5 strategies for effective staff retention

It’s hard to get good help these days. Right qualifications, right temperament, right career goals, right “vibe.” Once you’ve got them onboard, you want to keep them. So, what’s to stop a competitor offering a corner office and a higher salary, and seeing all that talent just walk out the door?

Why are they leaving?

Sometimes a member’s life focus can shift so dramatically that nothing will persuade them to stay. Pregnancy. A spouse’s career move to another city. A tragedy in the family. Wish them well and start your search immediately.

But others leave for very different reasons, and it’s rarely on a whim. It could be better remuneration, but for most people the difference would have to be significant to sacrifice the security of their current job. If your workers were once content to learn and grow with your company, ask yourself what’s changed?

Strategy consultant Lisa Earle McLeod says that seeds of discontent may have been sown many months earlier than the quitting date. An eager, talented young recruit may start out with enthusiasm and passion for the job. But if management does nothing to keep that passion alive, then any little disappointments or irritations will build. Finally, the reasons to stay won’t be strong enough to fend off tempting offers for positions elsewhere.

Many who leave otherwise secure positions cite ineffective management, an apparent lack of advancement opportunities, feeling unappreciated, or being chronically overworked.

How to stem the flow

Happily, the most effective retention strategies won’t cost anything. It’s mostly about good HR protocols and some common-sense decency in dealing with people.

HR Expert Susan Heathfield recommends exit interviews with departing employees. This strategy provides valuable information you can use to retain remaining staff. You may be surprised at what you learn, but heed the results. In addition to exit interviews, it makes good sense to take the time to find out why other employees choose to stay.

Heathfield also mentions the following potential problems in staff discontent. Notice that they can all be solved by good communication:

Lack of clarity about expectations

Lack of clarity about earning potential

Lack of feedback about performance

Failure to hold scheduled meetings

Failure to provide a framework within which the employee perceives he can succeed

Dan Scalco, marketing director at Digitalux, includes these further tips for staff retention:

  1. Invest in employees’ professional development. This should include promotion from within whenever possible.
  2. Establish clear-cut expectations and policies. Employees need an understanding of their job duties, company policies, and so on, and require regular feedback.
  3. Create a culture of open communication. Insist on open, transparent, and respectful communication from your managers, and encourage this behaviour in every member of your team.
  4. Help employees feel valued. Make sure employees are treated fairly and that management sincerely acknowledges team members for jobs well done and for the effort they put into their work.
  5. Don’t overburden employees. Your employees will have the energy (and the desire) to stick around longer if they aren’t constantly overworked.

Every time you lose a key player, your company loses financially. You will also have to deal with issues such as training time and investment, lost knowledge, lower morale and a time-consuming search for a replacement. And the depleted team has to go through the discomfort of adapting to a someone new.

Scalco sums up effective retention strategies this way: Do you treat your employees with integrity, as if they are human beings with their own needs, personal lives, and goals who are inherently worthy of respect? If the policies and practices of your company all align with that question with a resounding “yes,” then you’re well on your way to retaining satisfied team members for life.