Retaining superstars, Part II

Last time, we covered the first part of a three-pronged approach to improving the retention of your best employees. HR consultancy Drake Beam Morin advises us to make improvements to our selection and orientation, training and career management, and motivation and compensation skills in order to keep high performers from jumping ship. This week, we look at the firm's advice on bettering our training and career management, and motivation and compensation approaches.

Training and career management:

* Invest in your employees' careers, and they will invest in you. You can design an elaborate, in-house "university" to support employee training, or simply OK the courses they want to take off-site. Either way, if you show you care about their career growth, employees' job satisfaction should rise. Just think about it: Don't you care more about people who care about you than those who don't? Some managers get concerned that the more their employee learns, the more likely the person is to bolt for another job. That's not necessarily true, as many employees feel a sense of loyalty and commitment to the organization that has committed to them. Yet showing no interest in an employee's career path will only make them move toward the door quicker.

* Hold managers responsible for their employees' development.

No one will embrace an idea like the person who's being rated on it. If part of your performance evaluation includes how you encourage and promote employee training, of course you're going to work at it more. Plus, it gives you even more incentive to encourage development, as opposed to having good intentions, but never getting around to them.

* Set training goals. Review time is a natural time to meet with your employee, jointly decide what skill gaps exist, and determine a method and time period for filling them. However, the decisions made must be joint and agreeable to both parties.

Without employee buy-in, it's not career development, it's a demand.

* Offer a variety of training. From boot camps to study-at- home, offer different methods for your employees to train.

Motivation and compensation:

* Communication is key. The importance of excellent communication pops up a lot in these newsletters, and it's no accident. A 1998 retention study of 3,400 people found that most people left their jobs not because they wanted to make more money, but because they wanted better communication.

* Informal surveys will show you what your employees value most. Either ask them in person, or send out an e-mail listing recognition or compensation options. Rewards that are customized to the employee mean more. For example, if you know an employee loves to garden, a gift certificate from a local garden center will have a much greater impact than a simple check.

* Nonmonetary rewards such as flex time, working at home or plum assignments can mean more than a check.

* Recognize your employees informally, personally and often.

High-performers take great pride in their work, and a sincere "thank you" goes a long way.

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