How to keep your key employees

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It so happens that by the time you want to give  your key employees a raise they are with one step out the door. Usually, if you want to retain the best people in your company, it is mandatory you start much sooner. In most cases, if you are in a tight spot while hiring talent, you probably have already read about hiring the so-called “exponential players” and ways how to find the crème de la crème talent. The first thing you need to do is not settle. This is where the real journey begins. And despite the fact that this is the most important thing that will help you build a successful business, the second most important fact is retaining your employees and keeping them happy. So when senior hires come your way, do whatever it takes to keep them happy to ensure that they remain part of your team on a long term basis.

CEOs may consider all aspects of the business before making an important decision, but even the best of them make mistakes at times. However, rarely will you see a great leader that is not able to retain his or her top employees. The leader knows that in order for the business to prosper and be on top of its game, it needs to have the pillars that keep the balance of the entire structure. In my experience, Zero Voluntary Attrition proved to be the most effective strategy a leader could apply. Despite the fact that some employees did not see this strategy as a viable option, by changing and modifying their roles I managed to keep the situation under control.

How you can do that?

1. Get compensation right. Or at least as best as you can on a permanent basis. In our times exceptional employees get raises and signing bonuses as a means to convince them to jump ship. By the time they receive the offer, it’s a bit tardy to come with a counter offer. The moment employees let you know that a more beneficial opportunity has come their way they already have one step out the door. That is why raises do not work at that particular point in time, at least not for the good employees.

2. If the moment is right make sure to always pay above market (if you can afford it) for the great candidates. An old friend of mine who so happens to be the CEO of a hot startup told me a story on how he lost his right-hand translator who was making a five-figure salary just because a company offered to double the salary he was receiving. How else could that company steal a top translator from a new startup? The answer is simple: by giving him such a ridiculous amount of money that he just couldn’t say no to. The point I’m trying to get across is that a top translator like him shouldn’t have had such a salary despite the fact that he joined as a junior translator and constantly progressed. Therefore, pay market or above if you can afford it. This is a sign of respect and trust me when I say this, the best employees won’t ask for a raise even though they know they deserve it. Eventually, they’ll just get frustrated and leave.

3. It’s never too late even when they start to interview. You can probably see all the signs that point to someone interviewing whether they’re out of office at weird hours or whether they’re moving away from you while you’re approaching them just to say hello. All signs of frustration can easily be uncovered by their Twitter or Facebook posts and their LinkedIn connections. By the time they already got their new job it’s time you quit, but if they only started to interview you could still insist. Employees may see this as a sign of exasperation but if you can prove to them that the issue at hand can be fixed, usually they will be on board with your idea and decide to stay.

4. During their tenure, employees grow, adapt and learn how to do new things. You should always have a growth path for each of your employees, especially your best ones. The moment they stop growing something inside them starts to die each day. As a leader it is mandatory that you understand the career path of your top employees and encourage them to take it.

5. Make sure you talk to your employees so that you get an honest feedback at least 4 times a year. Given today’s business nature, annual reviews tend not to work. Therefore, make sure that you have face to face meetings with your key employees at least 4 times a year. Do this in a quiet manner and ask them questions regarding the aspects they find frustrating about their job, what would they want to do but are not getting it done at that moment. Also, make sure you go into these meetings with an open mind and be as friendly as you can, but also blunt. Last but not least, don’t ignore the key employees that don’t complain and put as much effort into retaining them as when you recruited them.

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