10 Retention Tips for Leaders

Talent retention seems simple: hire qualified people, treat them well, pay them fairly, and they’ll stay for life, right? Not in today’s market. We now face record low unemployment rates and workers with multiple options for employment.  

Add to that, according to a January 2017 article, “75 percent of employees who voluntarily leave their jobs say they’re not pursuing other interests or chasing more money—they’re escaping bad managers and poor leadership.” People often don’t quit on their jobs, they quit on their boss.

How to avoid this predicament?

Actively working to retain top talent is the overall answer. Yet according to a recent study, only 53 percent of organizations have a talent management initiative in place. An employee retention plan does not need to be extensive or expensive. Follow these tips to keep your best employees:

1. Hire the right people

Retaining your workforce begins with hiring the right employees. To reduce turnover risks, seek people who are interested in developing their careers and are a good fit within your company culture. Identify 5-10 key personality characteristics and skills of your top performing long-term employees and seek similar traits as you add to your team.

It may not work out perfectly each time, but you need to do your best to put people in the right job. If the passion is there, people will excel. Look at people’s strengths and interests. 

2. Lead by example

Be a positive role model. Earn respect. Roll your sleeves up and work alongside your team. People work for people. And people want to work for someone they trust. Trust creates commitment as well as enthusiasm.

Talk about the role of management in retention. Check in with your management team often and provide ongoing leadership training. Be sure your employees have managers who are professional and fair. Managers must be good communicators. 

3. Develop a positive culture

Reward your top producers. Train and mentor your people to help them advance to the next level. Give people a reason to want to thrive and excel. Be respectful of employees. Explain what you want them to do, and then give them the dignity to fulfill their tasks unimpeded.

Employees want to be part of an energetic environment that motivates them to improve. Healthy competition – within a team and when an employee strives to outperform their own best results – creates an engaging culture. 

4. Be a coach

Leadership has to create a team atmosphere. As the adage goes, “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team” – one role isn’t more important than another role. Everyone must work together. Challenge employees. If you think they can do more, nudge them. They want to be acknowledged as capable of honing their skills.

Coach them when they aren’t meeting their expectations. There should be no surprises at an annual review. Be upfront with your feedback. If something isn’t working, be creative. Help them think outside the box. Maintain a climate of encouragement. 

5. Provide opportunities for learning and development

Train new employees well and continue to provide ongoing personal and professional development opportunities. Identify your emerging leaders and focus your development initiatives on them. Give employees the tools they need to always be learning. Provide experiences they would not otherwise have access to, such as interaction with senior leaders or a learning project where they are asked to resolve a real-life business problem. Employees benefit by expanding their skills – and you benefit by gaining a productive, skilled workforce. 

6. Be inclusive

People must trust the direction you’re leading them. Include employees by sharing information so they experience being a part of small wins as well as larger triumphs. People feel empowered when they have a voice in decisions. They don’t need to have their suggestions followed; they simply need to be heard and regarded as worthwhile contributors.

When we feel supported, we give support. We feel validated and can more readily accept and commit to a specific course of action. Nothing gets accomplished smoothly without employee buy-in. 

7. Have an open door policy

Build trust by being candid in decisions related to rewards, recognition, and employee development. Maintain an open door policy so that your employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions and ideas. Implementing your employees’ ideas will create a sense of ownership and responsibility.

Listen to your team. They have a different perspective than you, and this might provide them with better ideas. Allow people to tell you what they feel without the fear of getting in trouble for being honest.  

8. Make people accountable

Tell people what is expected of them. They can’t read your mind – be specific and direct. This clarity helps avoid feelings of resentment that crop up when employees and management make assumptions about how tasks and assignments are to proceed. Confirming individual responsibilities brings transparency and yields stronger results. 

9. Promote from within when possible

Promote employees to management roles, not only because they do a good job, but because they have demonstrated an ability to lead people. Employees find it inspiring to see their peers get the recognition and advancements that come from dedication and hard work. Internal promotions promulgate a sense of stability, fairness, and loyalty. Employees are able to envision themselves in next-level positions when they see co-workers progress to other roles. 

10. Offer competitive pay and benefits

As a manager, you may not have complete control over pay rates and benefits. You may not always be able to provide the highest pay or the best benefits. But remember the facts: More often than not, people leave jobs because their reality is one of “bad managers and poor leadership.” And that, you do have considerable control over. Share your leadership abilities with your employees, and they’ll want to stay with you for the long haul.

It’s less about wanting to work “for the benefits,” and more about being among people we value. 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams