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Retaining top employees can be difficult, but it is becoming more important than ever. The economy is picking up, but companies are only hiring the best of the best, and they will take the necessary steps to get those individuals - even if it means recruiting them out of your organization. If your top talent are not happy, or at the very least content, you run the risk of losing them to a company offering better pay, rewards and incentives. Not only will it take time to recruit someone new or work with a staffing agency to fill the gap, it will also cost you - likely 100% or more of the lost employee's salary. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to keep your most valuable employees on your team.

1. Ensure that supervisors and managers are trained and skilled

It has been said that people leave managers more often than they leave jobs, so this step is crucial for top employee retention. More often than not, the loss of an employee can be attributed to a bad relationship between manager and employee. The solution? Provide training and development for managers to help them develop the soft skills necessary to ensure that employees feel valued by their superiors. Specifically, managers can improve their relationships with employees by:

  • Providing clear expectations from the outset
  • Openly communicating about compensation and growth opportunities
  • Offering timely feedback for improvement
  • Saying "thank you" and showing appreciation for a job well done

2. Provide a clear description of the position and duties

No matter how talented, skilled or knowledgeable one is, starting a new job can be a scary. Starting a new job and not knowing exactly what you will be doing or what you're supposed to be doing is even worse, and it is a top reason that employees make the decision to leave their current employer. Coming into a company every day and not being clear on what job expectations exist contributes to unnecessary work-related stress. In order to combat this problem, engage in open discussion with your employees about the position and duties from the very beginning. By clearly defining your employees' roles, you will eliminate the feelings of failure, job insecurity and unpreparedness that come with vague and always-changing job descriptions. The result will be a happier employee that produces better results and is more likely to stay with your organization long-term.

3. Present opportunities for growth in role, knowledge and skills

Another reason that top employees look elsewhere for work is the stagnate feeling they get when no growth or learning opportunities are presented. By offering opportunities for promotion and continued education - not just through college courses - your top performers will stay engaged. This ongoing learning can come in several forms, including:

  • Taking on new duties in their current role
  • Attending conferences and seminars
  • Joining committees of interest within the company
  • Discussing relevant literature with other team members
  • Online training and development courses related to their role

The opportunity to challenge your employees' intellectual growth will not only benefit them but you as well. Your return on investment will be a loyal employee with enhanced qualifications that is better prepared for growth within your organization.

4. Provide feedback, constructive criticism and praise in a timely manner

One of the worst things you can do as a manager or supervisor is ignore your employees. Making them feel unvalued or invisible will result in a higher turnover rate, so it's time for you to get involved. A critical factor in employee retention is timely feedback - both positive and negative. Employees look to feedback for career growth, so if they aren't receiving any, they will become confused, stressed and uncertain of whether they should change what they're doing or stay consistent. By providing daily, weekly and monthly feedback - as opposed to just an annual review - you will be able to keep employees happy and gain faster improvement in needed areas. Supervisors and managers should also be trained in this area, as it is one of the most important but also one of the lesser discussed.

5. Encourage innovative ideas and employee feedback

Not only is it important to provide your employees feedback, it is also important to ask for theirs. Job dissatisfaction can be lessened by creating a non-threatening environment and encouraging your employees to give candid feedback and suggestions for improvement. One way to do this is to implement programs and contests that promote innovation and creative thinking. Ask for employee insight on new products and processes or their opinions on how to improve those that already exist. If employees are able to be involved in change for the better, they will feel more loyal to the company. Not only will they see that you're committed to continuous improvement, they will also realize that they're a part of the company and that their feelings do matter. If open discussion is discouraged, employees will keep their mouths shut and may begin to look elsewhere for work.

With the above tips in mind, remember that the real key to retaining top employees is motivation and satisfaction. Take the time to find out what inspires your team members and what you can do to make them happy. In the long run, you and your organization will save time, money and reputation if you're able to hire and keep your best-fit employees.