Four Steps To Retaining Key Employees

Surprisingly, when Googling “retaining key employees,” I found that many of the articles were written in the mid-to-late 1990’s, and focused on the same issues that today’s articles focus on.  Apparently we haven’t progressed very far, even if the need is great and the payback is huge.  As today’s economy improves, organizations must take steps to retain critical employees.  Doing so will have a significant positive impact on long term performance.  How are you responding?

Step One:  Start the Retention Process When Hiring

Add sustainability by incorporating retention efforts as part of the hiring process.  When evaluating candidates, don’t just focus on their skills and knowledge, or how well they fit the job requirements.  Invest the time to understand the candidate as a person.  Recognize what they define as success; determine if this is possible for that individual within your organization. Retention should begin with candidate selection, and continue with efforts to truly encourage your employees to attain their success within your organization.  Anything less will lead to turnover

Step Two: Create an Environment That Encourages Personal Achievement

Today organizations are beginning to understand that their ability to offer employees a role where they can attain their personal goals is at least as important as financial rewards, and often more so.  The situation is ideal when an employee’s long-term goals are aligned with the organization’s goals.  Strong managers will encourage and allow employees to take on new responsibilities and learn new skills that are consistent with their interests.  They will also encourage employees to network, both within and outside the organization, and to grow both professionally and personally.

Step Three:  Identify and Develop Mentors Not Just Managers

It’s too late to make these changes when someone resigns.  If you have not already done so, you should quickly begin a process to train and prepare your managers for their role in retaining key contributors.  Next, identify those individuals who offer critical knowledge – or great potential.  Make certain you are helping them attain their personal career goals.  Is it your youthful sales manager who customers love?  What about your experienced R&D director who understands your capabilities better than anyone else?

Step Four: Don’t Fall Into the Counter-Offer Trap

The initial reaction of most managers when a key employee resigns is “what can I offer them to stay?”   The focus then usually turns to money – the most common reason given for leaving an organization is “my new employer offered me an X% increase.”  However, studies reflect that although this is an easy answer, particularly during formal exit interviews, it frequently is not the motivating factor.   Once at this stage, you probably are not going to retain the employee long-term.