Secrets To Retaining Employees

What are these secrets that will help keep employees engaged and productive? And how can this be done without breaking the bank? Here are 16 inexpensive ways to retain employees and obtain new ones.


When good employees start searching for another company to work for, it’s a bona fide disaster. After all, employees are the face of an organization. They build strong relationships with customers and vendors; they know the ins and outs of an operation; they train new hires and indoctrinate them into the company culture. On top of that, when a company loses great employees, it hurts customer retention and the morale of the rest of the team.

“You might be proclaiming that you are the leading company in your industry or marketplace in huge letters on your mission statement,” says Joanne Sujansky, Ph.D. “But if you’re not backing up that sentiment in the day-to-day realities of the workplace, employees will quickly realize the truth. When salaries are commensurate with the marketplace, other factors take priority. Good people stay where they are challenged, where they have the opportunity to develop and contribute, and where their employers take care of those meaningful little things that make their lives easier.”

What are these secrets that will help keep employees engaged and productive? And how can this be done without breaking the bank? Here are 16 inexpensive ways to retain employees and obtain new ones.

  1. Don’t misrepresent your culture. Engaging your employees starts with the first time you interview them. What do you say to your new hires about the company? Is it really an accurate representation of how your organization works?
  2. Learn the rules of engagement. Bored employees are neither happy nor productive. To keep your employees engaged and satisfied, present them with challenging assignments and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop. If you are limited with funding options you can always help employees to use their special skills and talents in their everyday job.
  3. Cross-pollinate your culture by embracing diversity. It takes a lot of different influences—diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, age, lifestyle, education, personality, and so forth—to make your company prosper. A diverse workforce creates an energy that can rarely exist in an environment of uniformity. Companies that bring together a diverse group of people to get the job done are richer, more stimulating and, frankly, more fun.
  4. Be a good corporate citizen. Today’s employers are finding that they have to care about more than just profits if they want to keep their employees happy. Good corporate citizens maintain high ethical standards, decrease the negative effects their company has on the environment, and give back to the community.
  5. Give praise where praise is due. If someone does a great job, let him know. It’s that simple. And then let his co-workers and customers know. Recognizing a job well done isn’t an expensive proposition, but it will mean the world to your employee.
  6. Get creative with benefits. Realize your employees are looking at benefits other than those that meet the norm—such as health insurance and a 401(k)—when considering the elusive happiness factor. It’s up to you to think outside the box and figure out the benefits that will make them happy. “Some options include providing access to dry cleaning services, treating all your employees to lunch once a week or providing them with on-site educational programs in a variety of fields,” Dr. Sujansky says.
  7. Be aware of the changing needs of your employees. Keep in mind that as your employees progress in life, their needs change. After having a child, an employee may want to travel less than before the child was born. As your baby boomer employees get older, so do their parents. Be understanding when they need to take time off to take care of the health needs of Mom or Dad. Also, let them take care of their own health issues.
  8. Realize that great employees thrive under great leaders. “Employees of great leaders will go to the ends of the earth to do a good job for them,” says Dr. Sujansky. “The flip side is that employees with poor leadership will simply go. The take-away lesson? Pay attention to your front line managers. Keep a close eye on their relationships with employees and get rid of bad managers when necessary.”
  9. Conduct “stay” interviews regularly. Great employees like to hear about what they can do to make the company even better. Regular “stay” interviews provide an opportunity for leaders to compliment their high performers on their great work and also to inspire them to do more to take the company to the next level. “Use these interviews to gage how well you are meeting your employees’ needs,” Dr. Sujansky says. “Be open and honest with your employees and always seek out their suggestions on what you and the company can do to improve.”
  10. Create the kind of environment where people can do their best work. Is your work environment restrictive and stifling or is it freeing and innovative? By allowing your employees to develop and implement their own ideas within your organization, you’ll be able to help keep them passionate about their work. You should also make sure your employees have what they need to perform well. Do they have the equipment they need? The right computer programs to work efficiently?
  11. Help employees to achieve work/life balance. “Providing flexible hours or allowing your employees to work from home shows them you value the lives they have outside the office,” says Dr. Sujansky.
  12. Insist that your employees take vacations. Several studies show that employees who take vacations are less stressed, lead a healthier lifestyle and are even at a lower risk of having heart disease. All of that means lower healthcare costs for you. Furthermore, employees who get away from the office are less likely to suffer burnout, a problem that harms productivity levels.
  13. Create an environment of trust between employer and employee. Employees are happier and work harder when they feel like they can trust their leaders. They decide which leaders they can trust based on how their fellow employees, company vendors and customers are treated. In addition, employees need to feel that you trust them as well.
  14. Rid your company of negativity and poor performance. The poor performers and negative employees stifle the good attitudes and high performance of their fellow employees. If you’re not getting rid of these employees, then it’s likely their counterparts won’t stick around.
  15. Use internship and mentoring programs to grow and nurture new talent. These programs allow promising prospects and employees to learn what your company culture is all about while also developing their own professional skills. They offer a win-win situation for your company because they allow you to look at new talent without paying out a huge salary or making a long-term commitment.
  16. Take a seasonal approach to showing employees you care. “There are any number of ways to do this,” says Dr. Sujansky. “Be creative. In summer, consider giving half days off on Friday, or give a half day off before an employee’s vacation to help minimize the stress of leaving town. Even something as simple as providing fresh fruit or flowers for the office can make an impact. At the holidays, bring in gift wrappers or give employees a day off to take care of their seasonal shopping. These ideas aren’t expensive, and they go a long way toward showing employees that you care.

“Striving to keep employees happy and engaged is not just a nice thing to do,” she continues. “It’s the right thing to do if you want to create a successful business. Engaged employees are creative, productive, motivated and brimming with good ideas. Not only will they stay, they’ll be fully committed to their jobs and to the company’s success.

Joanne G. Sujansky, Ph.D. founded the KEYGroup and is an award-winning entrepreneur. She has held management and director-level positions in several different industries.