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A strategic approach to hiring, developing employees that stay

Perhaps you are one of the honored Best Places to Work featured in a special section inside this edition. Congratulations.

[caption id="attachment_15310" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Chuck McPherson"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_15311" align="alignleft" width="108" caption="Scott Omerod"][/caption]

What if you are not one of the honored companies, but you want to become a best place to work (if not recognized publicly, at least from the view of your employees)?

You can be a best place to work if you demonstrate the true value you place on the people that make your company successful. How? Consider retention as a core practice of the business.

Why retention?

Hiring is the core activity for any company with more than one employee. Retention, on the other hand, can be viewed as a non-core activity or something that occurs organically (as if by magic from the managers). Leadership comments such as “people should be happy to just have a job,” or “we are so busy working with our customers,” or “we need to reach profitability” are focus-stealing excuses diverting leaders from the activities to retain wonderful team members recruited so diligently by the company.

Simply put, retention is securing your talent for the long term and advancement of the company. The depth and quality of your retention practices today will distinguish you as a talent winner from the talent losers when the economic recovery begins.

It is not unusual to have a talent and recruitment shuffle during recovery as team members seek a more fulfilling opportunity. When you consider the high cost of finding the right team member, it is surprising to see companies not spend more time and effort on retention.

If you want to understand what it is really costing your company to lose employees, examine your turnover rates for the last five years. Put a number on the cost of lost intellectual company knowledge, talent and reduced productivity and then you might reconsider what it really costs to retain great team members. The numbers can be staggering.

Attract, develop and retain

Most of the Best Places to Work company owners will readily tell you, their greatest assets go home every night.  Creating and maintaining high employee morale is mission critical to retention and more often than not a measure of the ultimate health of an organization.  Retaining your best employees ensures customer satisfaction, product sales, satisfied co-                                                                                                workers, effective succession planning and deeply imbedded organizational knowledge and learning.

The same goes for attracting great employees. Applicants often ask about a company’s culture and professional development opportunities as well as inquire about the support of management. Speaking directly about the company retention program and sharing retention successes reassures the applicant that the company is a fit for them.

Jonna Greene, vice president of human resources with La Tortilla Factory in Santa Rosa stated: “First and foremost, you have to be the organization that you present to the applicant. If ongoing training and professional development are selling points offered by your company, you better deliver on your promises.  A key factor in employee motivation and retention is the opportunity to grow and develop career-enhancing skills.  In fact, this is one of the most important factors stated in an applicant’s decision-making process.”

Best practice for retention

So, what are the components of a strong employee retention program? Start by hiring the best for company fit, then orientate to the company culture, policies and procedures. Outline expectations for performance and goals. Demonstrate the company values through respect, inclusion and providing a work/life balance. These three allow you to walk your talk. Provide regular feedback and recognition, which allows the team member to understand his or her contribution and value to the company’s success. Grow your team through training, development and succession opportunities to demonstrate your commitment to them through relevant growth activities.

Finally, all work and no play a dull company does make. Have fun and engage the team socially. The key is not extravagance, but quality social interactions. (See sidebar).

Putting retention into practice

If you are ready to change the company culture and become a best place to work, establish your retention program. Start with the aforementioned recommendations for each of the areas that you want to focus on over the next year. Identify activity leaders (a great way to develop your management team), delegate development and implementation of the activities and hold team members accountable through goals and timelines.

For example, if your recognition process lacks impact (or does not exist), develop a recognition tool kit that includes gift cards, note cards, certificates of appreciation, sample letters of commendation and even a “How to” book on recognition. Help your team members be creative to recognize accomplishments. Make it fun and engaging.

Retention should not just happen. It should be a well-thought out and priority activity of the company. Leaving retention to chance will prepare you for the talent-draining musical chairs of a post-recession economy and impact your prospects of being a best place to work.

Let’s hope we get to see your company honored in next year’s Best Places to Work edition. The recognition plaque alone hanging in your company lobby is worth the effort.

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Chuck McPherson and Scott Ormerod are partners with Leap Solutions Group LLC, a business consulting firm headquartered in Santa Rosa serving clients throughout the United States. Leap Solutions assists clients including best place to work companies, family-owned businesses and nonprofits with organizational development, human resources and management consultation services. You can reach them for your retention ideas at 707.527.0969, leap@leapsolutions.com or www.leapsolutions.com.

Retention toolkit

So, what are your retention plans and activities? Let’s look at some key tools for retention.

Hire right and orientate – Sounds easy, but make sure you have the right person in the right job. Before you hire, know the job, the applicant and their motivators. Once you have them on board, make sure you build for their success by orientating them to your company, culture, policies and procedures. Make them a part of the team.

Outline expectations – Develop and communicate goals, roles and responsibilities. Build team members' effectiveness by having them know what is expected and how they are a part of the team.

Respect – Demonstrate respect for all employees at all times. Use language and actions that demonstrate genuine respect. “Please” and “Thank You” begin building the foundation of respect.