The #1 Way to Keep Employees Happy

Surprise: It's not more money.
July 08, 2013

The economy is getting better ... and employees are getting restless. So far this year, 51 percent of North American companies have experienced high employee turnover, compared to just 30 percent that had high turnover last year recent, according to a survey by global coaching, leadership development and consulting firm OI Partners. In addition, 70 percent of companies report that “retaining talent” is their biggest challenge this year.

What kinds of employees are companies most worried about retaining? “High-potential employees” top the list: 78 percent of businesses worry about losing the people they believe will be their next generation of leaders, managers and supervisors. Close behind are middle managers (63 percent), front-line workers (51 percent) and senior executives (43 percent).

If you, like most business owners, are worried about losing key people this year, what can you do about it? Surprisingly, the number-one method companies are using to retain employees doesn’t involve a lot of cash. Whether they’re trying to retain high potentials, middle managers, senior execs or even front-line workers, coaching is the top method that companies are using to keep staffers engaged and loyal. “Better compensation and benefits” came in second for high-potential workers, middle managers and senior execs, but was the least popular way to retain front-line workers.

Why does coaching matter so much? OI Partners says employees take it as a sign the company believes in their value and is willing to invest time and effort in their career development. With the tough economy of the past few years having left many workers feeling like disposable cogs, being treated as if your boss cares about helping you learn new skills makes a big difference.

Coaching doesn’t just help your employees—it also helps your business. In a marketplace where new ideas and new business models can give you the edge overnight, having more employees with a wide range of skills, leadership abilities and innovative attitudes can only help your company grow.

So how can you work coaching into your already packed business day? Here are six ideas.

Segment. For front-line employees in the study, coaching took the form of better training (used by 55 percent of companies) and orientation (47 percent). For higher-level employees, coaching needs to be more career-focused.

Mentor. Having senior employees work with those you decide are high-potential is a tactic used successfully by many big companies. This benefits both the novice employee and the senior workers—senior workers feel valued that their knowledge is being passed on, and they often learn just as much by teaching others as the new employees learn from them.

Mix it up. Identify employees who have key skills, whether they’re front-line workers, new hires or top executives, and have them teach others without regard to hierarchy. For instance, a new employee might be the best person to show execs how to maximize value from social media.

Encourage professional development. Tap into the resources of your industry association or trade groups to help your employees expand their knowledge and skills. Having employees attend conferences, seminars or webinars is a great way to keep them up-to-date while making them feel valued.

Make a plan. Don’t leave career development for the annual review. Make it a point to find out what each employee’s goals are and how achieving those goals can benefit your business. Develop a plan for each person and set milestones along the way.

Get personal. For certain very valued employees, one-on-one time with the boss is the best way to coach. Making time for regular lunches, meetings or offsite discussions with key employees will build their loyalty and their value to your business.

Read more articles on how to boost employee morale.

Photos from top: iStockphoto, Thinkstock