More than Money: 9 Tips for Attracting and Retaining Great Employees

As we write this, there are more unfilled jobs in the U.S. than there has been in many years. Especially for employees with highly desirable skills, competition is fierce. (The Department of the Army is considering exempting recruits with technical skills from boot camp!) But even if you aren’t looking for specific skill sets, highly motivated, smart, loyal employees are not easy to find – or to keep – in this market.

But it’s not all about cold, hard cash. If your compensation package is competitive among similar employers, hiring and retention often come down to the non-cash elements of compensation. Here are nine tips for hiring and retaining great employees (adapted from Inc. and Forbes):

  1. Recognition. While money is always nice, sometimes the most impactful recognition tools cost little or no money. Never hesitate to give credit where credit is due. And while a written thank-you note is great, don’t forget about the power of recognizing an employee in front of their peers. It can mean so much more than you know!
  2. Feedback. Most companies have a “regular” review schedule – and some companies achieve that schedule. But – like recognition – don’t wait until it’s on the schedule to tell someone how they are doing – whether it’s good or bad. Frequent feedback helps people understand where they need to improve – and further motivates them.
  3. Daily Irritations and “the Little Stuff.” We all know what this means: the call from higher up that sends everyone into a fire drill to produce whatever is demanded, the last-minute crises, the fires that need to be extinguished. If you can protect your staff from these diversions, you will improve morale and loyalty.
  4. People want to take charge of their day and do their jobs well. If you’ve hired well, trust people to do what they should. Set appropriate expectations for what should be accomplished, then step back and be available to assist if needed.
  5. Variety. Everyone appreciates a new challenge or opportunity. Boredom leads to disengagement, a company’s worst enemy. Ask employees what they’d like to do or learn. You may be surprised at the response!
  6. Culture. Management must take responsibility for the company culture. An excellent example of this is Southwest Airlines, whose employees – and customers – express their culture on every flight.
  7. Leadership. If employees respect and trust the leadership team, they feel secure. Leaders who can communicate the genuine and authentic vision, mission and purpose to create buy-in are most effective in achieving high employee engagement.
  8. While it may not work for all companies, employees appreciate the opportunity to work flexibly. Change your policy to allow flexibility regarding where employees work, provide the appropriate tools for flexible work, and change your physical environment to offer different work settings.
  9. Community outreach is a great way to show the company cares about things more important than revenue and profit. And, it’s the right thing to do! (Bonus points if it ties to your company’s products and services.) Getting employees involved in a charitable cause can provide some great team-building benefits as well.

Whether your business is small, medium, or large, everyone is facing the same challenge. Employees are more empowered than ever before. They have clear ideas about what they want work to look like, and each worker has more options to explore. Look at your total compensation and work-life package to find the best offer to hire and retain the best employees.

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