How Do You Keep Your Best Employees From Flying The Coop?

There is not lack of jobs for good talent today and the best way to keep your best employees around is to provide them with incentives to stay on. The end result is of course the continued growth of your business. Here are some ideas to keep your employees happy and loyal.

Before becoming a full time entrepreneur (or ontamanure, as my daughter calls me) I worked my share of jobs and had my share of bosses. Some of the jobs I enjoyed, some I did not. The same is true for the bosses. Some were decent folks who treated me with the same respect I gave them while others would have been better suited running a concentration camp. I shouldn’t complain, though, because it was the worst boss I ever had who ultimately motivated me to start my own business as a way of escaping the shackles of employment.

In a previous column I talked about how the management style (and personality) of the person in charge plays a big part in the employee turnover rate. While some bosses will never understand that management by terrorism does not breed lasting loyalty, I’m glad to report that many companies are now going out of their way to hang on to the top talent.

Keeping employees happy, motivated, and on the payroll is one of the key concerns to businesses these days, especially since surveys show that turnover among managers and sales people has doubled in the last couple of years. This means that it’s an open market for top talent. A good employee can walk out your door today and have a comparable or better job tomorrow. Which brings up a very important question: what can you do to keep that person from even thinking about going to work elsewhere? Gone are the days when the weekly paycheck and two weeks vacation a year were enough to keep employees happy. With employment at 4.5%, the lowest since mid 2001, employers must come up with irresistible incentives to keep top talent onboard

Here are the results of a recent survey by Fortune Magazine on why people leave their jobs: 30% leave for better compensation and benefits; 27% for a better career opportunity; 27% for a new experience; 21% are dissatisfied with opportunities at current job; and 16% desire to change careers or industries. Money is no longer the major motivator. The potential for added responsibility and the opportunity to grow are.

According to Fortune the best place to work is search engine giant Google, which has always been famous for the perks it offers employees, even beyond those prized stock options that turned many employees into millionaires after Google’s IPO.

Among the perks Google offers its employees are eleven free cafes, unlimited sick days, five onsite doctors (free office visits), an annual ski trip, onsite car washes and oil changes, a free laundromat and dry cleaner, a $5,000 subsidy to buy a hybrid car, and more. On the responsibility and growth side Google encourages key employees to work as much as 20% of their time on projects that may someday be folded into the Google toolbox. There’s little wonder why Google gets 1,300 applications per day and enjoys a turnover rate of less than 5%.

What can you do to keep your employees happy even if you don’t have Google’s deep pockets? The first thing you must do is find out what makes your employees tick. What perks would they enjoy? What needs can you meet that would help them be better employees?

How about an onsite daycare center for working parents? If that’s not feasible offer to pay a percentage of outside daycare. How about paying for all or part of their health insurance? Or offering educational assistance or paying for certifications? The company reaps as many benefits of these perks as the employee does.

Maybe your business isn’t large enough to fund those kinds of perks, but how about a few perks that cost you little or nothing, but can boost moral in a big way? Offer your employees flexible hours. As long as the job is getting done why should you care when the work is performed? Studies have shown that employee productivity can actually go up if you let them set their own hours. Big companies like Best Buy are doing this with excellent results.

How about letting them work from home? Freedom to work where and when they want can be a huge benefit to employees. Then there’s job sharing, where a couple of people split a regular 40 hour a week job. And don’t forget the no-brainer stuff like group activities like lunches and cookouts that give everyone a chance to bond. People don’t leave jobs if that’s where all their friends are.

One of my favorite perks is to offer them the opportunity to learn something new during lunch. It’s always a great idea to keep employees challenged and learning. Why not offer free “lunch and learn” sessions where you have someone come in to teach your employees new skills while they munch down on free pizza you provide. Even my dentist does this, so don’t tell me you can’t.

The point is this: money is no longer the reason employees stay with a company for 40 years. As the captain of industry it’s up to you to figure out what floats their boats, then make waves.

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