Ten Ways to Attract and Retain Great Employees

Today, more and more organizations are changing the way they view and pay their employees. The move is away from the traditional “cost-of-doing-business” concept. Successful businesses are developing creative programs to guide employees to focus on improving business performance and rewarding them for their contributions. Unfortunately, many businesses and employees are still not ready to make the change.

The “human factor” has always been paramount to business success. In today’s business environment, clearly the long-term winners will be companies that provide a flexible and challenging work environment, along with employee recognition and rewards. Organizations have to be willing to share their successes. If employees are asked to share the risks, then they have to share the rewards.

WHAT DO EMPLOYEES REALLY WANT?
In our work as consultants we often discuss what owners and employees think are the key motivating factors. Most business owners initially think money is the key issue. However, many employees state that they are looking for challenges, recognition, and empowerment.

Despite the current softness in the economy and the high unemployment rate, the shortage of skilled workers is still restraining growth for many firms. Given this environment, what can a firm do to retain and attract the best and brightest employees, while challenging them to achieve the business’ goals?

First, recognize that money, by itself, will not do it. High performing employees are searching for something more than just a high salary. The typical employee compensation plan should include a total package of rewards, recognition and environment. Some of the elements are “satisfiers” that allow a firm to attract and retain employees such as benefits, flex-time and training. Other elements of compensation are “motivators” such as bonuses, incentives, challenge, and opportunity. A well designed plan will have long term and short term compensation components.

The key to attracting and retaining the best people to the firm is the use of a “total compensation” approach. It is also a critical component in improving employee performance. A firm that takes the time to carefully customize a “total compensation” package will transform individual employees into high performing, and committed employees.

There are three basic ingredients to the total compensation package that every agency must have:

1. Challenging Work
The old system of directing and monitoring every task that an employee performs is out. Employees with multiple skills and authority are in. For example, a major retailer has a one-paragraph employee handbook that states: “Rule #1: Use your judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules.” To truly perform at this level requires enormous trust in the employees. However, if a business is able to perform at this level it will reach incredible heights.

Provide additional opportunities for learning and skill development to spice work up. Encourage the staff to take classes to get a designation or licensed and for courses to earn the necessary CEUs. But, an expansion of training could provide more flexibility through a higher skilled workforce. Send the employees to Dale Carnegie, Microsoft software training, business skills seminars, technical training, team building sessions or a sales class.

2. Work Environment
Today’s workforce is looking for flexibility on the job and balance in their life. Management needs to evaluate ways to realistically provide this sought after flexibility in work. For example, tradition has it that the employees work in an office with established work hours. Could the firm allow for variations, such as 4-day workweeks, working at home two days a week or job sharing? Flexible work hours are becoming a common tool to attract and retain good employees.

3. Recognition and Rewards
Non-cash recognition awards are a very effective way to reinforce the agency’s values. They can be a low-cost, high-impact element of the total compensation package. For example, employees who provide outstanding or innovative customer service receive special awards. One way is for employees to be nominated by customers or their peers.

Management needs to think about the types of awards that make sense for employees. Here are some examples:

¯ Provide a day off with pay
¯ Provide tickets to sports, music or cultural events
¯ Take out an advertisement in the local newspaper thanking your employees for their contributions
¯ Provide a donation in an employee’s name to the charity of his or her choice
¯ Pay for tutoring for the winner’s child
¯ Have the winner’s car detailed during work
¯ Pay for the winner’s house to be cleaned
¯ Pay for an evening out for the winner and their spouse – dinner and babysitting

Once the basic ingredients are established, the firm can then look into advanced tools to attract and retain employees. The following are some of the approaches that owners should also consider:

4. Profit Sharing
Although money is not always king, it still has a lot of clout. Firms that establish a bonus plan based on the business profitability will have employees that strive to increase sales and cut expenses. Profit sharing can be based on the profitability of the overall business or by profit centers or departments. The pool of bonus money can then be distributed to the staff based on management’s discretion.

A variation of profit sharing is to reduce the employees’ base compensation while providing quarterly bonuses based on a department’s performance. A plan that tracks employee performance will then allow them to see a direct correlation between their effort and their compensation.

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