Appreciation can stop brain drain

score Question: I have trouble retaining workers for the long haul. Is there a magic method to employee retention? Anything has to be better than the short-term workers we have hired.

Answer: Your first step is to take primary ownership of keeping key people. Find out why they leave. Ask what it would take to keep them. Let them know that you value them by getting to know them.

Here are some things that I've used over the years:

  • Find out who they are. Have you ever spent time to find out about their lives and interests? Do you know their children's names? Do you know what's important to them? It's a tall order, but it is important.
  • Help them do their best. Observe and listen to your employees. If an employee excels at what she does, she is likely to be happier, more productive and want to stay with the company.
  • Be the teacher. Teach your lead people and fellow managers how to work with people. It works best if you hire managers with good people skills. If you have promoted from within, put people skills high on the qualification list. You need to be able to demonstrate good managerial skills with you managers if you expect them to manage well.
  • Don't burn people out. No matter how loyal and how committed, everyone has a breaking point.
  • Show your appreciation. A note on paper carries more weight that just making the comment in passing. You can reward workers with goodies when you see extra effort and skill.
  • Challenge the student. Offer employees every opportunity to further their education. The more training they have, the better chance they will provide success for you.
  • Empowerment rules. Let your employees be free to do what they do best, what you hired them to do. When an employee thinks he is contributing, he's more apt to stay. Remember to say, "Thank you for a great job."

Bill Bryan is a counselor with the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE offers counseling, workshops and seminars on small business operations. You can reach Bryan through SCORE, 515 N Court St. 815-962-0122, for information and appointments.

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