6 Best Ways to Retain Employees

It isn’t easy to retain good employees right now. Reports have come in that a quarter of the United States workforce is looking for a new job now that it’s safe, according to this study. It is a job hunter’s market. One in four people is looking for a brand new job. Here’s how you keep your employees from joining the crowd of jobseekers, using Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs.

Here are all the concerns that employees have:

  1. Will the salary be enough for me to live on?
  2. Is it a positive work environment?
  3. Are there flexible options?
  4. Will management be transparent when communicating?
  5. Is anyone going to appreciate my work and show me how it matters?
  6. Should I try to make this a long-term career or is there no hope of that here?


Basic Needs Must be Met

If the salary isn’t enough for them to live on, they won’t stay. Volunteering is an admirable thing that people do, but no one can pay a landlord or car payment with goodwill. If you’re not sure if the pay matches the work, you can check at websites such as Salary.com, Payscale.com, or WageIndicator.org. Glassdoor has an option called Know Your Worth.  Anyone worried about making a car payment, making rent, or just plain surviving is going to take care of themselves first and find something new. The pay must be high enough that the issue of money is no longer a problem. Only once the issue of basic survival is off the table will anyone be able to appreciate everything else.


Promote a Positive Work Environment

Happy employees make for a happy company.  It can be anything that helps, like knowing there are sick days available or just not being worried about being laid off. It’s important that employees keep the work-life balance so that their families aren’t impacted. If they are working too much, that will create a new outside stressor on them and put external pressure on them to leave.

Making sure that employees know they belong and are part of the team will keep other problems from coming up. Internal drama and resentment can be nipped in the bud if everyone knows that they’re wanted on the team. Got a diverse team with nothing in common? Have everyone bring in a baby picture of themselves and make everyone guess who they are. Take a day to have everyone volunteer together. It’s important for a team to get along with each other, even if it’s just for the workday.


Flexible Options

Asking employees to return to the office when they have been working from home is a sore spot. According to the Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Is This Working? A Year In, Workers Adapting to Tomorrow’s Workplace survey conducted in 2021, 87% of employees working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working remotely, at least one day per week. According to the same study, 1 in 4 employees are considering finding a new job once they’re vaccinated or the coronavirus is no longer a threat.

Considering how much money a company spends to keep employees happy, this might be the cheapest way to keep current employees. Instead of open concept offices or keeping a fridge filled with snacks, consider having flexible start times or work-from-home options. “Work-From-Home Wednesdays” would be a great selling feature when you’re looking to hire. Insisting everyone return to the office and be a chair-warmer if the company has been remote for over a year comes across as micro-managing. And no one likes being micro-managed.


Transparent Communication

If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that clear communication is key to getting everyone on board. Whether it’s asking customers to wear masks or just figuring out who is in the office, it’s important that clear communication is vital. Being willing and able to give and take can give everyone the information they need going forward. You can both retain employees while gaining knowledge from another point of view. Transparent communication and a simple acknowledgment that everyone has been heard can go a long way.

Meeting with people outside of a large group gives everyone a chance to talk. Annually, monthly, weekly, whatever it takes, communicating one-on-one can have a greater impact than a team meeting. Introverts may not feel comfortable voicing their opinions in a group meeting. Don’t have time for that? Try a smaller group of people instead of one-on-one.

That being said, if something needs to be done, it’s important that it gets done. If your coworker yells “FIRE”, pulls the alarm, and runs out of the building, you’re going to do something, even if just to check if there’s an actual fire.  It’s the same with feedback. If the employee feedback doesn’t change the situation, employees will stop giving feedback.  If the employees don’t have any trust in the issues actually being addressed, why bring it up? They won’t lose anything, but anyone running the business will lose out on how to improve – and eventually lose their best employees.

Having transparent communication will show you what you might not see otherwise. If you buy a ping-pong table to boost morale but if your staff is still sitting in broken chairs, you will still lose employees. Your employees know the issues on the ground floor, and having them tell you first before the customer does will save you headaches in the long run.

Show Genuine Appreciation

It’s said that “employees don’t leave bad jobs; they leave bad bosses” and that’s a cliche for a reason. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to retain employees: show that you appreciate them. And it has to be more than a one-time free slice of pizza if it’s going to be effective.

There’s a terrible story of a company that offered a “free pizza party” if everyone was able to pass a difficult 3-week long training course. Everyone passed and was then given half a slice of pizza each. The management was cutting each slice of pizza in half instead of ordering enough food for everyone. In that one instance, the company showed that cutting costs was more important than making even one of the staff feel appreciated.

It’s true that pizza parties aren’t the exciting thing they were in middle school. There’s plenty that could be done for free, if not extremely cheaply. It could be a group discount on something nearby that your employees can use in their spare time, like a gym membership. Or maybe offering an extra day of vacation for whoever finishes a big project first. At the very least, handwrite a note to someone who clearly did more than you expected. If you want to retain employees, it requires real appreciation. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming, just genuine. Even a quick email to everyone in the company acknowledging the small wins “Congratulations to Janice for doing a great job at the client meeting! Great job!” will make that person feel appreciated – and the team will enjoy the appreciation, even when it’s not directed at them.

Just saying “thank you” makes a difference. It’s cheaper than a raise, less expensive than take-out, and faster than a gift card. It still makes a difference, even long after you forget about it.


Clear a Career Path

Without a clear career path and a way to find that higher salary, businesses will see a return of the younger generations moving on. To retain employees, make sure they can go UP instead of OUT. In order for people to stay, it’s important for them to see where they can use that ambition. There’s no sense in keeping them in a stagnant position if they have the ambition and work ethic to climb the ladder! Whether it’s providing them with more education, tying their interests into the position, or just showing them the path that others have taken, it’s important to show options.


To sum up, to retain employees, make sure they:

  1. Are paid a livable salary
  2. Are working in a positive work environment
  3. Have flexible options
  4. Receive transparent communication from management, at all levels
  5. Receive genuine appreciation for their work
  6. See a path for their career at your company

Accomplishing this will lead to a strong and loyal team that isn’t going anywhere.


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