In last month's Fresh Milk article devoted to
employee recruiting, we noted that despite a softening
economy and deepening financial crisis, the issue of
finding and keeping good talent remains on lots of
minds. And it should, because no business can
remain competitive in good times, or bad, without the
willing engagement of a focused, fired up, capably led
Here are some ideas about keeping the commitment
and engagement of talented people once you've
found them and reeled them into the boat.
1. Conduct employee surveys, and make the results
part of your business metrics. We're constantly
perplexed by the number of organizations whose
leaders talk about the value of feedback, but fail to
apply that value to their workforce. It doesn't have to be
expensive or burdensome. But if you want to learn
where your leadership and organizational practices
are hitting the bull's eye, and where they're out in left
field, there's no better way than a regular process of
collecting employee feedback. To read in more detail
about how to effectively use employee surveys, read
2. Make sure everyone understands, and can
articulate, why (and how) their job matters. This may
mean creating opportunities to demonstrate,
graphically, or through experience, why that Clerk
Level III job in A/R is so important. Similarly, make
sure that all hands on deck (no exceptions) have
direct contact with real, paying customers from time to
3. Provide some work that lets people see the needle
move. Some jobs are naturally rich in instant
gratification. Others, not so much. Ensure that
everyone occasionally gets the chance to do work that
makes a real, palpable, visible, difference.
4. Offer tuition reimbursement and encourage people
to use it. The opportunity to learn and grow has proven
to be one of the greatest "sticky variables" in
influencing talented and committed people to put
down roots. It also returns an obvious benefit to the
organization, in the form of a more educated
5. Institute flexible and non-traditional work
arrangements when possible. These should
a. Flexible hours that meet both the needs of the
individual and the business.
b. Part-time positions, including for professional
jobs. And don't scrimp on benefits eligibility or
training for these folks!
c. Job sharing.
d. Paying people for the work they do, not the amount
of time it takes them to it.
6. Make room for telecommuting, when appropriate.
Telecommuting has some clear advantages, but it is
certainly NOT for everybody (or even most.) It is smart,
however, at the very least, to set things up so that
some people can work from home in unusual
circumstances - bad weather (can you spell
hurricane?), or when they, or a family member is sick.
Establish clear ground rules, fortify your
communications modes, and hold people
accountable regardless of where they are domiciled.
7. Encourage people to periodically join together in
worthwhile "good works" or charitable causes. Build a
Habitat for Humanity house or raise funds for a cause
that your people deem important. Establish systems
(e.g., paid time off banks or emergency funds)
whereby employees can help one another out in
times of personal crisis.
8. Effort is personal, and so is effective recognition.
Find out from each person, individually, what their
recognition preferences are, and if they are being met.
9. Get to know (really know) your people. Learn their
names, and something about everyone in your
company, or at least in your location. You ought to be
able to do this for up to about 250 people, if not more.
10. Acknowledge the birthdays, anniversaries,
special accomplishments, etc., of your employees,
and their family members. We've sent birthday and
thank-you cards to people for years, and nobody has
EVER complained, or sent one of them back.
Looking for an 11th item on the list? How about if you
provide it? Email us
with your best idea for employee
retention. We'll post the best responses on our blog
(link to blog), and send a copy of our latest
book, Contented Cows MOOVE Faster.