Holding on Featured

6:43am EDT July 28, 2003
The economy may be down, but that doesn't mean you should ignore employee retention. Top talent can be difficult and expensive to replace.

Here are five tips from Lee Hecht Harrison, a human resources consulting firm.

* Tailor retention efforts to individual employee needs.

"There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution," says Rita Brauneck, senior vice president and general manager for the Cleveland office of Lee Hecht Harrison. "I think it's a matter of an employer being appreciative of what my interests as an employee are and finding ways to work with that."

Solutions need to be diverse, just like the work force.

"What motivates and drives one individual can be different than the person next to them," says Beth Sweeney, vice president of business development for the company.

* Focus on your top people, and be willing to pull out all the stops.

"People want to be rewarded for great performance and want the organization to recognize great performers," says Brauneck. "You have to give the top performers challenging assignments, mentors or executive coaching."

Dealing with poor performers often has a direct effect on top performers. Brauneck says that if poor performers aren't dealt with by management, it takes away management's credibility.

"Celebrate those that are on top and deal with those that are not," says Brauneck.

* Create a positive environment which gives employees flexibility.

"Employees yearn for a sense of connectiveness and being a part of something bigger," says Brauneck. "They want to be in a place where they feel appreciated and valued."

Communicating how the company is doing goes a long way toward helping employees understand why their roles matter.

"Employees want an environment where they feel they can make suggestions and have an impact on their work and tasks," says Sweeney. "They want to have a manager that listens."

* Integrate career development efforts with business goals.

"It's really about identifying where the business is going and what the goals are, and with that in mind, understanding what I'm about as an employee and finding ways that we can match up so it's a win-win for both the employee and the business," says Brauneck.

Helping employees further their careers doesn't mean they will leave for a better job.

"Employers feel that if they enhance the careers of their employees, they will leave," says Sweeney. "People become more tied to the business in most cases, is what we see. It's that feeling of being tied with the people you work for and the objectives that is actually one of the main reasons they stay."

* Bring employees into the decision-making process

"It's not necessarily a case of turning over all decision-making to the employees," says Brauneck. "I'm not sure every employee wants that responsibility. The employee wants information and knowledge about how the business is doing.

"When they get the information, the employees feel more connected to the business. Their positions are more relevant. They can potentially see more ways to make a difference."

Soliciting employees for ideas and recommendations can help a business.

"In many organizations, they are really out there gathering very diverse points of view from within the company," says Brauneck. "The information is really going the other way. Companies are reaching out to solicit the employees to get new business ideas and strategies. They are going in ways they've never been before.

"Just being out there and connected to the employees with open channels of communication can really help an organization." How to reach: Lee Hecht Harrison, (216) 591-1511


Unchanging priorities

There are many ongoing changes in the workplace, but there are constants as well. Employees are motivated -- and retained -- by a lot more than just salary.

"One thing that is not news are some of the basic reasons why people stay with an organization," says Rita Brauneck, senior vice president of Lee Hecht Harrison.

Among the most common reasons listed by employees:

* Respect for a leader, or holding the leadership in general in high regard

* Belief in where the organization is going or in its mission

* The opportunity to be challenged with the company

* Opportunities for career development

"They'll stay as long as they see these things happening," says Brauneck. "Somewhere down the list is being competitively paid. These things haven't really changed."

If there's no money in the budget to give out top compensation, at least try to make sure that employees are being rewarded in some of these other nonfinancial ways.