Personnel e.bulletin – October 2015

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Five Easy Strategies for Keeping Great People
Prepared for the PHCC Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc.


As obvious as it might sound, for your company to have success, you need great employees.  However, top performers don’t grow on trees.  As the economy has steadily improved, people have started to look around more for other opportunities. Also, highly skilled employees are usually in demand.

Losing your best employees can be expensive. Replacing an employee involves recruitment, lost productivity and knowledge, training expense, and decreased morale – and potentially more employees following the top performer who has left. On top of all that, the number of qualified people in the workforce is decreasing as baby boomers retire.

Fortunately, it costs much less to retain an employee than to replace one.  If you take steps to maximize employees’ satisfaction from the time of hiring, you’ll be much more likely to retain them and they will also be more productive.

First, note that salary and benefits are not the only things that bring employees job satisfaction, and they’re not even necessarily the most critical. Here are five reasons why an employee typically leaves a company:

  1. Mismatch from the beginning: The job or workplace is not what the employee expected, or the job does not fit the employee.
  2. Work-life imbalance: The employee is dissatisfied with the company’s culture, or is stressed and can’t maintain work-life balance.
  3. Lack of leadership: The employee has lost trust and confidence in management.
  4. Lack of opportunity: The employee has few opportunities to grow in the workplace.
  5. Lack of communication:  The employee is unsure of expectations, doesn’t receive coaching and feedback, or feels devalued and unrecognized.

You can better retain your best employees if you keep those five factors in mind and combat them by implementing the following five strategies.

Strategy #1: Ensure Effective Recruiting, Hiring, On-boarding, and Preparation 

Retaining good employees starts from recruitment.  So first, make sure in recruiting that you clearly communicate your company’s culture.  This may involve first determining what exactly you want to communicate about your company and then implementing those ideas in your job advertisements and on your website.

For hiring, examine your interviewing practices. Make sure you’re both communicating the right ideas to job candidates and effectively identifying the right candidates. With clear communication during the hiring process, there’ll be less of a chance of a mismatch between the employee and the job and company.

An effective on-boarding program that welcomes new employees, integrates them into your company’s systems, and provides training will help them feel like they’re part of your team and will therefore increase their job satisfaction and productivity. Also, if employees understand their work better from the beginning, it will seem more manageable and they will more likely have success.

With good on-boarding procedures:

  • Employees know what to expect before they get to their first day of work;
  • A package of materials, including information on payroll and benefits, is ready for them when they arrive;
  • A supervisor has set aside time to spend with the new employees; and
  • Someone is on call – past the first day – to make sure the new employees understand the company, its goals, and its policies.

Finally, make sure you’re prepared for new employees.  If you have ready all the equipment they need to do their jobs, your employees will feel supported and will be more productive.

Strategy #2: Establish a Supportive Company Culture That Inspires Loyalty

First, make sure that from the start of recruitment, you’ve shared your company’s mission – for example, delivering the best customer service possible – to tie employees mentally and emotionally to it.

Possibly the best way to demonstrate your core values, such as customer service, quality, honesty, and respect, is through fair treatment of employees.  You can do this by keeping communication open with employees and showing by your behavior that you will listen to any problems and respond to them effectively and fairly.

Second, you can create an environment that fosters work-life balance.  This involves providing benefits for your employees outside work; health insurance, life insurance, and a retirement-savings plan are important to encouraging employee satisfaction.

Showing that you appreciate the demands employees face outside work will also promote work-life balance and inspire loyalty in them.  Part of this – once you’ve gotten to know your employees better (see the communication strategy below) – is tailoring options to their needs.  For example, different employees might benefit from different combinations of flexible work schedules, part-time work, job sharing, or a compressed workweek.  These accommodations will create a sense of community and show employees that you care, thereby providing for more open communication from them.

Strategy #3: Ensure Good Leadership in Management  

Studies have shown that when employees leave, they aren’t leaving the company, they are leaving the manager.  Put another way, employees’ relationship with their manager becomes their relationship with the company.

Employees want a manager who cares about them personally and professionally, treats them fairly, and helps them grow and learn.  Therefore, make sure you’re doing the following:

  • Create opportunities for development;
  • Provide direction and support;
  • Get to know employees so that appropriate support can be tailored to their needs;
  • Treat employees fairly and impartially; and
  • Provide face time.

Further, you can inspire loyalty by asking for employees’ input on decisions and responding to it respectfully; addressing mistakes in a calm and professional way; and delegating authority to employees and then shepherding them through meeting expectations.

Two of the aspects of good management referred to above – creating opportunities for development and providing face time – will be further explored in the next two sections.

Strategy #4: Create Opportunities for Development

Employees want to learn and grow.  If they have opportunities to gain new knowledge and skills, they will be more satisfied with their work and do their jobs well, leading to greater job satisfaction and more loyalty to your company.

Of course, you don’t want to train a good employee out of your company.  But there are several different options for growth: employees could take on a new role, learn new skills to accomplish their work, or adopt different responsibilities.

To provide this type of encouragement, you can:

  • Promote learning and sharing between employees with different roles;
  • Give employees assignments to cover for absent colleagues;
  • Buy employees a subscription to an industry-related resource; or
  • Pay for employees  to attend training.

Employees with these types of opportunities for growth can pour what they’ve learned back into your company, and they will feel a greater sense of purpose.

Strategy #5: Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Managerial communication in all its forms is key to maintaining employee satisfaction and retaining employees.  Encourage open dialogue with employees. With trust and communication, you can get to know employees better and tailor benefits and opportunities to their needs, increase productivity, and discover ways to better retain other employees.

First, ensure that you have regular face time with employees. The most open communication occurs when two people are face-to-face, and regular meetings can involve discussions of potential opportunities for growth, the employees’ needs, and areas for improvement in the company; current performance; and feedback and recognition.

Second, build a transparent culture, which will in turn encourage employee transparency. Do the following to shed light on decision-making:

  • Let employees know what’s happening with the company as much as possible;
  • Share information (although not individual information) on pay and promotions; and
  • Tell employees about work in progress so that they aren’t in the dark and don’t make their own assumptions.

Third, check in with employees but also give them the authority, space, and tools to do their jobs. Emphasize that you are – and actually be – accessible to employees for problem-solving.

Fourth, employees want and value feedback – and want to make sure they are doing their jobs well – so make sure you are clearly communicating what you expect and how they are doing.

Establish clear goals and share them with employees, define performance measurement standards, and document and review performance regularly so employees know what’s expected of them and can perform better.

The key last step to performance management is providing timely and regular feedback.  This involves communicating and following up on performance issues fairly and respectfully.

Also important is providing recognition and rewards for good performance – a way to show appreciation for an employee’s efforts.  Recognition can range from bringing into work the employee’s favorite cup of coffee or writing a thank you note to giving the employee the spotlight at a meeting or posting something on the employee bulletin board.

Recognition and rewards can also motivate employees to improve performance. Rewards can of course include gift cards or spot bonuses, but other strong motivators can be non-monetary. For example, the office could close early before a holiday, or there could be celebrations of start-date anniversaries. You could also treat a high-performing employee to dinner or provide a personal day after the successful completion of a big assignment.

Recognition can tie employees more closely to their company by fostering a better understanding of how their work contributes to its success.  For example, employees might not think much about equipment costs.  But if they receive recognition or a reward for minimizing waste, they’ll both understand you company’s processes better and be more motivated to promote its success.

Finally, conduct not only exit interviews, but stay interviews. During a stay interview, you would sit down with an employee who has been with the company for a while and find out what about the company has inspired the employee’s loyalty and what can be done to improve employee satisfaction.

In stay interviews, ask employees:

  • Why they started with the company;
  • Why they’ve stayed with the company;
  • What would make them leave;
  • What are nonnegotiable aspects of their work life;
  • What feedback they have for managers; and
  • What they would improve about the company.

Hiring the right people, establishing a coherent and supportive company culture, emphasizing good leadership, and fostering the creation of opportunities and communication will inspire loyalty in your employees.  Your company will save money and build long-term success by retaining employees and keeping them engaged.  Keep in mind that satisfied top employees are more likely to attract other employees, share their knowledge, and stay.

This content was developed for the PHCC  Educational Foundation by TPO, Inc. ( Please consult your HR professional or attorney for further advice, as laws may differ in each state. Laws continue to evolve; the information presented is as of September 2015. Any omission or inclusion of incorrect data is unintentional. Please note this article is not intended to provide legal advice or to substitute for supervisor employment law training.

The PHCC Educational Foundation, a partnership of contractors, manufacturers and wholesalers was founded in 1987 to serve the plumbing-heating-cooling industry by preparing contractors and their employees to meet the challenges of a constantly changing marketplace. If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting the Foundation by making a contribution at

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