The Retention Recipe: 9 Ways to Retain Top Talent

Diverse employees in a group
When you think of key assets, most people immediately think of buildings, machinery, or trademarks. Yet the truth is, while your physical assets and intellectual property allow you to operate, it’s your staff who most heavily influence your progress.

A rude service assistant, for example, can detrimentally affect your word-of-mouth reputation, while an energetic, problem-solving employee can keep customers returning again and again. A staff dedicated to providing personalized service can be a key differentiator for your business. However, hiring great personnel is only half the solution. Once you hire them, you’ve got to retain them. Here’s nine tips to retain top talent.

Set Clear Expectations

Regardless of what an employee’s role or responsibilities are, they should have a clear understanding of what is expected of them. They need to understand how they will be rewarded for excelling in their role, and what the consequences are for not meeting expectations. If you don’t communicate directly with your employees, they will look to their colleagues to gain more insight.

If you haven’t done so already, provide each employee with a detailed job description outlining all their responsibilities, tasks, and goals so they know what a satisfactory performance level is. If a reward is linked to each goal, make sure they are aware of it.

Now they know where they stand, it’s up to you to uphold the goals and limits you’ve set for them. As a leader, you should do everything you can to help your employees succeed. If expectations change, sit down with the employee and discuss the new rules. Provide the employee with an updated job description so their new responsibilities and targets are on record, and consider a title change, pay adjustment, and benefits boost if they’re going to take on a greater load.

Provide Opportunities for Growth

One of the common characteristics of motivated employees is a focus on professional growth and building a career. Not all small businesses can accommodate careers – in fact, a one-company career is an increasing rarity in this day and age – but they can give their employees valuable opportunities they can add to their resumes.

This might mean researching a special topic, leading a small team, or reporting back from a conference. Assigning a special responsibility in chime with an employee’s own long-term career goals can be a simple way to show you care about their future, even though you might not be able to take advantage of their skills in the long term.

Optimize Incentive Packages

Benefit packages are usually provided in a one-size-fits-all template, but there’s no reason why they can’t be tailored – especially for a small business. HR surveys regularly show that what appeals to one staff member doesn’t appeal to another, so setting your benefits package to a universal standard devised long in the past or based on industry norms won’t necessarily prove to be competitive. Value is all in the eye of the beholder.

Survey your employees every couple of years to find out what they want, and make sure you act quickly on your findings. What may prove desirable now might not be so desirable in a few years’ time, as lifestyle trends and economic factors change.

Commit to Transparency

Business owners often want to shield employees from reality if hard times are ahead, but in truth that’s a very hard trick to pull off and it can often backfire. Often, hearing nothing about your employer’s future viability is worse than hearing bad news. At the same time, it can send the message that employees aren’t valued because they’re being kept in the dark.

If there are challenges ahead, the smart employee will want to know what they are and even have some degree of self-determination. Detail the hurdles and involve staff in how they and the company are going to attack the obstacles ahead.

Recognize and Reward

Rewards don’t have to be hefty bonuses. They can be something as simple as a movie pass and a handshake. The important thing is that the employee’s hard work has been recognized.

A common managerial mistake is being ultra-fast in spotting mistakes and then treating a job well done as business as usual. However, you can never assume an employee knows they are doing a good job. By recognizing and rewarding desired behaviors, the employee gains confidence they’re doing well and sets the bar for a level of performance they can work to maintain.

Ask for Feedback – and Act on It

You research your markets and competitors, so why not get feedback from your employees? Set up a pressure-free system for gathering feedback, preferably anonymous, or just make it clear your door is open so employees can bring up any issues.

You may be surprised to find out what influences your employees’ day-to-day working happiness. Most people don’t like bringing up issues of any kind to their boss, even if they are relatively inconsequential, so you may find even tiny changes – such as changing the brand of instant coffee in the staff room – have a big impact on a staff member.

Asking for feedback reassures employees they have the freedom to speak up rather than suffer in silence while, again, emphasizing their value to the company.

Cultivate an Engaging Work Environment

A good workplace culture promotes employee engagement and satisfaction, increases productivity and performance, attracts top talent, and sets the organization up for success. Your employees are investing a significant part of their life into working for your business. If you want them to carry on investing their time and future, make the workplace meaningful and the company fun to work for.

Communicate your passion for your business to employees and tell them about its potential so it becomes a project they feel good contributing towards. This will not only have a positive effect on customer service – as the employee will champion the company to customers – but it will help them buy into the role, creating a more emotional connection to their part in the company.

Having a fun company to work for can be an incentive almost as strong as the pay package and benefits. Again, it’s all about emotional connections, so don’t view team building opportunities simply as ways to get staff working more cohesively during work time – they’re also a great way to bring everyone together to have fun. In addition, having a regular social events calendar can have a positive impact on staff retention rates.

Provide Helpful Tools and Training

Asking someone to carry out a role without the proper training or tools contributes to a feeling of working in an unfair and inconsistent workplace, so make sure your staff are coached and supported sufficiently by you or their supervisors. Equally, staff must be given adequate resources to fulfill their duties, and leeway at times when those resources might be temporarily unavailable.

Coach Your Managers

A company owner can have a fair and equitable attitude to employing, but still lose employees thanks to the actions of their middle managers. Your managers should be coaching staff and offering constructive feedback, and you should be doing the same for them. If you set a silent example, they may well be doing the same for their staff – a trend that can have a big impact on staff retention. One of the top reasons quoted for leaving a company on exit surveys is the attitudes and actions of immediate supervisors, so it’s worth investing in your managers as much as you invest in their teams.

SouthState is proud to support the small businesses in our local communities. We provide robust products and services tailored to small businesses so you can operate at maximum efficiency. Let us worry about streamlining your business operations so you can focus on what matters most, your staff and your customers.

Secure Log In

Close login menu
Login Error

Your username is valid but has a problem. Please call customer support

Our website uses cookies to ensure your online experience is as informative and relevant as possible. Please review our Privacy Policy to learn more about the information we collect.