Great Employees: Hard to Find…Harder to Keep?

by Mike O'Neill

OK, you’ve worked hard to find great employees.

Are you willing to work at least that hard to keep your great employees?

Our clients are always looking for ways to improve their employee retention. Hopefully you’ll find these suggestions helpful.

Know employee’s personal & professional goals.

The talented & driven employees you want on your team are actively pursuing development goals. Support your people by asking:

  • Where do you see yourself in four years?
  • What type of work energizes you?
  • What do you like to learn?
  • What training would be valuable to you?

Employees want to know that when they work hard to help the organization, their manager will care enough to help employees achieve their goals in return.

Provide a flexible working environment.

When employees are willing to do whatever it takes to help the organization be successful, they expect flexibility in return. It is now normal for people to bring work home, work on weekends, and respond to phone calls and emails after hours. Great employees also are thinking about work, devising new solutions, and looking up ideas during their off time. So when employees need a long lunch or early departure to run errands, or they want to attend a school function with their child, leaders need to be supportive & flexible.

Listen and consider employee’s opinions.

One of the best ways to communicate to employees that you care about them, their opinions, or their contributions to the team is to solicit and act on their thoughts & opinions. You hired your employees for their talents & problem-solving skills. Make sure you check in with them regularly asking for their opinion & perspective. When your employees know their perspectives are considered, they are energized and work harder to provide valuable input.

Spend more time leading and less time managing.

Give your employees opportunities to make decisions and direct their own time and work. Not every decision needs managerial approval. Letting your employees make decisions without running every single one by you clearly communicates that you trust them. People need to be able to take risks and make decisions to learn and grow.

Make time for quality performance reviews.

Your engaged employees are committed to meeting, and exceeding, performance standards. Employees contribute more than 2,000 hours of labor a year, and they want to make sure they are not wasting their time. Great managers help guide employees by making time to provide helpful & valuable performance feedback. Performance reviews should be ongoing, not just once-per-year.

Share information.

Employees need honest, complete, and timely information to successfully do their jobs and feel connected to their team & organization. We need good information delivered in a timely manner. We want to know what is going on within our organization and our industry. Keep people informed. No one wants to learn critical information from an email, a peer or through the gossip grapevine.

Encourage a culture of innovation.

Encourage employees to be innovative and support their desire to try new things, even if it doesn’t work out. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying new things. Be supportive of mistakes. Without a culture where people can take pride in innovative failures and be motivated to get back up and try again, people stop trying at all.

Compensate fairly.

Compensation is last on this list for a reason. If your managers are missing the mark on the other behaviors, it doesn’t matter what you pay your employees; it won’t be enough. In fact, your employees are probably already thinking, “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this.”

Most leaders know that they need to implement strategies, such as these.  However, if you’re too busy now to focus on creating a thriving workplace environment for your talent, how will you find the time to replace them when they leave?

Link to Managing Top Talent (TD, Peter B. Stark and Mary C. Kelly).


When leaders throughout an organization take an active, genuine interest in the people they manage,

when they invest real time to understand employees at a fundamental level,

they create a climate for greater morale, loyalty, and, yes, growth.

– Patrick Lencioni

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