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You work hard to find, hire, and train the best people for the job, whether it’s running your retail outlet, keeping your books, or assembling customer orders. You naturally want to retain high performers and avoid costly turnover. Paying competitive wages and awarding raises and bonuses are the default models for improving morale and holding on to workers. No doubt money is important, but if that's all you're focused on then you are missing major pieces of the puzzle. Here are four non-monetary strategies could propel your effectiveness to the next level.
1. Start on their first day
Showing employees that you value them starts on their first day. All businesses should do some type of employee orientation, even if it’s informal one-on-one coaching with the manager or another employee. The onboarding experience provides workers with important insights into your organization and sets the tone for your relationship.
Make sure you’ve thought about what the new hire will need to know and do during the first few weeks on the job. Letting the employee shadow a more experienced worker and providing clear written instructions, checklists, or infographics to guide them through common, but confusing, multistep processes can get new employees off to a great start.
Think about a logical order to teach skills and procedures, and let the newbie learn at a comfortable pace. Throwing too much at them the first day or week is overwhelming; it can also signal that you care more about checking off boxes than about how well they are actually adjusting to their new job and work environment. Slow down; let them take on new responsibilities at a more gradual pace that ensures they learn how to do things right.
Employees who feel connected to their company and feel like their job is a good fit are more likely to stay, according to Gallup research—and building that connection starts with a positive onboarding experience.
2. Offer flexibility
Workplace flexibility is increasingly a priority for high-performing employees and one of four top trends identified in the 2019 LinkedIn Global Talent Trends report. More than a third of employees surveyed consider flexibility very important when job-hunting, and a whopping 72% of talent professionals agree that workplace flexibility is essential to recruiting and retaining workers. Add to that an enormous jump in the number of job ads that highlight flexible policies, and the message is clear—the modern workforce is changing quickly.
COVID-19 shutdowns had companies scrambling to implement remote work options for their employees—playing catch-up to what employees had rallied for pre-pandemic. Scores of companies are now discovering the benefits of remote work, and some are considering making a permanent change: REI has announced plans to sell its brand-new headquarters building and offer more flexible working arrangements for the 1,200 employees who had been slated to work there.
Of course, remote work is only one aspect of workplace flexibility that appeals to employees. The ability to adjust their work hours or take time off when needed also matters to workers, according to LinkedIn.
Having choices about when and where they work can actually improve workers’ productivity, in addition to enabling them to enjoy a better work-life balance. LinkedIn also found that flexible work policies make it easier for organizations to hire—and retain—diverse, highly talented employees because these policies significantly expand the applicant pool.
3. Encourage continuous learning
Once you’ve attracted, hired, and trained stellar employees, keep them challenged and motivated with a continuous learning culture. LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report found that nearly three-quarters of employees want to learn at work—and 94% would stay longer with an employer that invested in their development. Though many employees and managers say they lack the time to learn, workers who spent at least an hour a week learning told LinkedIn they felt less stressed and more engaged while at work.
Investing in employee development works for your organization as well as for employees: Not only are employees more likely to stay with you, the training prepares them with new and updated skills. It equips them to use new tools and technologies as their jobs change, for example. Or they might add skills that enable them to take on new challenges as your business—and their role—grows.
Employees need to see a clear growth and development path in order to remain motivated and avoid burnout. A continuous learning culture can keep them curious, engaged, and creative, improving their own performance—as well as your company’s.
4. Ask for their input
Annual reviews can sometimes be seen as a necessary evil. But a stressful once-a-year conversation is not enough to keep a good relationship going. Ongoing, two-way communication has to be the norm.
Ask employees for their input: What policies or perks do they value? What projects or tasks would they like to learn or add to their roles? Conduct regular one-on-one conversations with each employee, and consider using individual growth and development plans to help them formalize goals and monitor their own progress. Asking for input—and responding to it—shows employees that you value their perspective, experience, and contributions to the workplace.
Money alone doesn’t buy loyalty
So there you have it, four strategies for moving beyond the paycheck to develop and retain top talent. An employee who feels valued, challenged, and motivated has little reason to look for another job—they show their appreciation by staying put. These skilled, long-term employees provide a critical infrastructure that can help your organization grow and thrive—despite any obstacles thrown your way.