Beverly Smallwood

Article Summary:

Key points for an employee retention plan.

Employee Retention Plan – How to Keep Good Employees

You’ve realized that keeping good employees is one of your most important jobs, if you want your bottom line to stay healthy. Maybe you’ve even had a few wake-up calls in your company…key people announcing their resignations with little warning, and taking key customers with them. Ouch! Maybe if you had known a little earlier that this manager or employee was thinking of leaving, you could have done something to revitalize your relationship with him or her.

In this article, you’ll identify several ways you can measure and track what’s your employees are thinking and feeling about their work. This will be critical information to help you develop a strategy for improved employee retention.

In order to know what to track, it’s important to first learn what the different groups of your employees find motivating…what energizes them, and what saps their energy. While there are some workplace experiences that almost everyone wants (such as to feel competent or to feel respected and appreciated), people differ in how they weigh other work elements. For example, think of a salesperson in your organization. When does this person “shine”? What does he or she seem to enjoy most? What job requirements or types of customer interactions appear to frustrate the salesperson?

Now, compare this picture to that of a receptionist, a manager, or a truck driver. What do you think are the motivating factors for each of them?

People are different! What makes one ecstatic may give another sweaty palms. You have to know them…each group, each person. You need to know what they are using to judge their work experience. I call this, “the report card in their heads.”

You can ask in face-to-face individual meetings, in small-group discussions, or in confidential surveys. You can even assign a particular group, e.g., your salespeople, to meet and come back to you with their top five answers to the key questions I’m about to share with you. However you collect it, it’s info you’ll need to create a great place to work, as perceived by your particular employees. After all, it’s their perceptions (not your hopes or delusions!) that count. Other than lots and lots of money, what 3-5 things either currently make, or would make this “a great place to work” for you? How consistently do you get the things that are important to you in your work with us?

  • What are the “downers” in your current job…things that stress you, depress you, or upset you? What suggestions do you have for improving those situations?

  • Have you ever quit a job because you were dissatisfied? If yes, what made you quit?

  • What experiences now cause you to think of looking for another job?

  • When you compare our company to other job opportunities that you know of, how do we compare? What do you think makes us a better place to work, or what do we need to improve, in comparison to others?

  • What do you need from your manager? To what extent are you getting those things?

  • If you were the CEO or owner of this company, what would you do differently in order to attract and keep good employees?

    (Note: Fax or email me the answers you get, and I’ll be glad to give you some suggestions about how to proceed. This is also the type of information I love to collect in order to help others!)

    I would strongly suggest that you spend extra time with your best, most loyal employees. It is important to learn what keeps them with you. Whatever it is, you want to keep doing it! And, you want to nip in the bud anything that could threaten your relationship with these good people.

    …Wise words from that great philosopher, Yogi Berra. You really can learn a lot about what motivates and keeps your people by observing them in the various situations in the workweek. Watch individuals and work groups, and talk to them about their experiences. Notice when their faces have smiles and their voices have enthusiasm. Observe when they are most productive, and when the numbers drop. What patterns do you observe? What seems to be contributing to the good and the not-so-good times for each individual? Your people will perform best and enjoy it more when they are doing tasks for which they have natural talents. Do you have the right people in the right jobs? Can you creatively structure the job descriptions of different people so that more of their time is spent in activities that allow them to use their strengths?

    I would hope that you regularly track and provide good coaching for employee performance in their jobs. Certainly, you measure financial outcomes. But many companies fail to pay attention to data about their most valuable assets…their people. As you discover patterns, you’ll have important clues that cause you to look more closely at problems before they become company disasters. Take the time now to create a simple system for tracking these important indicators. Organize the information so that you know what’s happening, both company-wide and in different work areas.

  • Turnover rates, especially “voluntary turnover.” (An employee who leaves for such reasons as spouse relocation, pregnancy, or disability would not be considered “voluntary turnover.”)

  • Reasons for voluntary turnover. (Do exit interviews and/or confidential surveys.)

  • Average length of employment in different work areas.

  • Absenteeism/tardiness.

  • Use of sick leave. (This is correlated with both high levels of stress and thoughts/plans of leaving.)

  • Customer satisfaction and loyalty. (If you want to know what your customers are thinking, you have to ask! What do your customers value most, and to what extent are they getting it? How do you compare with other suppliers, in the customer’s mind? Are there patterns in your customer complaints that suggest problems among certain individuals or groups of your employees?)

    In summary, if you really want to improve your ability to attract and keep great employees, you first have to understand them. Then, you must do some systematic soul-searching of your company to identify its strengths as well as its opportunities for improvement. I’ve given you some tools to do just that. If you get stuck at any point in the process, feel free to give me a call and I’ll help you over the hump. Take the information you get and put it to work in three more steps:

  • Strategize…setting priorities for improvement efforts based on what matters most to your people;

  • Develop…preparing and training your people to make competent leadership, effective teamwork, smooth changes, and exceptional customer service a daily reality;

  • Act and adjust, act and adjust, act and adjust…implementing improvement projects that will make your organization a stronger and stronger magnet for talented, productive people; adjusting and fine-tuning as you continue to track what matters most.

    Beverly Smallwood is a licensed psychologist who has worked with Fortune 500, healthcare, and other organizations around the world for over 20 years. Her specialties are leadership development, employee retention, and personal resilience. She’s often featured in such national media as MSNBC, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, FOX, and New York Times. To contact her about speaking, consulting, or coaching, call 877-CAN LEAD (226-5323) or visit her website Magnetic Places, where you can also sign up for her free email newsletter.

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