How to Retain Your Best Employees - A Comprehensive Guide

How to Retain Your Best Employees – A Comprehensive Guide

Companies often dedicate a considerable amount of time, effort, and money toward ensuring they recruit the best employees they can find. Unfortunately, too often, the same cannot be said about companies endeavours to retain those same employees for the long-term. While some regular turnover is expected as people move throughout their career, it’s vital to ensure that your company is not a revolving door of top talent. 

Ottawa has been increasingly referred to as the “Silicon Valley of the North,” so perhaps it would be wise that companies take note of some of the lessons of the actual Silicon Valley and make progress on their record of keeping staff engaged, happy, and growing within the company. 

A 2018 report done by LinkedIn, found that the Technology-Software sector had the highest turnover rate (13.2%), followed closely by the Retail (13%) and Media & Entertainment sectors (11.4%).    

Average time working in a Silicon Valley Tech Company

Uber 1.8 years
Dropbox & Tesla 2.1 years
Square 2.3 years
Facebook 2.5 years
AirBnB 2.6 years
Netflix 3.1 years
Alphabet (Google) 3.2 years
Salesforce 3.3 years
Apple 5 years
Adobe 5.3 years
Oracle 7 years
Cisco 7.8 years

Each of the companies listed provides a similar complement of free meals, tuition reimbursement, on-site fitness facilities, flex-hours and other perks. So what is it that allows some of them to keep their staff more than three times as long as the others? 

Here we take a detailed look at how to retain your best employees and create an organization that people don’t want to leave. A company can never expect to do away with turnover altogether, nor would they ever want to. However, being an employer of choice, and one that’s hard to walk away from, will mean you will have the best candidates clamouring to come on board when it is time to restaff a position.

What Workplace Factors Matter Most to Canadian Workers

Culture and Values – 22%

Senior Leadership – 21%

Career Opportunities – 18%

Business Outlook – 14%

Work/Life Balance – 13%

Compensation and Benefits – 12%

Source: Glassdoor.ca/research

Make Your Company a Community

While a workweek is usually thought of as forty hours, we all know that during crunch time, it can often expand to a lot more than that. There are 168 hours in a seven-day week, inclusive of the weekend, and assuming only 40 of those hours are spent working, and 56 are spent sleeping, that leaves just 72 hours to be social, raise kids, buy groceries, volunteer, and maybe have a hobby. All this to say, a job is a big part of your employees’ lives and giving them a place they feel comfortable and connected will encourage your employees to stay there.

With Culture and Values leading the list of things Canadian workers are looking for in a workplace, this one is worth putting some serious energy into planning and executing. Every company needs to have a structure, but if you promote a rigid hierarchy, the result will be something that more resembles an army rather than a family or community. Encouraging senior staff go out of their way to know and understand what issues their juniors are facing will demonstrate genuine concern for the struggles your team is facing in and out of the office. Recognize that your staff are people first and employees second and make sure you are supporting them emotionally and professionally. This will help foster a workplace that’s hard to leave.

Tips:

  • Celebrate staff birthdays
  • Make space for play
  • Have a social committee
  • Do employee volunteer days as a team
  • Have staff outings

Appreciate & Celebrate Individuality

No two staff members are the same. Even two employees doing the same job may approach it from two completely different angles, and you need to make space for them to do that. By accommodating different styles, you can take advantage of the learning that necessarily comes out their separate methodologies. You also communicate to your staff that you are interested in a successful outcome and not micromanaging them moment by moment.

Tips:

  • Be clear with outcomes and challenge staff to deliver in their individual way
  • Schedule regular one-on-one check-ins with team members
  • Allow for copious flex hours  

Set Clear Expectations

One of the most common complaints from employees in exit interviews is that they often felt like priorities kept changing and they were not kept in the loop. When team members don’t have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them, they start to feel out of control. This loss of control can very quickly lead to feelings of anxiety and stress, which usually leads to the employee searching for new opportunities. 

Tips:

  • Include your team in setting company priorities
  • Provide employees with clear objectives and touchpoints to reassess their priorities
  • Give regular feedback and don’t wait for performance reviews to course correct

Develop Great Managers 

With 21 percent of Canadian employees stating that senior management is one of the factors that matter most to them in a workplace, it only stands to reason that you need to invest in good managers. Of course, this makes sense when you’re hiring, but it also makes sense in developing the people you already have. Just because someone is good at a particular profession, it doesn’t mean that they know how to manage people doing that job. Management training opportunities, Human Resource support, and coaching seminars are all helpful in making sure your leadership team are well rounded and effective leaders. It will also mean they think of your company as a place to build a career and aren’t as easily tempted by other offers. 

Tips:

Allow Employees to Dazzle You

You no doubt hired each team member because they brought something to the table that the other candidates did not. With that in mind, make sure you give them enough opportunity to try new ways of approaching a problem and create an environment where it’s ok to fail. In the early days of Google, they created the now-famous “20% time.” The idea was that employees were encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on what they think will most benefit Google. They had time (and permission) to try new things, and they had the support of management even if their idea resulted in nothing at all. Of course, a couple of the Google Ideas that came out of 20% time are Google News, Gmail, and AdSense. Even if it’s not 20%, be sure to allow your employees to experiment with new ways to tackle old problems. Not only will it make them feel valued and help you retain them, but it could just provide you with a new revenue stream.

Tips:

  • Reward people for trying new things even if the idea fails
  • Create workshop time for staff to share new ideas
  • Create a mentorship program for junior staff

Promote From Within

Employees that know there is an opportunity to grow with a company are more likely to stay. It’s become a common understanding in most tech and creative organizations that to advance your career and make more money, you have to do something great and then jump to another company. The trouble is that this means you’re training great staff for other companies and preventing the development of an exceptional corporate culture. In this model, each person is a hired gun looking for the next great opportunity rather than a member of a fantastic team. A Glassdoor study in 2018 found that this trend seems to be continuing unabated. Almost half of the hiring professionals surveyed cited salary as the top reason their staff were jumping ship. Another study conducted by Catalyst found that 33% of employees cited “career development” as their reason for leaving their most recent employer. In the Technology sector, the opportunity to develop new skills has become massively important. The speed of change happening today has meant that Tech workers who are not keeping up often find themselves obsolete.

Tips:

  • Communicate opportunities for advancement regularly 
  • Clearly define opportunities for promotion
  • Post positions internally before seeking outside candidates
  • Encourage and share stories of career development within the organization

Lots of Carrots, No Sticks

There is an adage that says; people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss. In today’s corporate culture, there is no longer any room for the angry boss cracking a whip. Employees will not stand for it and quite frankly, with the current low unemployment numbers and expanding economy in Ottawa and elsewhere; they don’t have to put up with it. You will, however, be able to help retain staff by finding ways to celebrate their accomplishments as a company. By using team meetings, internal memos, and message boards to name staff members that have gone above and beyond, not only will you create a place where people want to stay, but you will also give all staff a goal to aspire towards. 

Tips:

  • If you need to correct employee behaviour do it privately
  • Recognize success, even the small wins
  • Watch Daniel Goleman Introduce the idea of Emotional Intelligence

Provide Transparency Around Decisions  

As noted earlier, when staff feel they have no control over their destiny within a company, it makes employee retention that much more arduous. When decisions are made by upper management without explanation, they can have a similarly negative effect. Be sure to provide as much detail as possible as to how you arrived at a particular decision. Especially if the decision is related to the termination of another employee. Nothing quite destabilizes a company like the fear of “I could be next.” Sometimes the best way to accomplish transparency around decisions is through a townhall-style meeting with the entire team. More often, though, the best approach may be to empower team leaders to talk to their teams to answer their questions in detail.

Tips:

  • Be clear about how decisions are made
  • Give lots of opportunity for staff questions
  • Provide ways for staff to ask questions anonymously 

Celebrate and Appreciate

Today, more than ever before, people are attaching their sense of self to the work that they do. Consequently, they require consistent reinforcement to know that they are doing a good job and that their efforts are appreciated. It’s often tempting, with the workforce now being dominated by Millennials, for managers to think this is a new phenomenon brought about by “participation trophies.” However, what we’re finding is not only are millennials competent and dedicated employees but that celebrating and publicly appreciating staff members of all generations can have a positive impact on their performance and genuinely increases their desire to stay with an organization. 

Tips:

  • Established clear rewards for hitting targets
  • Celebrate all members of a team for their success
  • Have managers publicly highlight individual accomplishments for each team member
  • Say thank you for specific accomplishments

Be Clear about Salary Expectations

No matter if you have a great culture, excellent benefits, and skills development opportunities, salary is still essential. Each of your staff has obligations currently and aspirations for their future that likely include owning a home, having children, or taking great vacations. All of these things require money. Of course, more money won’t make up for a poor culture, but regular pay increases and performance bonuses do communicate to staff that you value their achievements and want them to share in the company’s success and profits. According to a Glassdoor report, on average, a 10% higher base pay is associated with a 1.5% higher chance that a worker will stay at the company for their next role. If you want to benefit from all the training you’ve provided, it’s crucial that you recognize your staff with regular performance-based pay raises. 

It’s also important to be clear about the salary range for a given position for both internal and external prospects. Too often we’ve seen companies go through extensive interviews only to lose their top candidate because they didn’t communicate well enough the salary possibilities for that employee. The final number will reflect the experience a candidate brings but defining clear expectations will help ensure no one is disappointed. 

Tips:

  • Communicate benchmarks targets for pay raises
  • Publish the pay range for positions
  • Offer a defined bonus when the company exceeds financial expectations or other goals