How to Retain Your Employees and Keep Them Happy

Three happy employees laughing together during a discussion

As a business owner, it can be challenging to find loyal and knowledgeable staff for your company. However, retaining employees can be even more difficult. Given that they are your most valuable resource, keeping your best people is a hugely important part of achieving and maintaining success.

Therefore, it's vital to know how to retain employees. To help, we've compiled a list of suggestions and techniques that you can implement to keep your staff happy, and ensure that you are not bogged down in continual cycles of turnover.

So, regardless of your industry and your processes, this is how to improve employee retention, from the basics of getting your recruitment right, all the way through to feedback, professional growth, and tailored success pathways.

Clarify your expectations for the company and its employees from the very start.

By setting clear and attainable goals for your company and relaying them to potential employees both in job postings and initial interviews, you are eliminating any confusion going forward about what is expected.

Even at this early stage, this process is more likely to help retain talent, as your hires know from the off what they are getting themselves in to.

Of course, you have to keep your end of the bargain, as well; if you claim in your job ad that you offer professional development opportunities, then make sure that you do so. If you are asked in interviews about the prospects of taking on additional responsibility, answer honestly. It can be tempting to oversell certain aspects of the role to secure a good candidate, but if you don't deliver on those promises, then they will become disillusioned and eventually leave.

Recruit wisely.

An in-depth selection process is vital for identifying individuals who will make excellent employees, and a good recruitment policy – in any industry or context – is crucial to success. A poor hire can become a costly mistake, while a shrewdly-chosen and well-balanced candidate can be worth their weight in gold.

Therefore, be thorough. Ask the questions that you want to know the answers to – not just what you think you should ask. Through assessments and previous achievements, identify the person's work ethic, character and motivations. It may sound easier said than done, but the best way to retain talent in an organisation is to recruit the right people in the first place, so that you are on the same page from day one. 

Offer feedback to staff members and allow them to provide an evaluation of your management.

In offering regular, constructive feedback to your employees, you are consistently setting the standard of what you expect from them. These are opportunities to relay important messages and answer any questions that may arise as a result, and to get a better understanding of your employee's concerns, feelings and motivation.

In progressive organisations, this transparency should work both ways, too. You should give your staff the opportunity to provide their own insights on how the company – or aspects of it that are relevant to them – is managed. This empowers your employees and allows them to feel like a democratic voice, rather than a body at a desk. Millennial and Gen Z workers, in particular, will not respond to this kind of management and will look elsewhere, so ensure that everyone has the chance to have their say. 

Your employees are an integral part of the company - so make them feel like it.

It's essential that, regardless of how your business is performing, everybody feels as though they are a driver within the wider organisation. 

In a practical context, this means that all of your employees (within reason) should be consulted for their input when it comes to managing key tasks. But it also means building teams and ensuring that every staff member feels like they belong. This can be achieved by holding team celebrations for stand-out achievements, or by engaging in team bonding activities. Even small touches such as updating employees on developments through email can make them feel as though they are being kept in the loop.

Remember, too, that there is nothing more demoralising to staff than having management take the credit for their hard work. Always ensure that every single contributor is identified and rewarded for their efforts. 

Mentor employees to help them achieve their goals.

One of the best benefits of conducting semi-regular feedback sessions is that your employees can let you know what their professional goals are – and how you can help achieve them. For instance, if one of your associate-level hires expresses the desire to begin managing project teams, you can mentor them and slowly expose them to management scenarios.

Mentorship doesn't just apply to new hires or non-senior team members, either. By expanding someone's knowledge base and offering fresh perspectives, you can make them want to stay, regardless of their position or level in the hierarchy. The best part is that when you are cultivating leaders and more empowered employees, the organisation as a whole is strengthened, meaning that everyone benefits and the company continues to evolve. 

Offer tangible rewards to staff members.

You can be the best manager in the world, but ultimately, money still has a significant say in an employee's happiness. Therefore, a genuinely competitive salary and an excellent benefits package is the minimum that your company should be offering.

Another popular retention technique is the implementation of bonus or rewards systems for good performance, too. At most companies, these are usually monetary incentives such as periodic payments or commissions, and can help to increase motivation and fidelity to the business. The more critical aspect, though, is that such rewards are a tangible expression of your appreciation for their work, and that when coupled with the other methods on this list, creates an environment in which few people are likely to want to leave. 

Where possible, promote internally.

In today's employment climate, professional growth is one of – indeed, perhaps the – key component of a successful retention programme. To put it simply: if an employee feels like there is no room to grow in the organisation, then they will leave for a company where there is no limit on their ceiling.

As a smaller business, this can be a difficult concept to manage as there are a limited number of positions available – and when they do become vacant, they may require the job holder to possess specific qualifications. However, you don't necessarily have to promote employees in the traditional sense; promotion can simply mean an increase in responsibility and duties, along with a remuneration package and level of seniority to match.

Either way, a sense of stagnation is a surefire way to lose your best people, as motivated individuals need to work towards a personal goal – not feel like they are going to be doing the same thing in ten years. Have a pathway in place so that your internal talent can rise through the company, and, where possible, minimise external hires when you have team members that are already suitable.

Conduct 'stay' interviews.

If you have employees who have been with the company for an extended period – say, over five years – then why not take the opportunity to ask them why? After all, who knows better the reasons for staying with your company?

In interviewing these team members (informally, of course), you can gain insight into what is keeping them at your organisation, as opposed to seeking employment elsewhere. 'Stay' interviews can also assist in providing preventative measures for those who want to leave, indirectly working to retain talent.

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Ultimately, retaining talent is about utilising a combination of techniques, each of which is designed to make every single one of your employees feel valued, respected and challenged. It's not enough in the modern workplace to only focus on one of these aspects, as it's almost a guarantee that your competitors will exploit your lack of action as soon as your team members show signs of disgruntlement.

Always be proactive and communicate regularly with your staff, and take heed of what they are telling you; as your most valuable resource, your people will be the driving factor behind your company's success, and keeping them happy and motivated should be the number one priority within your HR strategy.

How else can you improve employee retention within an organisation? Let us know your thoughts and ideas in the comment section below!