America’s unemployment rate is now at 5 percent. That’s considered full employment, and that’s the good news.
But prosperity brings its own set of challenges.
For employers, that includes how to retain their best workers when competitors are hiring. Employee poaching is an unfortunate but undeniable fact of the hyper-competitive business landscape, where rising industry players are told that the paycheck is always greener on the other side.
Contrary to popular belief, employee retention doesn’t boil down to money or perks. A recent study by the Boston Consulting Group, a Boston-based management consulting firm, revealed that the No.1 source of employee satisfaction was feeling appreciated.
Worried about losing your best and brightest? Here are some strategies to make employees feel valued:
- Have the talk. Schedule a meaningful face-to-face with new hires within 30 days, said Chason Hecht, president of Retensa, a New York-based firm specializing in employee retention. Ask them why they joined and what they’ve encountered so far that might push them to leave. After six months, have another meeting and ask, “Why have you stayed?” This process “removes the guesswork when it comes to employee retention and instead replaces it with what it means for your employees to work for you,” Hecht said.
- Separate recognition from appreciation. Recognition is about rewarding performance, such as handing out employee-of-the-week awards or incentive bonuses. But some employees don’t like being recognized in a large group because they don’t want the spotlight or fear jealousy from co-workers. Appreciation is more personal and comes straight from the boss. “Recognition does not work well as a strategy for making individuals feel valued,” said Dr. Paul White, co-author of “The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.” But if they feel appreciated, “people will stay even if they’re not getting paid as much as elsewhere,” he said.
- Think like an employee. Find out what you can do to ease the burden of your workers’ daily routines and responsibilities. If an employee is up against a hard deadline, offer to take some clerical work off their hands, or get someone to answer their calls or email for a few hours. You’d be surprised how big an impact even the smallest gestures have in a hectic, pressurized workplace, Hecht said.
- Make a good match. Your company’s identity and mission statement should match your employees’ goals and philosophy. “If who you are as an organization is not what this person is looking for, you’re going to have a hard time keeping them no matter what you do” to make their job better or easier, Hecht said.
- It takes an office. The happiest and most efficient workplaces encourage and value input from all their employees. White particularly urges small companies that face losing workers to bigger, glossier firms to involve workers in decision-making. Clear communication, with an emphasis on encouraging and processing employee feedback, is key, he said.
- Be flexible. Want to be perceived as worker-friendly? Keep an open mind when it comes to work-from-home days, connecting via mobile devices and punching the clock outside the time-honored 9-to-5 window. This sort of flexibility will make you especially popular with tech-savvy Millennials, who are starting to rewrite the rules of the corporate workspace.
- Promote your own. Companies suffer when they don’t give their employees new opportunities. Promoting from within and giving hard-working and loyal employees opportunities to rise through the ranks is great way to make workers feel that they are being appreciated and rewarded.
Finally, understand that despite your best efforts, employee turnover is inevitable.
“There’s no forever. The point is to get the best out of your employees while they’re there,” Hecht said.