How To Keep Good Personnel

It can be costly to train new key personnel so taking measures to retain existing top employees can save companies money while keeping the employee skill level high. Attendees of an NACM teleconference on Oct. 16 got some practical tips on how to keep good employees satisfied and happy so they are less likely to leave the company. Fred Getz, Executive Director of Salaried and Professional Services for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, presented the teleconference entitled "Retaining Your Top Talent."

Getz noted that a group of talented professionals in a company can mean the difference between success and failure and that keeping such talent can be accomplished by implementing company policies that promote and maintain a high level of employee satisfaction and morale. He pointed out that while salaries and benefits are important issues, they aren’t the only factors that employees consider when deciding whether to stay or seek employment elsewhere. A survey conducted by Robert Half showed that the biggest reason for employee unhappiness, cited by 39 percent of respondents, was a limited opportunity for advancement. The next biggest reason, cited by 23 percent, was unhappiness with management. The next most cited factors were lack of recognition (17 percent), inadequate salary and benefits (11 percent) and bored with the job (6 percent).

Finding out what matters to employees personally is an important step to creating a work environment that makes most employees want to stay Getz said. "Meet with each of your staff members to find out what’s important to their careers," he said. He recommended reviewing their work performances and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses. Being specific about the work required for each employee and establishing clear work deadlines was important too. Also, proper training and support should be offered for employees to further develop and refine necessary skills for their jobs. "Give them time off to attend classes."

In order to promote satisfaction with management Getz suggested that information on the company’s developments be shared with employees and that upper management remains accessible to them. He also noted it’s important for management to be clear and concise in its directives and that it respond in a predictable manner. Also, Getz mentioned that management should solicit suggestions from employees and hold brainstorming sessions on various projects. He pointed out it was important for managers to seek advice from employees on how they may be better and more effective from the employee’s perspective. Employees should be empowered by deregulating authority and managers must resist the temptation to micromanage. When delegating authority, Getz recommended that managers serve in an advisory capacity.

Employees should be allowed to take reasonable risks to encourage creativity. When ideas don’t work out, Getz warned against reprimanding employees. Successes as well as failures can serve as learning experiences he said. Those employees that do very well should be rewarded. Getz noted that there are affordable ways to reward such employees such as verbal praise, a written thank-you note, movie tickets, a framed certificate of achievement, the opportunity to take a long lunch or have a short workday, an article in a company newsletter and an employee-of-the-month parking spot.

Compensation and benefits, while not cited in the survey as the number one reason for employee dissatisfaction is, nonetheless, important. Getz said employees should be offered competitive compensation packages. "When you underpay your staff, you’re sending the message that they aren’t valuable. You need to pay them as much as you can." He recommended researching various sources to find out what the average compensation is for various job descriptions. There are various job search websites that include such information, as well as the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics website and professional associations. Benefits that may be offered are health insurance, education plans and childcare and elder care assistance.

The workplace should be one where employees have fun. "We need to incorporate humor as much as we can," Getz said. "Don’t make the mistake of assuming a fun atmosphere is a non-productive workplace." He also recommended that altering the routine as much as possible boosts employee morale, such as moving a meeting from its usual room to another place like outside on a patio. And, a good workplace is one where employee conflicts are minimized. "Implement strategies to minimize office politics. Create opportunities to build relationships (among employees)." One way to build personal bonds Getz noted, was to allow employees a little time before a meeting for some banter about non-company topics.
Source: NACM and Fred Getz of Robert Half Finance & Accounting

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