ASK THE COACH
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Perks Help Retain Employees
By Dr. Ray Angelini
November 13, 2001
Dear Dr. Ray,
As a small business owner, I have had great difficulty retaining good employees. What would you recommend in terms of strategies I could use to retain good employees?
— E.M. in Wilton
Retaining good employees is always a challenge, especially given the current economic climate. The first thing that I would recommend is to share the results of good work in some tangible way. Bonuses and other rewards need to be linked to results so that employees know that they are being rewarded for their unique contribution.
It is also critical to let your employees know that they are part of a team. The cliché that "people are our biggest asset" has been used ad nauseam, and the only way to drive home this message is for the business owner to have direct, regular, personal contact with as many employees as possible. I recently heard of a company president where every single one of his 604 employees addressed him by name, and he reciprocated! That is truly living out what I call a "people-first" attitude.
Also, it is important to follow what Thomas Leonard refers to as the CFH rule: Be candid, frank and honest. It seems that the higher one climbs on the corporate ladder, the more one thinks he or she can get away with being less than honest with their employees. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Being less than honest means that you'll get less than the best from your employees.
This holds true for good news as well as bad news, and you'll be amazed how resilient employees can be with accepting even bad news when given the chance. As a business owner, it is also important to remember that while all employees are created equal, their performance often is not. Some people are more driven and motivated than others. And for these high achievers, recognition that they are outstanding is critical in terms of retention.
Distributing choice perks based on merit and performance is a good way to go here. Also, every employee should be absolutely clear about what you expect of them and what they can expect of you. It is important that continued growth is a condition of continued employment. Too many organizations tolerate mediocrity, and in the long term, everyone suffers.
Finally, and most importantly, it is vital to be genuine and be a model for your employees. Unfortunately, far too many business owners follow the dictum of "Do as I say, not as I do." Top performers are less willing to tolerate hypocrisy and will bide their time and eventually leave. Thus, there is more to retaining good employees than higher pay and choice perks.
When asked advice about child-rearing, a wise man once said, "You be what you want your children to be, and then you watch them grow." This same advice holds true for employees. To retain the good ones, you have to "walk the walk," rather than merely "talk the talk."