How to Keep Your Great Employees (or favorite people)

by Jim Kaspari

Thanks to the article on how to find great employees, you’ve found the perfect fit for that spot on your team.  You feel blessed and lucky and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back for a job well done.  They’re doing great and helping tremendously.  Uh oh, now you’re nervous that they’ll leave and go to another company.  How do you keep your great employees?  Isn’t there always something better out there?

The good news is that retaining good employees is not rocket science.  It’s simple, yet many people make common mistakes due to ignorance or not understanding the importance of setting aside the time to properly lead and support their team.  The other piece of good news is that many of these tips and ideas can help us all in any type of important relationship.

Most of us would like to start by getting the employee to understand our corporate goals and how they can jump on our bandwagon.  While it is imperative to have your team all working towards the same corporate goals and ideals, you will keep your team longer and they will be much happier if you jump on their bandwagon.  In your early meetings, find out what’s important to them.  Ask what their favorite hobbies are.  What do they like to do in their free time?  How do they like to be rewarded?  Rewards are ideally customized for the individual.  One person would be thrilled to get a certificate and be publicly acknowledged for their fantastic work while another might be shy and mortified by this type of reward.  Personally, if I can have some flexibility and get away for an hour during the workday and get outside or go to the gym to workout, I’m much happier, more focused and productive.

The first thing to do is set your employee up for success.  You should already have a solid, clear job description for them.  That’s what you used to create the compelling ad to help them find you.  The job description should have crystal clear goals, tasks, level of skill, roles and expectations.  Go over the job description with them and answer any questions they have.  Check to see if the employee agrees to all the expectations and if they need any support or help to reach the levels of skill or complete the tasks required.  This is a good time to identify their strengths and use them as much as possible.  Have them sign and date the document for accountability.

It’s great to maintain your support.  Meet with them regularly.  You can check in weekly or daily, depending on their familiarity of the task(s).  Be sure to ask open-ended questions and listen well, acknowledging what they say and sometimes repeating back what you heard.  If they do have a complaint or issue, be sure to listen and not try to fix it right away.  Ask them what they think should be done.  Respect them and use a perspective that you can learn from them.  I highly recommend taking notes (this significantly helps my memory in future meetings).  Take special notice of things they get excited about, these could be clues to what might motivate them and how you can reward them.  Good listeners are a rare gift and that alone may keep your team feeling respected and valued, and help you keep your great employee.

Definitely have a quarterly scheduled meeting to go over progress and support or clarity needed.  An annual review is a great time to reward your great employee, and there shouldn’t be any surprises for either of you if the other regular check ins and meetings are done properly.

Some of us fall into the temptation to want to fix things and focus on negative behaviors.  It seems to be a default human managerial behavior – it makes our ego feel important.  One secret to being a great manager is to catch your employee doing something right, focus on that and give clear timely feedback to them.  This is a tremendous habit to build.  It’s also tempting to focus on the poor performers.  Studies on the Pareto principle have shown that often 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of your team.  Focus on the superstars and reward them and the rest will start performing better as well.  What we resist persists, and what we focus on expands.

My favorite managerial reminder is the word “curiosity”.  It’s so easy to jump to conclusions or make assumptions.  If something goes wrong at work, remember to simply let go of your emotions and be curious.  What happened?  How could this have been prevented?  What should we do in the future?  Often, employees know how to do something, so getting angry or re-training won’t help.  Perhaps they were too busy or overloaded with work and couldn’t focus or missed something.  Give them permission to let you know when their workload is too great.  Ask them what support they need to do it correctly.

Team fairness is also very important.  Be flexible in how you reward your team based on what they like, but be fair in what criteria you use and when you reward your team.  Rewarding for performance is the best win-win model.  When an individual consistently, over time contributes to the company’s success, they should be rewarded.  It’s also nice to set up a system for reward, for example as a commission structure would be for a salesperson.  You may also have to clear out under-performers as well.  If someone can’t perform well in your company, perhaps they will fare better elsewhere.  It’s not fair to the superstars to carry the weight of team members who waste time, aren’t efficient or have bad attitudes.

For some employees or businesses, it may be appropriate to send them to training courses or conferences as a reward and growth opportunity.  Be creative in how you reward your employees and definitely treat them with respect and gratitude and you will keep your great employee for good.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and found it interesting, helpful and valuable.  I know you already know a lot of this, and hopefully it serves as a useful reminder for you.  Please comment below on your favorite story or tip for keeping your great employees.  Wishing you success with your amazing team and business.