Retaining good employees is important during times of low unemployment. While economists and politics love hearing that unemployment is low, too much of a good thing can be bad for companies. Finding new skilled workers becomes challenging for business owners when the unemployment rate is low.
So how do you go about keeping your best employees around?
Fortunately, there are a lot of ideas out there for retaining good employees.
1. Hire someone to focus on employee engagement.
The bigger your company and the greater your human resource needs are, the more this idea makes sense. (Especially if you run a company that feels like a small city at times.)
That's why Christoph Seitz hired someone to be his company's full-time director of happiness a year ago.
Seitz is the CEO of CFR Rinkens, a company based out of Los Angeles that ships commercial cargo. It has a little over 100 employees spread throughout the United States and Germany.
“The primary responsibility [of the director of happiness] is team member engagement and morale," Seitz says of this serious, mid-level position. “When we were looking to fill this position, we looked for someone beyond entry level who had at least five years of HR experience."
—Rachel Kenyon, owner, Kenyon Services
So what does a director of happiness do? According to Seitz, his company's director coordinates monthly team-building events like barbecues and retreats, and finds unique and appealing incentives for the employees. The director also needs to look for business-related things that annoy or bother employees, and then find solutions.
“An example of this is that several employees were having back pain from their chairs," Seitz says. "So we decided to purchase ergonomic chairs as well as electronic stand-up desks to address this."
Since they've hired their director of happiness, the company has noticed an increase in morale, he says. (The company measures morale in internal recurring surveys they give the staff every three months.) And so far, turnover has decreased.
“In the year preceding our director of happiness, we lost a total of nine employees," Seitz says. "In the year since we hired this role, we have lost only four employees."
2. Offer positive reinforcement to help with retaining good employees.
It sounds so simple. But are you doing it?
She suggests sharing stories about the great work your employees are doing in a regular company-wide email, or if you can, sharing it in the community as well.
“By showcasing what people are doing right, you encourage the same type of behavior in others," Butler says. "You also empower a member of your staff to feel important and ultimately most people yearn for this feeling more than anything else you could do for them."
And while it may sound too simple when it comes to retaining good employees, think about all the times you've heard of people leaving jobs because they didn't feel appreciated. Maybe you've left a few jobs for the same reason yourself.
3. Make it easy for your employees to work for you.
Do you ever let employees work from home?
Are you easy-going if an employee needs to cut out of work early to see a kid's soccer game when it doesn't adversely affect the business?
Do you listen to your employees' ideas and sometimes act on them?
If you're looking for ways to keep retaining good employees, you should be that type of boss, says Robert McGuire, who publishes Nation1099, which helps professional freelancers develop their career.
“Employees want more flexible work options, more remote work options and a better work-life balance than employers are providing," he says.
"Money is rarely the primary motivation that [makes] skilled professionals go freelance," he adds. "Every 1099 is a former W-2 from companies where the employee retention efforts failed."
4. Put your employees first, not your company.
It's not always possible to do this. Even the strongest companies sometimes have to do layoffs, for the good of the company.
But as a general rule, most business experts agree that if you put your employees first, it tends to benefit the business as a whole. Retaining good employees means giving them reasons to stick around.
“If you want your good employees to stay, plan for employee success, not company success," says Rachel Kenyon, who owns bookkeeping service company Kenyon Services, located in Franklin, Tennessee.
Kenyon has been a contract worker for about 20 years and has seen up close how a lot of businesses operate, from the good to the bad.
So what does employee success look like? A lot like an investment in your own company.
“Give them training," Kenyon says. “Encourage team and individual continued education and exploration. Always make promotion and department changes based on what is best for the employee, not the company. Let them try things on, and let them change their minds."
Allowing your employees to grow can help your company grow. If you invest and encourage their talent, they can then use that talent for your business. If you don't, they may leave, evolve and use their improved skills elsewhere.
5. Let your bad employees go.
“If you want good employees to stay, cut bad employees loose," Kenyon says. "Don't let bad situations drag on. Don't hold on to people who are toxic for your team. The truth is, not everyone is a good fit."
And better to send your bad employees packing than have the bad employees inadvertently chase away the good ones.
So in the end, there isn't much of a secret to retaining good employees. It ultimately comes down to treating your staff the way you'd like to be treated if you were working for you.
Read more articles on employee retention.