how to keep great employees

7 tips on how to keep great employees — and avoid the frustrations of losing them

Earlier this year, I hired a terrific employee who unfortunately  lasted only a month.  She left not because of me (I hope) but rather for personal reasons unrelated to the job. She may not have realized it, but, for me, the termination was a hassle.  First, obviously, I lost a good employee.  But then there are other things – other, more hidden costs to this termination.

First, below are reasons why you do not want to lose your star employees.  Then, farther down, 7 tips on how to keep them.

Hidden costs of losing great employees

  • Explaining to everyone in my office that she’s no longer working here, and also to any clients she had contact with
  • Reporting her termination to the state for tax purposes
  • Removing her user account from both my practice management software and accounting software
  • Closing down her email account, but first clean it out and attend to any unread email
  • Maintaining her contact information so I can send her a W-2 at the end of the year for those few weeks she was on my payroll
  • Having a period of time where her position was vacant
  • Going through the trouble, time, and expense of reposting a job opening
  • Reviewing new resumes/applications, conducting interviews, and select a new replacement employee
  • Taking the time to train someone all over again

These costs are incalculable.  First, you lose your valuable time.  Then there is the stress. For a small business, losing and having to replace an employee takes a negative toll on the business owner’s emotional well-being.  It is frustrating and can lead to hours spent grumbling.

If anything positive results from losing a good employee, it is this eye-opening realization that you need to focus more to ensure your remaining employees are happy. Good employees are assets. You can do something to keep them, and there is no better time than now to reevaluate your own retention strategy.

How to Keep Great Employees: 7 Tips

(1) Ask them why they stay. You know how many companies perform exit interviews for when employees leave? One Wall Street Journal article suggested performing “stay interviews.”  You could coincide these with evaluations, and toss in a few questions asking why the employee stays at the job, what might cause them to leave, and so forth.  Having an open-ended discussion can hopefully preempt problems before the occur.

(2) Listen, and listen often.  You can’t be so busy that you fail to pay attention. To really listen and pay attention to your employees, and ask them questions, you may need to have frequent — at least quarterly — sit-down reviews or evaluations. For some questions, you may have to ask on more than one occasion before you get an honest answer; that’s OK. Just take the time to ask, and ask again, then listen. Do they feel valued? What motivates them? What do they like best about their job? Least? This discourse can help you help them stay motivated — and on your team.

(3) Show gratitude — and let it be sincere. Focus on the positive. Make an effort to thank your employees for things well done. But your gratitude should be sincere, and well-timed.  It is no secret that lack of appreciation is an often-cited reason people leave jobs; however, employees can detect insincere praise.  Therefore, when you give thanks, it should be real.

(4) Allow them to grow.  Foster employee development by encouraging them to learn new skills or gain new knowledge.  Make an employee growth-plan a part of your quarterly evaluations. Get to know their career goals and ambitions, and help them stay on track to achieve them — within your organization. If their goals include outside education, do your best, within reason, to help them finance it.

(5) Don’t hold so tight. A recent Fortune article said the secret to keeping your best employees is to be willing to let them go. It seems strange, but if you nurture, mentor, and motivate your employees, while not keeping them to restrained, they may feel open and free, and they might not be so inclined to jump ship. Think of the song, “If you love somebody, set them free.”

(6) Don’t cheap out. By underpaying your employees, you are sending them a message that they are undervalued. Do not wait for your employees to ask for a raise because, in most cases, they will not ask; they will just leave.

(7) Give little perks. Hand out cookies. Bring bagels. Give gifts. Celebrate birthdays. Get to know your employees hobbies and interests and gift appropriately. Do things to let you know that you appreciate them. Gift a random day off: Let them celebrate a three-day weekend for no particular reason except their own appreciation.  Or a half day — one Friday a month, close the office a few hours early.

These are just a few tips to keep good employees.  Of course, however, every leader has a different style and will have different methods.  If you have some own tried and true tips of your own, please share in the comments below.