employees have lives away from work and honor that the same way you would want them to honor your personal time. This is an especially fine line to walk in a start up setting. Among other things, improving the culture of your startup can start by trying to strike some form of work life balance, although hours simply can’t be as steady and predictable as an established company.
8. Provide and encourage the use of paid time off.
Your employees need to recharge and time away from work is essential to keep things in perspective. Provide a reasonable paid time off or vacation policy and encourage them to use the time they have accrued. Be thoughtful that if you sense an employee is unhappy, it may be a good time for them to take a week off, but address it in a way that doesn’t make them feel their job is at risk or like it is a paid suspension.
9. Take their ideas serious and give them the credit and appreciation.
When employees are new, they bring fresh energy and ideas to the table. It only takes being told “we’ve tried that, it didn’t work” a few times or having someone else get the credit for their brilliant idea for them to stop offering anything. This takes a toll on their morale and impacts their work overall.
10. Create a diverse, inclusive and culturally competent environment.
Ensure that you have policies both in your hiring and promoting as well as in how you address gender, racial and other identities. Create fair policies that ensure everyone feels safe, respected and confident that they are being judged on their professional merits and nothing more. This is one of the biggest issues facing employers today, as many provide policies but their employees that feel they are being harassed or discriminated against also do not feel that they can trust the issues to be resolved and simply look for a more inclusive environment to move to.