How Do I Keep My Employees?

We are experiencing a startling job market.  2020 was the most bizarre year in anyone’s memory and many businesses are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic.  The latest aftershock to the pandemic is what’s being described as the YOLO economy, with a characteristic of job-hopping employees.

While we recover, employees are leaving their jobs at an alarming rate.  It is, after all, consistent with how people react to life-altering news.  The pandemic functioned like a collective heart attack, causing nearly all humanity to reevaluate their lives, purpose, and mission statements.  As I’ve discussed in the past, crisis creates opportunities for reevaluation and motivates us to action.   While not necessarily a bad consequence, you just want to make sure your employees are not motivated to leave your company.

This list is a starting point to lead your company through the current challenges.  Here are six strategies to keep your employees.

1.      Reinforce your great culture, your values, and your “why”.

We need reminders in life.  We are terribly distracted by the next buzz, commercial, or phone call.  Anyone not repeating their message will be forgotten.  Your company needs a solid drumbeat of reinforcement.  Your employees are with you, but they need to be reminded regularly of who you are and where you are going.

What is it about your company that attracted your current employees?  Just as marketing communicates to the market the value of your service to your market, employees need to hear, feel and understand your company’s value statement to them.

Whether it is values, culture, or operations, something attracted your employees to your company.  Just as successful marriages take time to remember, celebrate and rejoice regularly, everyone needs a reminder their sacrifices and efforts are noticed and have purpose.

Now is a good time to do that.

Reinforce your current culture.  Reinforce what makes your company great, who you serve, how you take care of them and why it is important.  Your employees know this but they just need to be reminded.

2.      Communicate how much you appreciate your employees.

People work for people, not companies. People work for bosses not the name on the door.

Employees want to be valued and cared for.  They want to be respected. They want to know that what they are doing is making a difference. Great bosses motivate their employees by caring about them.

It is too easy to get stuck in the grind with the number of tasks that need to be accomplished.  Remember to communicate, to stop and think of your employees as more than a sum of all their tasks.  Each of them have lives outside of work and goals and visions and dreams that may or may not involve your company.

3.      Seek alignment of their career goals and training.

Your employees may or may not see themselves at your company soon.  If the trends we are seeing continue, you may experience the loss of an employee.

One strategy people have taken is to interview high-performing employees while they are still in the job.  This is called a “Stay Interview”.

There are many variations of questions to ask but during the interview, the employer seeks to identify the work they love and also what they do not care for about the company.

While slightly different from merely communicating to the employee, this communicates that you want them to stay and also that you are willing to work with them.  (If you aren’t willing to change anything, this interview process could backfire.  Use cautiously!)

4.      Increase non-paid benefits.

There are many benefits, or perks, that do not require any money.

Increasing paid time off or vacations does not technically increase the wages.  Some have added an extra holiday, increased the ability to work from home, or crafted a more flexible schedule.  These changes add value to your employees without requiring a cash payout.

5.      Add more traditional benefits.

When I talk about benefits with business owners, the first thing I hear is they cannot afford health insurance.  Remember, there are other benefits than health insurance.

Health insurance is often out of reach for many small and even midsize companies. However, there are ways to offer similar outcomes with less money.  Life and disability insurance are common benefits that can be added inexpensively.  Others include a phone allowance, gym allowance, a 401k, Simple IRA or profit-sharing.  Small tweaks here will assist you to communicate what you need without breaking the bank.

6.      Give raises.

After all the hard work of attempting to satisfy your employees without directly giving wages, this is the last resort.  Understand that the federal government is doing everything in its power to create inflation as we recover from the pandemic.  Asset prices are booming and every commodity is peaking.

Federal unemployment benefits further cloud the environment as workers do what is in their best interest.  When everything is getting more expensive, you will need to pass that along to your customer too.

While some people will stay in a job with lower pay, people will look out for their families by looking for higher wages.

This is going to hurt your profit margins in the short term, but you at least keep your labor force.

The pandemic has become a major inflection point in people’s careers.

While it is practically a pastime for employers to complain about not finding employees, if you are going to stay in business, you need to keep the employees you have.

The job market has changed.  It may be tempting to blame foreign, federal or state governments, pharmaceutical companies, international health organizations or any other conspiracy target, but blaming external forces is moving beyond your circle of control.

Nearly every employer is confronting a turbulent workforce.  These six strategies are starting points for keeping the staff you have.  Now is the time to proactively take action to protect your business.  Stay in front of this trend and mitigate any damage before employees leave.