What is Your Employee Retention Strategy?

Any accountant will tell you that employee costs are some of the most significant routine expenditures that companies make. Payroll has a big impact on cash flow and the bottom line, but so do employer payroll taxes, state unemployment insurance, workers compensation insurance, retirement and health benefits, vacation, and so forth.

Although it costs a lot to hire and retain employees, don’t underestimate the costs when they leave. Either existing employees have to pick up the slack, which can cause stress and resentment when not accompanied by a pay increase (as is often the case), or new employees have to be hired and trained. This takes time, interrupts progress, and in the process of training, a new employee can make mistakes that cost the company money.

Talent is a key constraint for a growing business. Companies cannot grow without the right people on the team. A senior management team that is serious about growth and strategy makes sure to effectively manage the risk of employee turnover. When management has a well-defined vision for company growth and can articulate the potential long-term upside that employees have in the business — coupled with nearer-term incentives — the organization can be positioned well to attract and retain good talent.

Last year the Journal of Accountancy provided a summary of a WorldatWork survey. Among other findings, 65% of respondents said senior managers were concerned about retention. Even as opinions of the economy continue to be mixed, it seems that employees have felt more confident exploring options for “greener pastures” in the marketplace.

The survey found that employees leave for more money, better promotional opportunities, more equitable pay in line with market rates and in recognition of personal contributions, less stressful workloads, more work-life balance, better leadership, and more training and development opportunities.

The strategies employers use are not surprising when one considers the basic desires of workers, namely money and freedom: “Companies that have retention programs tend to keep key talent by offering above-average pay and benefits such as flexible scheduling, the survey showed.” Also, the survey showed that managers are careful to communicate future opportunities with key employees.

In short, senior management can either define and implement an effective retention strategy, or it can let others in the marketplace demonstrate a superior ability to hire away good talent. Some very effective methods of retention can be low-cost, such as giving employees a sense of empowerment and ownership. Rather than just paying more money, partner with employees in tangible ways to help them advance with the business and make progress with their career goals.

In addition, while employees will always want more money, there might be ways to implement flexible scheduling to help them feel like they have more freedom and ownership of their work and schedule. Rather than micro-managing their work and schedule with an iron fist, treat them like grownups and expect them to act as such; the results can be remarkable.