How to retain employees in a tight job market

Five strategies you can use to keep your employees from leaving your company

4-minute read

It’s getting harder for entrepreneurs to find skilled employees in many parts of the country as workforce growth slows. What’s more, hiring employees and getting them up to speed in their new job is expensive, time-consuming and often frustrating.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to hold on to the workers you have. Michelle Feder, Director, Financial and People Strategies, Advisory Services at BDC, outlines five strategies you can follow to retain staff.

1. Hire the right employees

The first step is to hire people who are likely to stay with you. To do so, you need to attract suitable candidates by presenting them with a clear, compelling employer value proposition. In job postings and on your website, explain what your company stands for and the kind of work environment you offer. Then, use a rigorous, structured selection process to identify candidates who will thrive in your workplace, hopefully for years to come.

“Some people thrive in a high-pressure environment, for example, and others really don’t,” says Feder. “You have to talk about that during the recruitment and selection process and make sure the job and employee are a good fit for one another.”

2. Be the kind of leader that employees want to follow

Employees want a boss who is honest, ethical and has a vision for where he or she wants to take the company. That vision should come with clear, well-communicated objectives. And those objectives should, in turn, flow down to employees in a performance management system that provides constructive feedback and individual goals for the year.

“It motivates people when you know where you’re going and what you need to do to get there,” Feder says.

3. Make sure people have the resources they need

A good way to push people out the door is to ask them to do a job without giving them the time, tools, people or information to do it well. This is especially important for your most ambitious and talented workers, the ones you want to keep the most. High achievers seek out environments that facilitate success.

4. Care about employees as individuals

The basics such as a clean, healthy and respectful workplace are a given. But other perks such as flextime, telecommuting, learning opportunities and fun social events will be more important to some employees than others. What counts is to be sensitive to people’s individual preferences.

“You don’t have to offer everything,” Feder says. “The point is to make an effort, to create an environment that fundamentally cares about people, actually cares about what matters to them. To find out, ask them.”

5. Be creative with your compensation

If you’re facing tough competition for staff, either because of labour shortages in your region or the specialized skills you need, you’re going to have to offer higher salaries and better benefits.

But, many smaller companies can pay average compensation and enhance the attractiveness of positions by offering opportunities that larger organizations don’t. These might include more responsibility at a younger age, more independence, an entrepreneurial work environment and exciting chances to learn.

“These days, people want more connection, more meaning in their jobs,” Feder says. “They want to feel they are able to make decisions, see lots of things and learn. So these are all aspects that people don’t always get in a larger organization. And it can make the difference.”

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