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Finders' keepers:

The secrets to finding and keeping the best employees


By Craig Harrison

"You can tell a lot about a company by the people it keeps."

It's true: The best companies keep their talent in-house. Whatís less apparent is how they manage to keep their people. Retention is about more than throwing the most money at talent. Itís about creating a climate and culture that honors talent and temperament. Itís also about building allegiance to the company over time through developing mutual trust.

So how is it done? Itís done in ways both big and small. Here's a quick overview of the primary components of employee retention.

The Package Salary is important, of course, and so too are benefits. Usually we think of benefits as being medical and dental insurance, a vacation package, possibly a signing bonus, a stock option plan and a retirement plan. There might even be a budget for annual education credits, memberships in associations and perhaps a health club membership, company car, laptop or other perk to sweeten the deal.

However, it's often the little things that carry a lot of weight. Showing employees through your actions that their contributions are an important part of your companyís success can help reinforce the degree to which employees feel valued and cared for by their employer.

The Schedule For many employees, flextime, telecommuting and other variations on the traditional work week help keep them fresh and focused. For employees with children or difficult commutes, the flexibility afforded them in making their own schedule makes their work experience more manageable, thus contributing to their loyalty to their company. For others, the option of carpooling or leeway when using public transportation is as meaningful as the savings or stipend that may accompany ride sharing and commute vans, buses and rapid transit trains.

The Work Environment. Work ceases to feel like work when it's fun, and the work environment can facilitate such fun. Employees who can define and design their own work space by expressing themselves through art, posters, toys and the like are more comfortable and ultimately more productive.

Beyond each individual's work area, also focus on the overall environment in your place of business. We know that environment informs experience. Is the architecture inviting? Are the colors and lighting pleasing to and easy on the eyes? Is the furniture comfortable and the layout well-organized? This all contributes to an overall feel -- either positive or negative -- on the part of employees and those interviewing for employment.

Recognition Surveys consistently reinforce the importance of recognition to employees. Workers want to feel appreciated. They want to feel important and recognized for their contributions. Recognition can come in many forms: awards, gift certificates, acknowledgement in company newsletters, e-zines and at meetings, and also in the form of praise given one-on-one and in group situations.

We usually think of recognition in terms of gifts we can put in peoples' hands, wallets and purses, but one of the best gifts you can give an employee is respect. This may mean giving them the leeway to work their own way or to make their own decisions. Respect means different things to different people find out what it means to each of your employees.

Individuality The best managers and companies allow for and celebrate individuality. The best jobs are ones where employees can be and express themselves, whether through their attire, work environment or the way they work. Secure managers and companies will create an environment and culture where such individuality can flourish.

Qualities Southwest Airlines' philosophy is known as "hire for smile." They believe itís better to hire employees with the right qualities (such as a positive attitude) and teach them the skills they need than to hire employees with the right skills but the wrong qualities. In professional football, a similar philosophy often guides teams' draft strategy. Regardless of their immediate needs, a team may draft the best available athlete, regardless of position, when their turn arrives in the draft. You should too.

The more well-rounded, quality employees you have, the stronger your company becomes. An added benefit is the environment they create: self-motivated, creative people, in love with their jobs, loyal to their company, spurring each other on, and creating synergy with and support for each other. As new employees join the fold, they are immediately surrounded by motivated, productive employees, and it becomes contagious.


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contact Craig by email: Craig@ExpressionsOfExcellence.com
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