Forget the Money – Show Me the Clams

Countless areas are seeing their unemployment percentage drop, total job openings continue to grow, and across the country there’s an overall feeling that the worst is behind us.  If your company is experiencing growth, congratulations – I hope it’s the start of greater things to come. If you are holding steady or even downsizing, there’s still a lot of year left to turn the corner. In either case, growing or looking to improve, the most important thing you can do for your company right now has nothing to do with hiring – it’s retention. It’s crucial you retain your top performers. I’m sure you’ve calculated the cost of losing an employee. While the cost is quite high, it’s nowhere near the exponential loss experienced when your top person leaves and starts performing for your biggest competitor.  So what do you do? How can you ensure you keep your biggest producers loyal and engaged? You have to understand their motivators for making a change, their C.L.A.M.S.

Challenge – What duties and responsibilities does this employee handle?
When a person first starts their position, everything is exciting and new. Even if they have been doing similar roles their entire career, your company and its’ procedures are new and require learning. People inherently love to learn. However, the longer they are in a role, the more the position becomes mundane and eventually the person can simply “go through the motions” and still be productive. To keep your employee engaged, see if there is anything additional work you can add to their plate. Maybe there is some training that could help with their efficiency. Some companies even reimburse for career courses. Some of your positions and employees will be easier to add responsibility or training. A data entry position may seem difficult, but simply talking with your employee and finding a new project to help break up the monotony can make all the difference in the world for them.

Location – How long of a commute does your employee make each day?
There’s not much you can do about where your company is located and you definitely can’t control where your employee lives. After all, they understood the commute when they accepted the position, right? Well that may be true, but most people don’t take into account times of day when traffic could be worse, family obligations that happen to come up, or rising gas prices. It all boils down to work/life balance. People work to live, not live to work. Look at your employee’s schedule. Could you allow them to come in early and leave early to miss rush hour periods? Some companies allow their employees to work from home some days. If nothing else, maybe your employee deserves the opportunity to leave early one day. Flexibility in an employee’s schedule can offset a longer commute and make your company a much more desirable place to work.

Advancement – Does your employee have a clearly defined career path?
Stuck. Trapped. These are the two most common adjectives I hear from discontent, long-term employees when describing how they feel about their place of employment. Not everyone has a desire to move up and one day become the CEO, but most like to have options and feel valued. Sit down with your employee at least twice a year, discuss their career desires, and compare notes. If there is a natural path for them to move onto, discuss what you would like to see them do in order to achieve it. If not, is there a new role you could create? Your performance reviews are a great time to do this. Your employee may discover that the role they are currently in happens to be the role they would be happiest in. However, at least the two of you know the expectations required for them to move elsewhere and that you recognize the potential your employee has.

Money – Is your employee being compensated a fair wage based on the current market value?
Of these five, this is the one that may seem to be the most important, but rarely will it keep an unhappy employee. Most employees will say as long as they are financially secure, their earnings simply become a sign of how valuable you view them to be. You may not be in a position to give all of your employees instant raises and I’m not suggesting that. Raises should be earned, not given. Salary.com and other sites can give you a good idea of what an executive assistant with 10 years of experience can expect to make in this market. You can use that information to set goals and benchmarks for your employee to achieve. Sit down with them and define what the expectations are, how they will be measured, and what the reward is for doing so. When they hit those goals, celebrate with the raise or bonus you previously outlined.  That should help you retain your top talent and prevent them from leaving for a competitor because they don’t feel valued. When it comes to business, compensation is costly, but your employees continue to be the most important investment you can make.

Security – How safe does your employee feel about your company and their own success?
In order for your company to be successful, you need to keep your top employees engaged. In order for them to stay engaged, they need to feel a part of something successful. Chicken and egg – which comes first? It really depends on where you are currently at as an organization. But, wherever you are, communication and transparency is imperative. It’s easy when the company is doing well – everyone knows it.  There’s a natural buzz about the office and your employees all want to be a part of it. They can be assured of the company’s stability, but don’t lose sight of showing your employee how they have personally contributed and where you continue to see them fit in the near and distant future. If your company is not successful, you may need to be more open with the company’s plan to get back on track and how your employees can help. Now is the time where you may need to communicate more frequently on the things you appreciate about your employees and how much you value them. Show them the love.

Every interview I do, I always ask why an employee left their last few positions. The first responses are normally “for more money” or “it was a better opportunity”. That’s only scratching the surface. I probe further and ask what was it about their employer that originally caused them to consider working anywhere else. That’s when I hear about a lack of room for advancement, bored doing the same duties for five years, not enough time spent with family, or uncertainty if the company would make it through the year. Most of these interviews didn’t voice these concerns directly to their employer. How many of your employees currently feel the same? Money talks, but if you don’t recognize their C.L.A.M.S., your employees may walk.

retention tips, Forget the Money – Show Me the Clams
Brad Lewis, Celebrity Staff Kansas City Sales Manager

About the Author Brad Lewis
Brad joined Celebrity Staff in 2005 and currently serves as sales manager for Celebrity’s Kansas City branch office. Prior to joining Celebrity Staff, Brad was a business consultant in the communications industry for five years working specifically in the Kansas and Missouri districts. As sales manager, Brad concentrates on ensuring excellence in the overall operations of the Kansas City branch for both clients and employees. Outside the office, Brad enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Danielle, and their two sons, Kobe and Eli.

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