Retain Your Most Valuable Asset: Employees

by: Janet Dunnichay

It’s a changing world…a job changing world, that is. Given that the median number of years a person stays in one job is 4.1 years (2008), an average person will have 7 to 10 jobs in his or her lifetime. In light of this statistic, it is important for business owners to know which factors most affect employee satisfaction in order to increase employee retention.

A 2009 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) looked at 24 factors thought to relate to employee satisfaction. The study found that employees identified these ten factors as most important.

1. Job security. Unless you’re a professor with tenure or your boss is named “Dad”, true employment security is all but dead; however, employees that feel confident in their employment status are among the happiest of employees.

2. Benefits. Employees value their company perks such as paid-time-off, tuition reimbursement plans and health care. As the age of the employee increases, retirement benefits rise in importance.

3. Compensation. Some people work for love, others work for personal fulfillment. Others like to accomplish goals or feel as if they contribute to something larger than themselves. Whatever the personal motivation for working, the bottom line is that almost everyone works for money.

4. Opportunities to use skills and abilities. Get to know your employees. Recognize what they do best and find a way to use that skill.

5. Feeling safe in the work environment. Knowing that the company cares about safety provides peace of mind…not only to the employee, but the employee’s family.

6. Relationship with immediate supervisor. People leave managers and supervisors more often than they leave companies or jobs.

7. Management recognition of employee job performance. Everyone enjoys a pat on the back.

8. Communication between employees and senior management. Silence is NOT golden. Keep the lines of communication open. Foster trust between employees and management by sharing news with them, the good and the bad.

9. The work itself. “You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs.

10. Autonomy and independence. Micro-managers send the message that they don’t believe in the employee’s ability to get the job done right.

With all that being said, what can you start doing today to show employees that they matter? Spend your time, money and energy on programs, processes and factors that will have a positive impact on creating employee satisfaction. These ideas will help you fulfill what people want from work.

Establish a Solid Orientation Program

Get off to a good start from day one with a strong orientation program for new hires. A good orientation program can last one day, one month or even one year depending on the complexity of the job or the organization. Studies show that employees who undergo an ongoing and thorough orientation program get up to speed faster and have lower turnover rates than those employees left to their own devices.

Communicate Expectations

Job expectations should be communicated to new employees well before the first day of work. Make job expectations a part of the interview process. Make certain that goals, roles and responsibilities are communicated from the start, so people know what is expected.

Create a Structure for Advancement

Offer employees the opportunity for advancement by providing on-the-job cross-training. Offer the opportunity for career and personal growth through training and education, challenging assignments and more. If possible, supplement ongoing education through an employee tuition reimbursement plan.

Have Regular Review Meetings

Employees need to know where they stand and that they are a valued contributor to the bottom line. A meeting with the employee every six months to discuss how things are going can go far in helping the employee feel needed and in knowing that the company cares. If performance problems develop, don’t delay in creating an action plan to help. Provide timeframes for the employee to work the plan. Have regular follow up meetings to monitor progress and provide feedback. Give employees the chance to discuss their concerns and listen to what they have to say.

Recognize and Celebrate Success

Everyone appreciates a pat on the back, so implementing a rewards program to recognize good behavior is a way to set the bar for all employees’ performance. Standard award programs include length of service milestones, perfect attendance and perfect safety records, but other unexpected and non-typical awards can be greatly appreciated. Why not allow supervisors to give on-the-spot cash awards that recognize an employee’s day-to-day efforts that contribute to getting the job done? And while cash is king, other much-appreciated rewards can include gift certificates to local restaurants, grocery stores and shopping malls or movie passes, car washes, gasoline cards and even flowers.

The Bottom Line

Having a strategy to drive employee satisfaction in your business is a key factor in building success. If you create a culture for employee satisfaction, you will set your business apart from all the others and not only attract great employees, you will retain great employees. Invest the time in creating a culture of sharing, giving, recognizing and communicating and you will receive much more than you give. The bottom line is happy employees make for a successful business. Start practicing today.