Blog Post

5 Ways to Keep Your Star Employees From Walking Away

Suzanne Lucas

Founder, Evil HR Lady

When you have a great team, the last thing you want to do is see them go on their way. We talk a lot about recruiting great talent, but when it comes down to it, your recruiting efforts are worthless if your company is a revolving door. You need to retain your top talent in order to make your business grow.

Below are five key ways to create an engaging workplace that allows your star employees to thrive.

1. Encourage internal movement.

When you have a top performer, it's natural to want to keep him or her in your department. This is totally logical—why would you want to go recruit someone else, just so that the neighboring department could steal your awesome employee?

Unfortunately, the reality is that rising stars want to do just that: rise. If you want to keep top talent in your company, you need to provide opportunities for employees to rotate and experience new types of work.

This doesn't mean that you merely have an internal posting system and allow people to apply for internal jobs. As a manager, you should make it clear to your employees that if they have an eye on another job, you'll be supportive. Oftentimes, managers feel betrayed when an employee wants to leave for a different department, but they shouldn't. A manager should be proud of training and developing a person enough to prepare him for a new job—not to mention rewarded for providing the company with a high-impact employee.

2. Figure out what they value.

You may really value a fat paycheck, but other people may value a flexible schedule. (Although, very few people would object to a fat paycheck.) The point is, just because you value a certain aspect of work doesn't mean that your best employees value the same thing. Instead of assuming, ask!

You may be surprised to find out that Jane would really, truly love it if she could come in every morning at 5:00am and be done with the day by 2:00pm. And that Steve would really, truly love it if he could come in at noon, leave at 6:00pm to have dinner with his family, and then work from home every night. Katie may be perfectly happy working 60 hours a week, as long as she gets that fat bonus check.

Everyone's needs are different. The important question is, "Is the work getting done and done well?" If the answer to that question is yes, then let your top talent do what they want when they want it. Don't push back because you firmly believe in the 9-to-5 schedule. Let them figure out what works best for them and what they value.

3. Allow funding for development.

Even the best of the best employees need some help to move forward. Your top talent is no exception.

Make sure your employees have the opportunity to attend conferences, take training classes or even receive executive coaching. Yes, these things all cost money. But, do you know what costs even more? Turnover.

When you have employees leaving because they can't grow and develop in your company, you pay a fortune to replace them. Recruiting and training are terribly expensive—more than an annual conference or even a coach.

4. Provide feedback—positive and negative.

Your best employees need to feel appreciated and looked out for—tell them when they are doing a good job and when they need a bit of improvement. People are often shocked with that last part—who wants to hear they aren't perfect? Well, I'll tell you: high performers who have ambition.

Why? Because they want to know what they need to do to get to the next step. So, speak up and tell your employees when they are awesome and when they can do something better. Don't be a horrible, nit-picky micromanager. ("Your reports would be much better if you used Times New Roman instead of Arial.") But, if there is a skill they need to acquire before they can rise to the next level, bring it up now.

5. Be an awesome manager.

You should always be an awesome manager, even if you have mediocre employees. When you're a mediocre manager, mediocre employees will stick around and top talent will leave you in the dust.

This means you need to provide clear guidance and goals. You need to be fair in your management and handle problems quickly. If you have a whiny slacker on your team, you need to fire that person. Honestly. Your top talent won't tolerate working with toxic coworkers. So, it's critical to get rid of bad employees if you want to keep the best employees.

If you're not a great manager, then work on improving. Commit to your own development. It's critical that great people are managed by great people, so get yourself up to your own standards as quickly as possible.

Photo: Shutterstock

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