June 24, 2022

10 Creative Ways to Retain Your Top Employees

Jordan Gibbs

No matter the industry, people are the cornerstone of any successful business. The positive interactions and synergy between employees, employers, and companies are crucial to building long-lasting symbiotic work relationships.

Employee retention should be a paramount concern if you’re a small business owner. If you lose your top employees, you’re left high and dry; they are the lifeblood of your company, and you should treat them as such. Luckily, despite the tumultuous state of the labor market, there are many simple ways to increase employee retention. 

Before we jump into the top 10 ways to retain good employees, we must answer one question: Why do employees leave in the first place?

Why do employees leave their jobs?

There are many reasons that employees leave their jobs, but there are several that are responsible for the majority. Luckily, most of these are highly preventable.

They aren’t happy with their salary

According to a survey by CareerPlug, 29% of people considering leaving their jobs attribute their unsatisfactory salary to their unhappiness. Low salary or hourly pay is the number 1 reason employees feel undervalued. When employees work, they are trading their energy and time for money, if this transaction doesn’t feel fair, they will not be eager to come to work in the morning. 

They don’t enjoy the work environment

The same survey reported that 13% of employees feel that the work environment is not conducive to their wellbeing. There are many important factors to building and maintaining a healthy work environment, including:

  • Giving a voice to your employees
  • Live your company values
  • Create a circle of safety
  • Team empowerment
  • Show deep, genuine appreciation to your employees

They want more flexibility

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a paradigm shift in how people work; the general desire to work from home is here to stay. 13% of employees desire more flexibility in their schedule, including where and how they work. As an employer, you need to pay attention to these wants and do your best to accommodate them, which shows dedication to your people.  

The top 10 most creative ways to retain employees

If your employee retention is low, its likely due in part to the three factors we mentioned above. Here, we'll introduce our top 10 creative ways to improve your employee synergy and well-being, which will lead to higher retention and job satisfaction.

Create an excellent onboarding experience

Employee perception of you and your company begins on day one. The easiest way to encourage your people to stay is to show them that you are dedicated to their success from the get-go. Here are five critical practices that will create a killer onboarding experience for your employees:

  1. Start with a detailed plan of attack. You should have a list of measurable goals and landmarks to ensure the process is running smoothly. This shows your new employee that you are organized and efficient.
  2. Make the process personal. It is crucial to make your new employee feel like a unique person instead of just another cog in the machine. 
  3. Socialize them. Introduce them personally to everyone they will have close contact with, and encourage a friendly atmosphere. Inject them into the people and culture of your company as soon as possible. 
  4. Be clear with responsibility. You need to illuminate the specific roles that your employee will fill. Give them a run-through of what their day-to-day will most likely look like; don’t make them guess!
  5. Involve leadership. Showcase the leaders and managers that they will report to, and humanize them as much as possible.

Follow these steps, and you will create a solid base of trust and respect amongst your new employees. 

Reduce your micromanagement

Whenever possible, try to reduce the micromanagement of your workers. At first, It may seem tough to do this; however, implementing a results-only work environment (ROWE) is a simple strategy to combat micromanagement. ROWE is a cultural mindset that focuses on prioritizing results over process. If employees can create efficient, accurate results with their methods, why not let them have autonomy? ROWE increases employee happiness, independence, and quality of work. 

A ROWE approach may not work in every facet of your company (i.e. customer service), but you can apply this in many backend activities. 

If you want to apply the ROWE approach, you may want to focus on hiring highly self-sufficient employees. You’ll also have to implement a rigorous performance monitoring system (including scrum meetings and KPIs).

ROWE may be too large of a shift for your current company to withstand, so you can start by doing these simple things

  • Set broad, clear expectations
  • Delegate tasks intelligently 
  • Try not to be a perfectionist
  • Ask your employees how they like to be lead

Create internal mentorship programs

There are many ways to inspire confidence and direction in your employees, but mentorship is the most effective; it's one of the best ways to retain employees.

How can I foster mentorship in my company?

Find the most trusted, senior employees in your organization. Depending on the size of your company, identify experienced workers who share the same position as the mentee. Educate your mentors on what they should focus on teaching, and give them strategies to foster inclusion and feelings of worth for their mentee. 

You should create a structured program with specific mentor/mentee assignments and meeting times. This structure assures that the program can achieve its intended outcomes. 

Why should I create a mentorship program? 

Forging a relationship between mentor and mentee is an incredible way to create mutual trust and respect, which are core tenets of building a circle of safety. Mentors give mentees instant feedback that sticks. This feedback shows a mentee how they are growing and where they are improving, which is a fast way to inspire feelings of belonging.  

Give employees room for growth

An incredible satisfaction comes from a promotion or change in title, no matter how small. Internal promotions are a great way to show your employees what they mean to you and the company. Nancy Parsons, CEO of CDR Assessment Group, says: 

“First, provide professional and career development opportunities that are fitted to each individual. This should begin with an assessment, coaching feedback, and an understanding of one’s specific in-depth strengths, risk factors, and intrinsic motivators. Once the individual is self-aware through coaching, then the development should be molded to fit the needs, profiles, and goals of each individual.”

You must also remember that there has been a shift in thinking among younger generations concerning promotions. Millennials view job promotions as anticipated events among all workers rather than a special reward or recognition. 

Promotions create a sense of ambition among employees like no other activity. Ambition is a huge factor in securing retention; if employees feel that they can flourish within your company, they are much less likely to leave you for another job. 

Ambition also fosters organizational loyalty, which boosts the overall quality of the culture and the happiness of its members. 

Let employees explore remote work options

Like tip number two, increasing the schedule flexibility of your employees through remote work is a great way to make them feel valued. Covid-19 has further increased this; in 2022, companies that offer remote work options have a 25% higher employee retention rate. 18% of people in America work remotely full time. 

To tap into this growing sector, you must be flexible in when and where your employees get their work done. This plays mainly into the ROWE culture we discussed earlier. If your employees are happiest setting their schedules while still completing their assigned tasks, you should encourage that as much as possible. 

Remote work by the numbers

There are many unforeseen benefits of remote work that you may not have considered:

  • 75% of people say that remote positions allow them to work with fewer distractions
  • 86% of people say that working at home reduces their overall work-related stress
  • People who work remote at least some of the time are 25% happier
  • 61% of employees prefer being fully remote
  • 24% of workers would be willing to take a 10% pay cut to work remotely

Remote work does not have to be a full-time restructuring; it can come in small quantities. Allowing for even half a day per week of remote work for tasks such as filling out paperwork or minor spreadsheet work can have huge benefits to the mental health of your employees. 

Mental health is highly variable. Some days, even your top employees are feeling unwell. If you grant them the option to stay home, they will feel appreciated. Making a cup of tea and working on the couch acts as a great mid-week reset for many people.  

Inspire a healthy debate culture

If employees are the lifeblood of your company, their opinions should be valued as highly as the people themselves. Your team is a large group of talented individuals who have keen insights into your business’s activities. Unfortunately, if you don’t create a healthy debate culture within your company, these valuable insights may never come to light. 

It may seem counterintuitive, but encouraging dissent can be healthy. If some of your people feel unable or unwilling to voice their opinion, you are likely missing out on opportunities. 

How do I inspire a debate culture at my company?

Know the topics that are commonly debated. Several subjects often generate discussion, including: 

  • Project execution strategy
  • Creative avenues and paths
  • Policy adjustments 
  • General problem solving

This knowledge can help you identify when you should directly ask people for their opinion and when to encourage new, radical ideas. 

Create a “speak-up” environment. For people to be willing to speak up, all opinions and ideas should be given due consideration and appreciation. They should also be met with respect and decorum from other organization members, even if the idea is poor.

Take time to create structured brainstorming and problem-solving sessions. Debate is most effective when it is structured with guidelines and defined outcomes. It is easy for your employees to fall down rabbit holes of discussion. Don’t let this happen. Indicate to your people the direction and specific outcomes of each discussion. Show them what you need for a successful brainstorm before it even starts. 

Frequent salary reviews

Many companies opt to perform salary reviews annually, which is often not frequent enough to provide many benefits in terms of retention. Bi-yearly or quarterly reviews allow managers to clearly remember specific performance highs and lows of a particular employee. 

Quarterly feedback on salary also provides an employee with a distinct sense of growth. When an employee is recognized for growth in small areas that they have directly worked towards improving, it creates a warm sense of pride that inimitable in the workplace. 

Salary growth is another obvious draw for an employee. Even if their salary is climbing slowly, any jump every quarter creates a sense of mutual respect between manager and employee. In addition, a quarterly performance review is simply less stressful for your workers than a yearly one.

You may think that performance reviews are too time-consuming and arduous, but there are many strategies to streamline reviews into a pleasant, constructive experience for everyone involved.  

Create a Flexible Friday program

Flexible Fridays are a system where you give your employees the option to decide what they want to do with their Fridays. Fridays do not contain any internal meetings or required events, and they are entirely open. Employees could come in for a couple of hours and complete some clerical work, finish a project over an eight-hour day, or front-load their week and not come in at all. 

Flexible Fridays may be a substantial operational shift for your company, but they provide many benefits. 

  • Your employees have the option of taking a three day weekend
  • 89% of employees feel happier after a Flex Friday program implementation
  • 43% of employees feel more productive

Rewards and recognition

Small acts of thanks and appreciation can go a long way in the workplace; its one of the most creative ways that you can retain your employees. Employees are often used to a lack of recognition of their abilities and actions at work; a small expression can mean a lot. Here are several ways to can reward, thank, and recognize your valued employees: 

  • Write them a handwritten note
  • Give small, inexpensive gifts
  • Publicly thank them for their actions in front of their peers
  • Offer a day or two off every once in a while
  • Hire a corporate masseuse 
  • Plan office-wide activities (i.e., casual sports leagues, rafting, etc.)

Give Employees a Challenge

Lastly, your top employees are the best for one reason: they thrive on challenge. High-performers are people who crave the next thing that makes them think to break the mold. Give your workers a positive challenge to push them to their optimal limit; they’ll be more productive, engaged, and excited to come to work. 

Often, employees will descend into complacency with their work after some time. You must avoid this at all costs; routine kills creativity, engagement, and innovative thinking. 

You can inspire positive challenges in numerous ways, including:

  • Ask them about their innovative ideas and how they can apply them within your company
  • Create opportunities to diversity their job title
  • Seek thorough, structured input and ideas from your employees
  • Give them more responsibility and oversight

Thank you for reading! J2T is Colorado and Montana’s premier accounting and finance recruiter. If you need help finding and maintaining excellent employees, J2T is here to help. Please contact us today about the positions you need to be filled, and we’ll find transformative, stand-out candidates that will enrich your company. 

Written by Jordan Gibbs 

Jordan Gibbs is a content writer and growth manager for The Work Spot MT, a Montana-based job posting website. He has a Master of Innovation Management degree and a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering. Jordan loves to be creative and spend time outdoors. He is passionate about nature; he’s happiest when he’s in the mountains.