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With unemployment near an all-time low, turnover is a big problem for businesses! Follow these suggestions to keep your employees happy and in YOUR employ!

Both the military and corporate America have a big problem–they have trouble keeping their people from leaving and taking jobs elsewhere. With unemployment down to 4.2% and lower, people have much greater latitude in choosing who they want to work for.

Those workplaces that adjust to these changes are going to turn the tide on turnover and retention. I have worked with and studied hundreds of organizations. I combined the best the military had to offer and the best of the corporate world and created a strategy on how to create a high-retention workforce. Here are a few ideas and issues to consider.

Loyalty has changed-First, we must first accept the fact that the concept of “loyalty” has changed. In the “old” days loyalty meant lifelong commitment to the organization-no matter what. Instead of blind loyalty to the organization, people view their loyalty as transferable–portable. As long as the person feels the organization is providing for their needs loyalty remains. 

Make people feel appreciated-I just completed a workforce retention survey where I asked the question, What causes you the greatest dissatisfaction at work? The answer with the most responses was Lack of appreciation. Most award programs don’t go far enough. Find creative ways to make people feel good–focus on the soft stuff. We have helped organizations set up something called, “peer recognition.” Peer recognition allows people to reward each other for doing a good job. It works because employees are in the best position to catch people doing the right things. It is a form of instant gratification that fills the gap that most formal recognition programs leave out.

Measure attitudes-In the military we had “gripe sessions,” but high-retention workplaces go beyond mere gripe sessions. High-retention workplaces are now using climate assessment surveys to measure the attitudes and feeling of their workforce. Every organization should conduct some form of climate assessment twice a year.

Individual Retention Profile-You must manage retention one employee at a time. Everyone has a different set of needs and expectations about their jobs. We have designed and provide businesses a special profile that allows managers to quickly identify the employee’s unique motivations, goals, dream jobs and their other expectations.

Money & benefits only go so far-Money and benefits are important, but my survey shows that challenging job assignments ranked one-step higher than salary when asked, What are the reasons you stay at your present job? You don’t have to be the highest paying employer to have good retention. Focus on other issues. TD Industries in Dallas, Tex., makes their employees feel valued by using one wall in the company to place photographs of all employees who have been with the company more than five years. They make everyone feel equal including no reserved parking spaces for executives. That is one reason why TD Industries was listed last year by Fortune magazine as one of the Top 100 Best Companies.

Focus on the family-I know one small company that gives employee’s children a $50 Savings Bond twice-a-year who get straight A’s on their report cards. Another survey of 1,000 companies showed half of them let workers stay home with mildly ill children without using vacation or sick days. Two-thirds permit flextime defined as allowing employees to adjust work hours on a daily basis. Forty-four percent hold supervisors directly accountable for sensitivity to their employee’s work/family needs.

Leadership skills changing-Many organizations do a great job training leaders; however, leadership skills needed today are different. There is a saying that is going around, “People don’t quit their organization. . .they quit their boss.” Many organizations are going away from traditional performance evaluations and now using a 360-degree evaluation where 5-6 people can provide objective feedback on the boss’s performance and ability to lead others in today’s different work environment. 

Hold managers accountable– In our survey, 35% of the respondents said they quit their last job because of their immediate supervisor. Good organizations have good managers and good organizations hold managers directly responsible for retention. At La Rosa’s Pizza employees evaluate their bosses using a bottom-up Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI) twice a year. After the CSI is completed the CEO has the managers come in and talk about the results. 

Give people purpose– The key difference between high-retention and low-retention organizations is for people to feel they are making a difference. This is the one core truth that supercedes all backgrounds, all cultures, all generations . . .people want to be part of an organization that gives them meaning. This is why USAA allows their employees to work on Habitat for Humanity projects. 

“We’ve never done it that way before”- What is the difference between a “tradition” and a bad habit? High-retention organizations must question their rules, regulations, culture and traditions to insure they are inline with high-retention. The CEO of Trilogy, a computer software company in Austin, TX changed his thinking when he decided to give up his executive corner office to one of his top programmers. The CEO took a cubicle to avoid losing his programmer to the competition. I don’t see this happening in many organizations, but the point is that all of us need to make some readjustments in order to turn the tide on retention.

The corporate CEO and business owner has a tougher job balancing the needs of the mission and with the needs of the individual. Those who make adjustments are going to be more successful and competitive in this new economic environment we are now facing. 

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