Leon Gettler: How to retain staff


The economy might be dawdling for many sectors, apart from mining and perhaps health care, but managers these days need to juggle more than just finances and work coming through. More than anything else, they need to retain talented staff. There are several reasons for this. First, there are skills shortages in key areas like IT and finance. Secondly, changes are happening all the time. Companies are being acquired, and software and technology are developing at a dizzying pace. Companies need more in-house expertise. So what are the best ways to retain staff?

Writing in the Huffington Post, Geoff Williams says it’s  important these days to keep employees challenged. Give them stretch goals so that they feel they have achieved something and learned new skills. He says it’s also important to pay them well. Now if you can’t afford it, there are other ways to do it, he says. Benefits like flexible work patterns and family time can be as valuable as cash. Also, don’t micromanage. If you hired them for their talents, they don’t need anyone looking over their shoulder and constraining them. You also need to make the work environment and facilities as comfortable as possible and finally, if you can’t give them shares in the business, at least make sure there are career paths so that they feel they are getting something out of it.

Forbes expands on these points, saying you need to at the very least challenge them weekly. It also says the company should try to position itself as the employer of choice. Think of Apple, Google and Facebook. They find it easy to attract and hold on to their talent. Forbes says you also need to give employees autonomy to make their own decisions and be responsible for the outcomes. And it’s important to recognise that employees have their own goals and managers should work with them to help them accomplish these personal goals alongside the business goals.

The Wall Street Journal suggests doing things like providing free bagels on Fridays and laundry pick up services, promoting from within whenever possible to give people a clear sense of career progression, putting in programs to help them develop new skills, creating an open dialogue with managers and getting managers to coach them.

One of the landmark studies done on employee retention was done by Kenneth Kovach at George Mason University in the US. As reported here, Kovach got 1000 employees and 100 of their bosses to list the things that they believe motivate employees.

The interesting part is that bosses thought employees would be motivated by good wages and job security, but employees listed factors such as participating in interesting work, feeling appreciated at work and “being in on things.” They ranked job security and good wages as important but lower on the list.

In other words, the key factors for retaining quality staff have little to do with money. It’s more about having the kind of managers that create a place where employees feel challenged and valued.

Any other suggestions? What do you think should managers do to retain the best employees?


One thought on “Leon Gettler: How to retain staff

  1. Suggestions on how to retain the best staff:

    1. Leaders who truly “lead” and walk the talk.
    2. A CEO who is a Chief ENABLING Officer.
    3. Managers who lead by example; who have the confidence to delegate; who energize rather than enervate; who encourage staff to think, innovate and use initiative; who practise open and honest communication; who develop staff rather than hold them back; whose management style is based on equality and mutual respect; who accept that trust must be earned; who have the ability to listen, and seek to understand before passing judgment; who genuinely facilitate a caring & sharing environment.
    4. An environment where micro-management is strictly prohibited. It should be obvious by now that the “command and control” style of management does not work in an environment that is essentially knowledge based.

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