12 Proven Employee Retention Ideas

There are a lot of reasons employees stay at a job. They include working with great people, being excited about their work, and enjoying a positive environment. It’s expensive to hire and train employees. If you’re seeing excessive turnover, your bottom line can be impacted. A happy employee will be less likely to leave for greener pastures.

Here are ways you can foster a positive employee culture to retain top talent for the long-term.

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1. Tuition Reimbursement and Employee Development

A high-profile announcement recently made the news. The Walt Disney Company expanded its Disney Aspire program, adding the University of Central Florida to the list of institutions eligible employees can attend free of charge. The company will cover tuition costs upfront and reimburse application fees and other eligible expenses for staff members attending UCF and other in-network institutions.

Of course, small business owners don’t have the deep pockets of Disney. But you can still get creative to offer this perk. Local community college classes are usually affordable and there are plenty of online educational opportunities out there that won’t break the bank.

Additionally, there are federal tax breaks for employers for educational assistance. Check with a financial professional to get more information and formulate a plan that won’t cut into your cash flow.

2. Provide Feedback Consistently

Employees can feel like they are adrift in the ocean without consistent feedback. Schedule one-on-one meetings with employees regularly and offer feedback on the tasks and projects they handle. Make sure your managers are also giving regular feedback to those on their team. Don’t forget to share customer feedback as well. Even negative comments can be turned around and used as a teaching moment or an opportunity to improve customer service.

3. Encourage Employee Feedback

Even the most resourceful employee may sometimes feel that their business know-how is unheard or unappreciated. Encourage feedback and act on their suggestions. This has two valuable effects: you'll have more motivated employees and the ability to leverage feedback in ways that can improve your business.

4. Challenge Your Employees

Employees who don’t feel challenged can get bored and restless. By setting high expectations, you’ll encourage employees to strive for and exceed goals. This not only boosts productivity; it can give your team a shot of self-esteem. Challenge yourself as well, your productivity-boosting mentality can become contagious.

5. Encourage Creativity

Employees of today—particularly millennials and other younger workers—care about meaningful work in addition to having a job that pays the bills. Strive to provide your employees with assignments that get creative juices flowing along with opportunities to make a difference at work and in the community. You’ll be creating a healthy company culture for all workers, no matter what their age.

6. Run a Respectful Workplace

Respect is when you feel admiration and deep regard for an individual. You believe that the person is worthy of your regard and admiration because of the good qualities and capabilities that they bring to your workplace. It goes without saying that employees working for your business want to be treated with respect. It starts from the top down.

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7. Include Your Employees

Inclusion is a call to action within the workforce that means actively involving every employee's ideas, knowledge, perspectives, approaches, and styles to maximize business success. Employees may feel left out if only management steers the ship. Practice transparency and let your employees in on developments that could impact their work or the business overall. No one likes to be the last to hear important company news. An open communication policy, discussed below, is a great way to encourage dialog and an atmosphere of inclusion.

8. Provide a Work-Life Balance

The days of a 9 – 5 grind wearing a suit are coming to an end as millennials enter the workforce seeking flexibility. Employees are more efficient and productive when a healthy work-life balance is encouraged. Explore ways you can offer your employees flexibility like the option to work remotely and alternative hours.

Remember to practice what you preach. Never leaving the office, sending emails after hours and consistently taking on too much can subtly set expectations. If you need help establishing a positive work-life balance for yourself, check out this article from the SmartBiz Blog: 5 Ways the Small Business Owner Can Avoid Burnout.

9. Pay Competitive Salary and Offer Benefits

For business owners, offering competitive salaries and benefits is essential to hire and retain the best employees. It can be difficult to determine salary, raises, and benefits-especially if your resources are limited. One strategy is to use “compensation benchmarking”. This means researching what other companies are paying people for similar jobs so you can make sure you’re competitive. Job search site Monster has a guide you can follow to make sure you’re offering a fair compensation package – Every Small Business Needs a Compensation Strategy.

If it’s in your budget, you can get creative with benefits like gym memberships, transportation or carpool discounts, tuition reimbursement (see above), and more.

10. Hold Team Lunches

Eating a meal together can be a great way for your team to bond. Employees might feel reluctant to share ideas one a one-to-one basis with the boss but a relaxed lunch sets the perfect atmosphere to do so. Providing a meal can increase employee satisfaction and help them feel appreciated. It’s also nice to have a break from the usual lunch routine. Check with your tax preparer to determine if the team lunches you hold are deductible as a business expense.

11. Foster a Culture of Open Communication

Improve employee morale by encouraging open communication. This means your team members will feel free to share their ideas, address issues, and help grow your company. Open communication leads to trust, a key factor to employee happiness. Make sure everyone on your management team practices transparency and listens to employee observations, suggestions and possible problems. Handle the issues that come up swiftly and fairly.

12. Perform Exit Interviews

In a case study on employee retention by the Work Institute, the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital changed their policies and greatly improved employee retention. Their updated strategy resulted in reducing turnover by as much as 34%, totaling about $257,000. The hospital created a new exit interview program designed to explore supervisor ratings, to understand employees' overall rating of the hospital compared to the employees' intent to stay , and to discern employees' real reasons for leaving. They used this data to improve conditions for current employees and turnaround the work culture.

Even the smallest of businesses can put an exit interview policy into place. Information from an employee out the door can be invaluable. Make sure you include relevant questions and act on the data you discover. The NFIB organization has an article to help you get started: A Small Business Owner’s Guide to Exit Interviews.

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