Don’t give your all-star employee a reason to become a free agent

Retention of quality employees is critical to the success of an organization, not only for top notch service to be delivered to customers, but for the bottom line return to the business owners and shareholders. Recruiting and training new employees can be the most costly aspect of running a business. So when the phone rings, and someone like me is on the other line, how do you "recruiter proof" your All-Stars? Well, here are ten coaching tips to help keep your employees from using me as their new agent!

  1. Make promises you can keep. Whether it is promising a certain career path or that the extreme travel will slow down, make good on your commitments or live with the outcome. Don’t sugar coat the reality of the role or what is going on in the organization. People know that you can’t predict the future, but if they feel they were misled…you have made my job much easier.
  2. Have an open door policy. If your employees feel comfortable coming to you with small concerns, they are more likely to come to you once something major comes along. Keep even keeled as a manager and keep it professional.
  3. Have fun. If you find yourself being the "Negative Nelly" take a step back and realign your attitude. Management sets the tone and if it is one of camaraderie and positive notes people will want to come to work and to perform well for you. People desire fun in their professional lives, too.
  4. Offer opportunities to expand employee’s skill sets. Let’s face it, not every company can promote everyone nor does everyone want to be a manager. However, most people want to feel challenged and know that they are contributing to the advancement of a common goal. Offer training, host contests, and provide encouragement to those that participate. Not in the budget? Respect, positive feedback, and letting people know you value them doesn’t cost a thing, and is appreciated more than additional money to many. I love calling people on a day when their boss just disrespected them.
  5. Check the market annually. Make sure that you are working with human resources or outside consultants to ensure that you are compensating your employees appropriately in the marketplace, as well as equitably internally. People DO talk about money.
  6. Be flexible. If one of your top performers comes to you with a personal or professional issue, try to accommodate them. For example, if your star employee’s parent becomes ill and needs a reduced schedule for a time, you might consider the big picture of having this person on a limited schedule for a few months versus losing them completely. My clients would be happy to provide the flexibility needed for YOUR star employee. Don’t give them a chance.
  7. Be willing to let top talent go. If you have a superstar on your team that really wants to be in a different department, let them explore it and if it makes sense for the business, let them go. It’s better to keep the person in your organization helping another manager than your competitor…no matter how good they make you look.
  8. Lead by example. Have you ever worked for a manager that told you to do something but never did it themselves? Walk a day in your associates’ shoes even if you’ve never done the job before. It will give you better context and will show you take your role seriously. If you can’t live up to your own expectations how can you expect anyone else to?
  9. Admit your mistakes. If you screwed up, or if you set an unrealistic expectation, just own up to it. Simple, yet very rarely done in corporate America. It will have the added benefit of giving your team comfort that they can come forward when they make mistakes, too.
  10. Update the work environment. Keep your workplace current for the talent you are trying to attract. This might mean you are in a sharp office in the heart of downtown or a smaller building in the suburbs for a shorter commute. It might mean reviewing policies (No Facebook at work? Really?), benefits, and culture along with the nuts and bolts of furnishings and fixtures. Company dynamics change; your location and environment might need to as well. Include your staff when deciding what needs to change to give your workplace a makeover; they will be much more likely to embrace the changes.

The most recruiter-proof candidates work for organizations that abide by these coaching tips. Implementing these low-cost, easy to adopt ideas can save your organization thousands in recruitment and on-boarding costs. The market has turned in favor of the All-Stars. There is always room in the budget for top talent, so don’t give yours a reason to be a free agent.