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How to Keep Your Best Employees with a Better Retention Strategy


A retention strategy isn’t in every business’s HR arsenal.

But it should be.

You worked so hard to get the right people in your organization. Why wouldn’t you work just as hard to keep them?

Having an outdated or ill-conceived retention strategy, however, is just as bad as not having one at all. Here are some ways to make sure your business’s retention strategy is performing as well as the people it’s trying to keep in the building.

One size doesn’t fit all

The first mistake businesses make regarding their retention strategy is having just one. You don’t have cookie-cutter employees – that would be creepy, right? – so you shouldn’t have a cookie-cutter retention strategy.

It stands to reason, then, that the key to crafting an effective retention strategy is individualization. Employee motivation can be sparked a hundred different ways, and it’s your job to find out how to start those fires.

Additionally, learning what really gets your employees engaged in their work helps you uncover ways to build trust and, most importantly, loyalty.

Yesterday’s motivation vs. today’s workforce

Everyone knows somebody who worked for the same company for decades. Today, those occurrences are becoming rarer and rarer. We live in the age of the “career consumer,” where people switch jobs more frequently in search of a satisfying position.

Employees in today’s workforce – especially Millennials or members of Gen-Y – want to know their work means something. They aren’t bean counters, and it’s not necessarily about the money.

A February 2014 Aberdeen report found the top reason employees stay with an organization is by being challenged and intrigued by their work (48 percent); a competitive benefits package came in fifth (25 percent).

Challenges exist in every organization, but start-ups and small businesses have a built-in advantage. By attracting top talent during those extremely demanding first few years, employees can grow with the business and are engaged in seeing it succeed.

No recognition, no retention

If you think a competitive salary and benefits package is enough to keep your best people, you’re using a bone-stock retention strategy. And that’s no way to win the race for top talent.

Recognizing and rewarding high performers is necessary, but it doesn’t have to be pricey to be effective. Consider low-cost options, including:

  • Gift cards
  • Preferential parking spots
  • Travel deals
  • Telecommuting opportunities
  • Extra days off
  • Early release
Remember: When it comes to recognition, the gesture itself is often what counts most. Something as simple as a jeans day could score you serious “cool points.”

Opportunity knocks (whether you want it to or not)

While you’d love to keep your ace employees in their roles forever, you also know that’s not possible. These high performers are looking for career advancement, and you should be facilitating it.

If your A-players are so valuable, you’ll want to keep them in the organization. Impact players make an impact no matter where they are in the org chart. This is especially true – and easier to pull off – in a small business. The company grows and people get moved around, but they’re still in the office and can be highly effective mentors.

And keep in mind that if you don’t let your high performers take the reins, somebody else will. If a promotion isn’t in the cards right now, just be honest with them. They’ll respect that because, if you’ve been communicating with them effectively, they respect and trust you.

Give them more responsibilities in their current role. Let them spearhead a project. Find a way to continue building that confidence while keeping them engaged in their work and, therefore, keeping them in the building.

Managers make a monumental difference

Retaining employees means creating an environment they enjoy being in every day. That environment is dictated mainly by the manager or supervisor they report to. How many people quit simply because they dislike their manager?

According to the Aberdeen report, interaction with a direct manager is the No. 1 driver of employee engagement. Managers are the gatekeepers between the business’s main objectives and the individual work that helps meet those objectives, which makes this relationship crucial to the company’s success.

The key is taking the effort to get to know your employees personally. Send out a fun questionnaire to find out what makes them tick, what interests them. That’ll clue you in to what you should do to motivate and reward them.

Spending quality time with your staff

One-on-one meetings provide the ongoing communication necessary to create a positive work environment. They’re also a great way to enforce or adjust performance goals, address needs, and dole out morale-boosting praise.

Try leaving the office for these quick checkups with your direct reports. Grab a coffee and just chat. Check out the photos of their kid’s birthday party. Ask about their vacation plans.

Those few minutes will go miles when it comes to building loyalty and motivating your staff so you can get them to step up when you need their extra effort. When something happens and you have to rally the troops, they’ll rise to the challenge.

And all the hard work put into your retention strategy will be rewarded – with hard work from your employees. Insperity has been helping organizations manage and retain their best people for nearly 30 years. Learn how we can help your business do the same.