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13 Ways to Increase Employee Retention and Keep Your Team Happy

I assume we’ve all been in situations where we had a star employee or representative working under us that eventually turned into a messy termination. Hurt feelings, misunderstandings, disappointment… all you want is one more chance to do all of those things that would have kept them around and happy for years to come.

My biggest disappointment was named Lee Michael. We worked at Vector together – me the Sales Manager, him the brand-spankin’ new representative that wanted to prove to the world he could do anything. He was a sucker for recognition, just like me. We totally hit it off from the beginning – a sales duo that was indestructible. Out of all the representatives I interviewed and trained myself, he was the highest earner in his first week pulling in over $12,000 in sales. (I worked hard to pull in $3,500 my first week!)

A couple of months went by and I admit to switching my focus toward developing the many new reps that just launched from training. I took Lee Michael to be self-sufficient at this point in his career – major mistake! Meanwhile, Lee Michael was feeling completely ignored and used. One day he finally came forward with his feelings, but there was no discussion. He talked about how hurt he had been that I stopped giving him as much recognition, attention, and training. I was still present, just not as much as I was in the beginning (when I set the stage for his career – what it would be like working here). He quit and that was the last I ever heard from him.

Now, hopefully, your experience isn’t quite as intense. But sometimes it takes a very serious event to get us to learn. I am incredibly thankful for the gift that Lee Michael taught me about management, staying present, and never assuming that my team is ok… because you just never know.

I have developed a list of 13 Ways, both big and small, to help you stay focused on employee retention and keep your team happy.

  1. Recognition is KEY. When your employee does something above-and-beyond, something unexpected, something that impresses you… tell them. When you express to them your genuine impressions they respect you, appreciate you, and want to impress you even more.
  2. Remember that it doesn’t always have to be about business 100% of the time. 98% is still plenty. Ask them how their weekend was; if they have anything fun planned for the holidays. I’m not saying break into their personal life, that’s a no-no. But ask them enough to let them know you recognize they have a life outside your office.
  3. Birthday and holiday cards go a long way. In early December last year, I hired an assistant and still got her a Christmas card with a little somethin’ inside. It meant the world to her and was unexpected. I simply said, “Are you kidding? You’re amazing! You’re totally worth it!” It goes a looong way.
  4. Bring up important events or news they tell you about. Write it down if you have to. Then, bring it up as the event nears and let them know you cared enough to remember.
  5. Keep your promises. If you gave your team an incentive or dangled a carrot, you’d better make a note to pay up. Those incentives drive your team to greatness. If you then don’t deliver as they did for you, they start to perk their ears up for other mishaps.
  6. Listen to them. If it’s Friday night and you are drained – can’t wait to leave, and your team member is going on and on about something important to them, listen anyway. It will be hard, believe me. But think about this… if they weren’t lonely or in need of a little extra attention, would they really be there in the first place? People can tell that you’re not listening when you have that far-off look in your eyes or are ruffling through papers. Take a few minutes, be present and then you can get back to wrapping up your week.
  7. Quarterly evaluations help tremendously. Call a one-on-one meeting with each team member. Ask them what you can improve to make their work-life better. Then you can share a few things they can do as well if anything needs to be addressed. They will appreciate your willingness to change and will take their criticism much better as a result.
  8. Be aware of the time in between raises and the responsibility you’ve added, and how fast. If you hire an assistant who does the same thing day in and day out, you still want to give raises but it doesn’t have to be a steep raise. If you are piling on the responsibility to that assistant, she will pick up on it sooner or later and wonder if she will be at the same pay while you just pile it on. Try not to even let it get that far. A quick talk is all you need. “I know I’ve been giving you more and more responsibility…here’s why…you’re doing great…if you keep it up a raise is in your future.” Then, make a note and follow through on that promise.
  9. Look for ways to teach your team new things to get them excited. Personally, if I’m not growing, I’m dying. I need to always be learning, mastering new things, teaching. If they do the same thing every day for years, it may get old after a while for some (not all).
  10. Let them participate in the planning process for your business. When it comes time for a new growth phase, strategizing for the new year, etc., invite your team to have a group meeting. Have a brainstorming session to get ideas then ask them to also come up with 1-2 suggestions after the meeting, individually. Try to come up with a plan that involves pieces of everyone’s ideas. They will all feel important and valuable to the business – retention here we come!
  11. For upper-level team members that are of huge value to your company, invite that person and a guest to dinner. The extra mile counts every time.
  12. Learn each team member’s strengths. Ask them if you need to, “Crystal, what are your 5 strengths would you say?” Then, keep that information and use it to excel your business – have each member use their strength to excel for you.
  13. It’s good to sometimes involve a team member in an area they normally wouldn’t know about. Example: I used to have my receptionist review applications and tell me who she thinks I should hire. Or I would tell my programmer about the new helpers I was looking at, have him look over the applicant’s website portfolio and tell me his thoughts. They may not have interviewing experience, but getting their opinion on hiring a new team member could prove beneficial and builds trust.

What, in your experience, has helped you to retain employees, promote growth and keep your organization happy? Shoot me a comment below and let’s keep growing this list!

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