How to Hire and Retain Good Employees

Good, well-trained employees aren’t exactly easy to come by these days.  At a recent business forum I attended, the speaker, who was an owner of a chain of local grocery stores in the Seattle area, commented that the skills they hired for in the past — i.e. experience with grocery stores or in food service –are no longer readily available.  Because the unemployment rate is currently so low, the grocery stores just aren’t getting the number of experienced applicants they once were.  Consequently, they’ve had to hire some employees who needed significant training.  Since they are putting so many resources into each individual employee’s training and development, they hope these employees will stay with the company for a long time.

As an employer or business owner, you want to be able to keep your turnover costs low and retain your good people.  In order to keep them, you know you need to make them happy.  But how do you hire and retain good employees?  What makes an employee want to stay with a company?  What makes employees happy?

The great news is that there are things you can do within your organization that will make it more likely that you will be able to retain your top talent.

  • Hire for fit – employees are more likely to be engaged and stay longer if they fit in with the current corporate culture.
  • Empower employees – People crave autonomy, so let them make decisions about how they do their work. Show them the end goal, and let them figure out how to get there themselves.  Support them when they ask for it.
  • Foster a culture of collaboration – Job satisfaction is higher when people feel a sense of inter-connectedness.
  • Support Employees’ Growth – People are more likely to stay with a company if there is a solid path that allows them to train and grow in responsibility and pay.
  • Pay and Benefits are Competitive – While it is a misconception that paying top dollar will lead to more satisfied employees, it is true that if you don’t pay competitively you will lose your staff to a company who does. Regularly analyze your compensation package in comparison with your competitors, and adjust as necessary.

I am happy to be writing a series of blog posts that will help you integrate these areas into your company or department.  Stay tuned!

What is Company Culture?

I would not want to run into this lion out in the wild all by myself.  He appears to have pretty sharp teeth and a large mouth, and I can’t see his paws in this picture, but I’m willing to bet they’re giant and decorated with freshly-sharpened claws.  Most non-human animals, such as this lion, have fur or claws to protect themselves from the elements, to help them find food, and to find shelter.   As humans, we have only measly little fingernails, and we wouldn’t last long at all outside in our bare skin, either in the sun or in the snow.  So how do we protect ourselves from predators like lions, and find the food we need to survive?

matteo-vistocco-240766That’s what culture does for us.  Human culture is the mechanism that enables us to work together to solve problems.  Some problems we have faced as humans include how to find and grow food, how to shelter ourselves from the elements, and how to take care of our tiny, helpless offspring who are reliant on us not for months, but for years.  It also allows us to work together in other ways, such as in a business.

Culture extends to how we interact with and treat one another.  Cultural “norms” are the rules we have defined as necessary to interact with one another.  We don’t think about those norms as being anything out of the ordinary, because we are immersed in them every day.  For example, I am from an urban and industrial area in the rustbelt near Cleveland.  Where I come from the word “dinner” refers to the meal you eat around 6:00 at night.  My husband is from a farming community in the Midwest, and in his culture, the word “dinner” refers to the meal you eat at the midday, the meal I would normally call “lunch.”  Neither is right nor wrong, there is simply a cultural difference in the way meals are eaten, due to different nutritional needs at different times of the day.

In the workplace, each business or office has its own cultural norms.  These are the rules, sometimes written, sometimes unwritten, by which we agree to interact with each other.  Since we’ve already been talking about the midday meal, I’ll tell you about one office where I worked in which it was normal to eat lunch at your desk.  In fact, it wasn’t just normal, it was unofficially required.  Of course, it was illegal not to allow employees a break, and therefore not officially required by the employee handbook or the management.  However, I can tell you that if a person did choose to leave the office for lunch, everyone else would make snide comments when they returned, and the person would be punished in passive aggressive ways.  Likewise, in a different company where I worked it was normal and encouraged to leave the office each day for an hour at lunch.  The thought was that if people left, they would come back refreshed and ready for the afternoon.  The culture of those offices were much different, and what was considered normal in one would be considered very unusual and even discouraged in the other.  In this case, one of these office environments was abusive and controlling, and the other was open and creative.  I bet you can guess which one had higher turnover!

rawpixel-com-250087The way you manage your business and the people you choose to hire will create the culture of your business.  The culture of the business will in turn affect very important aspects of your growth and profitability, including your ability to hire and retain top talent.  Does your culture promote open dialogue between staff and management?  Does your culture promote leadership growth?   Does your culture support families?  Does your culture value the customer?  Often if you don’t set out to create these values, you may find yourself with a company whose culture does not actually support the values it claims to have.

In the comments section below, I invite you to share experiences from a company you have worked with who did either a really excellent job of building company culture, or from a company who did a particularly poor job.    What could they have done differently?