In all meaningful long-term ways, your employees are your business. Change the brand name, swap out the products or services, move office, start fresh in almost all regards, and you’ll still have a good shot at returning to success if you keep the same skilled and tight-knit team. That’s easier said than done, however — so how can you manage it?
Talented professionals are hard to pin down. They know that their skills are valuable, and can readily attract fresh offers with tempting incentives. It’s completely understandable, naturally. You have to look after your own best interests, as there’s no guarantee that anyone else will.
But hard is nowhere near impossible, and if you want your business to fulfill its maximum potential, you must pull out all the stops to keep your team together. To help you manage just that, let’s look at five tactics that successful companies wield to retain their best employees:
Pay them what they’re worth
It’s a simple and completely obvious step, but that doesn’t stop it from being something that plenty of mediocre companies fail to prioritise. They get stuck in the habit of looking for crafty ways to keep costs down, and imagine that their employees are likely to stay where they are provided they’re compensated adequately.
Even when that works, though, it doesn’t bode well for the business in the long term. Employees that receive middling salaries are eventually going to stop putting effort into the work, particularly when they don’t see their payment increasing over time as it should.
Knowing this, top companies don’t just match what competitors can offer — they go the extra mile to pay employees what they deserve, making them feel truly valued. The more you do to compensate top performers, the more loyal they’ll become, and the more productive they’ll be.
Keep friction at a minimum
When I talk about friction here, I’m talking about every form of friction that can cause problems in the everyday operations of a business. If you’ve ever worked in a job you really hated (that should go for mostly everyone), then you’ll know what it’s like to have a laundry list of regular frustrations that consistently affect your morale.
Perhaps you frequently exchanged heated words with an unprofessional colleague. Maybe your pay kept being late to your account, causing you issues with handling bills. You might have dealt with a slow work computer, a tiring commute, and a surfeit of boring meetings. Even without the presence of a problem big enough to drive you to quit, you might have been ready to leave.
Top employers understand that a good professional experience is about more than the fundamental details such as pay and working hours. They seek to make conditions smooth across the board so that all the minor positives add up. You can do the same:
- Run social events to help people overcome their differences, and invest in coaching sessions if necessary. If a conflict can’t be resolved, let them maintain distinct schedules.
- Ensure that everyone is paid on time — an automated payroll can make life easier, so there’s no excuse to do everything manually and risk upsetting your employees.
- Invest in great equipment. Laptops and other pieces of computer equipment are expensive, but necessary. Help your employees work efficiently.
- Let people work flexibly. Commuting is time-consuming and often pointless. If someone can work remotely, why make them work in the office?
- Don’t waste anyone’s time. It’s annoying to be dragged to meetings that don’t concern you, or made to attend courses that offer you nothing useful.
Help them develop their skills
The best professionals will do everything possible to avoid stagnation. They want to keep improving, getting better at what they can already do and adding to their skill sets to suit their desired career paths. You have two options: stand in their way, or help them.
What happens if you stand in their way? You lower their value over time, which hampers their ability to get hired elsewhere but also sabotages their performance for you. You turn them against you, leading them to resent your obstructionism. You also inspire them to pursue their own training in an effort to up-skill and find a better position elsewhere.
This is why great companies want their employees to be all they can be. They don’t just support their growth — they encourage it. They implement broad training programs to make relevant information accessible (online training is particularly effective). The net result is that their employees become better at what they do, find fresh ways to contribute to the business, and feel even greater loyalty.
Provide significant autonomy
The better you get at whatever you do, the more you prefer to do it with minimal monitoring. Oversight is fine, and being held accountable when you make a mistake, but there’s no reason why you should be encumbered with overbearing management. It not only gives the impression that you’re not considered trustworthy, but also markedly slows down your work.
Consequently, something that’s true of all the best companies is that they hire talented people and largely let them work in peace. Provided someone knows roughly what their job is, you can leave most of it for them to figure out and approach however they prefer. We already looked at flexibility, but you also need to think about creativity.
Imagine you ran a marketing company, hired a top-class social media manager to take over all Twitter and Facebook activity for a client, then consistently stepped in to add comments or make changes.
If that manager weren’t good enough for you to trust their work, then why hire them? And if they were, then why keep interfering? You hired your top talent (and are looking for ways to keep them around) because they’re amazing at what they do — so back off and let them do it.
Get them meaningfully invested
If you’re really determined to retain your top talent indefinitely, then you might need to take the step of offering a greater level of financial investment: a meaningful stake in the company.
If you let them start sharing in the profits and the responsibilities of running the business, you’ll largely eliminate any reason for them to start their own business, and make it very difficult for any other company to tempt them away.
A great way to do this is to ask your best performers to take ownership of distinct departments within the business, each one with dedicated financials. Let them choose their own schedules, dictate their own strategies, even hire their own employees. This is also extremely useful for showing long-time employees how tricky it is to manage a business.
Better able to understand your managerial position, and given the opportunity to exert control over teams of their own, they should start to feel much happier (and more settled). And if they’re truly that good, then the risk to you is minimal. Paying them more is hardly a concern if they bring in exceptional results through their own managerial efforts.
Your employees are the best investments you can make, and the longer you retain them, the more valuable they become.
To incentivise stability, you need to pay people generously, create a smooth and efficient working environment, support personal development, allow employees to arrange their own workloads, and turn your core talents into foundational parts of your company.
About the Author
Patrick Foster is an Ecommerce Consultant for Ecommerce Tips, an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Follow them on Twitter @myecommercetips.