Retain the Best

Monday, November 2 2015

Who comes to mind when you hear the word “retention”?  Clients and customers or employees?

In many organizations clients are the first priority, because without customers there’s no business. However, client retention doesn’t happen without good employees. The important question is do you need to focus on your people or your clients first?

The right balance requires the retention of good people. Many organizations brag that their average length of employment is 15 years plus. While that certainly shows retention, is it what you really want? The answer lies in the quality of those who stay.

The key to retaining the best individuals, those who become great team members, is how they are managed from their first encounter with your organization.


Choose people with the right skillsets who will fit into your organizational culture. It can sometimes be more effective to choose a person capable of learning quickly, who will fit the culture, and be a great team player, rather than someone who comes with all the skills but who will not be a good fit.


It is true that you only get one chance to make a first impression. I remember joining a company and knowing by day two that I had made a mistake. My welcome had been totally uninspiring…I did not stay long.

Consider how new employees would like to be welcomed and made to feel part of the team. Little things like having business cards ready on the first day can be as important as having the computer ready.

Coaching and feedback

Spend time getting to know individuals. Provide regular coaching, learn how they are feeling, and what issues they face. Guide them toward their goals.

Provide regular, specific feedback about where they are excelling and areas for enhancement. A once-a-year formal evaluation does not cut it.

Continuous learning

Ensure that there are formal and on-the-job opportunities for learning that help individuals to hone their skills.

Opportunities for advancement

Identify and develop individuals so they can move into new positions. Even if it is not possible to promote, provide new, challenging experiences so that boredom doesn’t set in.

Fair remuneration

Underpaying might help the bottom-line on a short-term basis, but it may be detrimental when individuals you have invested in and trained chose to leave for more money.

Listen and care

Listen with an open mind and demonstrate empathy. The key to retaining good people is that they need to know you genuinely care. As a leader you demonstrate this with your actions as well as your words.

How people are treated and how valued they feel will determine how long they stay with your organization. It is true that sometimes people may outgrow your organization or choose a career path you cannot offer. However, when you treat people well you develop strong alumni who can support and serve you in the marketplace.