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Retention : Successful Strategies For Keeping Your Most Valued Employees

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Retention issues are vital to the success of any organization. Companies devote tremendous resources to attracting and hiring good people, yet they must be just as diligent about retaining them. To do this, effective retention strategies must be created that are based on one common theme — enhancing employee loyalty. An organization earns loyalty by creating a positive working environment that is stimulating and emphasizes an employee’s personal growth. It is sustained through a culture that encourages motivation, energy, innovation, and that accommodates to an employee’s lifestyle.

Motivate employees through recognition and rewards

While it is true that higher salaries offered by other organizations may be a threat to your employee retention efforts, research shows that traditional pay programs are ineffective for motivating high-performing, committed employees. Compensation has become a right — an expected reward for simply coming to work. Companies will lose their most valued employees if they fail to offer them the intangible intrinsic rewards that money cannot buy. Results of a recent survey by the Council of Communication Management confirm this contention. The study found that recognition for a job well done is the top motivator of individual performance.

In fact, study after study has shown that what tends to stimulate and encourage top performance, growth and loyalty is praise and recognition. Employees want to:

Feel they are making a contribution
Have a manager who tells them when they do a good job
Have the respect of peers and colleagues
Be involved and informed about what’s going on in the organization
Have interesting, challenging work

Help employees grow and learn

The best organizations realize that providing employees with opportunities to learn pays dividends for both the organization and the employees. The employer gains better-skilled workers who are better skilled, more versatile in their work assignments, and motivated because they are challenged and encouraged to grow. Employees get the opportunity to learn new skills, gain new ways of viewing things and network with co-workers. When employees are given the chance to learn and better themselves within the organization they can sense the commitment the company is making to the employee — enhanced trust and loyalty follow suit.

In is “Mini Retention Survey,” the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that employees are most hungry for tools, information and knowledge they can take as their own. “Many companies are hesitant about providing such development programs for fear that those employees will up and leave with their newfound skills and credentials,” says SHRM spokesperson Barry Lawrence. “The irony is that he more tools you offer, the more likely employees will stick around.”

Generation X places a particularly high value on learning. This generation wants to develop new skills, both to keep the job exciting and challenging as well as to increase their marketability. Says Robert Lukefahr, one of the founders of Third Millennium, a political group that represents Generation X: “Training is one of the best motivators. The opportunity to increase their portfolio of skills through training, either formal or informal, ranks high on their list.”

Allow flexibility in work schedules

A key part of any retention strategy should include adopting flexible work arrangements — it is the benefit employees want most. A recent survey by Robert Half International, an employee placement company, found that 76 percent of workers polled would leave the career fast-track in exchange for a more flexible schedule. Even more surprising, almost 66 percent say they would take a pay cut in exchange for more flexibility. This finding is reiterated in a report in USA Today which claimed that one in three adults say they would accept a smaller paycheck in exchange for a simpler lifestyle.

Progressive companies are realizing that restructuring full-time work to include alternative work options, such as flextime, a compressed work week, and telecommuting, can be beneficial to both the employee and the employer. In fact, today roughly 42 percent of employers do offer some form of flexible scheduling and the result is an increase in profits as well as employee satisfaction. According to the American Management Association, “Allowing flexibility improves work quality: companies with flexible scheduling options report absenteeism is cut by as much as 50%.”

Integrate work/life issues such as child care

Understanding that work/life issues extend beyond flexible work schedules will help organizations in their retention efforts. A key area to focus on is child care. Having found suitable care is only the first step for working parents. What happens when a child gets sick — or when a child care provider is ill or school holidays don’t coincide with work schedules? Missing a day or two of work can be a cause of panic for most working parents. These problems are facing a growing number of employees. In 1998, Catalyst reported that females make up 45.6% of the working population, and that 40% of all women in the labor force have children under 18. One of the fastest growing segments of the workforce is women who have young children. The other fast growing segment: single, custodial fathers according to the Fatherhood Project.

The child care issue becomes even more evident when looking at that rise of dual-income families. According to the US Department of Labor, by the year 2000, “dual-earner” households will represent 51% of all families — up 40% since 1980.

Coopers & Lybrand has made great strides in both understanding their employees’ child care needs and in creating programs to help. At first, the firm explored the effectiveness of providing weekend child care to assist at busy times such as tax season. “There seemed to a lot of interest in weekend child care arrangements, so we tried to do it. It didn’t work. People are too scattered geographically and often work at client offices, so setting it up at a central location where the office was didn’t make any sense,” according to Bob McDowell, national director of HR. In light of this, the firm opted to provide a resource and referral program to provide all employees with child care information as they need it. The program has proven to be very successful. For example, just as one senior consultant was closing a half-million dollar job, her nanny quit. She was faced with the prospect of staying home for a few days to find suitable care — and jeopardizing the deal. Instead, she was able to call the firm’s family resource service, interview four candidates that night, and did not miss a day of work. The entire set-up cost the company less than $150.

Exploring the child care needs of your employees will help you determine what types of assistance would be most meaningful and widely used. Sit down and talk with your employees. Ask questions and listen. You might be surprised how much useful information you will uncover.

Putting it all together

Retaining employees today is harder than ever. Skilled workers are — and will continue to be — the most important asset of any organization. Organizations must realize this and must create a culture that fosters a sense of trust, loyalty, and commitment. Employees must know that if they work hard and are loyal they will be appreciated and valued. It’s on this belief that successful companies were founded —- and it is on this belief that they will survive.

Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is president of Nelson Motivation Inc and a best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (now in its 52nd printing), 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, The Management Bible among others, and teaches organizational behavior at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego. For more information or to register for Bob’s FREE Tip of the Week visit www.nelson-motivation.com.

Retention : Successful Strategies For Keeping Your Most Valued Employees
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About Bob Nelson
Bob Nelson, Ph.D., is president of Nelson Motivation Inc and a best-selling author of 1001 Ways to Reward Employees (now in its 52nd printing), 1001 Ways to Energize Employees, The 1001 Rewards & Recognition Fieldbook, The Management Bible among others, and teaches organizational behavior at the Rady School of Management at the University of California, San Diego. For more information or to register for Bob's FREE Tip of the Week visit www.nelson-motivation.com. WebProNews Writer
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