At least once a day in my consulting practice, I speak with a business owner who is struggling to fill open positions in their business or has just lost an employee to a competitor or another industry. I’d like to say it’s surprising or that their experience is an isolated one. However, according to the U.S. Chamber of commerce, there are more than 10 million jobs open in the country, but only 6 million unemployed workers. Therefore, there are plenty of opportunities out there for employees who aren’t happy in their current work situation.
Although you’re probably going to need to keep focusing on hiring to fill open slots, it’s also important to consider what you’re doing to retain the good employees on your team so they’re not looking for the proverbial greener pastures.
Many people mistakenly think they can incentivize employees to stay by simply offering them more money. However, with everyone taking the same strategy, you can quickly see that it isn’t going to work in the long run. There’s always going to be another business that can pay a money-motivated employee $1 per hour more and lure them away from you. Instead, your best chance of retaining employees is to take steps to keep them happy at work. Although there are many things you can do to keep employees happy, such as creating a great workplace culture, having a pleasant environment for them to work in and providing ongoing training, one of the most underutilized methods of keeping employees happy is simply taking the time to show sincere appreciation for the work that they do.
Pay a fare wage. Although offering more money isn’t necessarily the solution to creating a happy team, if your team is getting paid less than others doing the same jobs in similar businesses in your area, you’ll often find their attention turned toward money. If you haven’t checked out the going hourly rate or salaries in your geographic area lately, now is the time to do it. When employees know that you know what they’re worth and you’re willing to pay them that worth, you’ll build more loyalty to you and your business.
Allow employees to choose their own work. We all have certain tasks at work that we enjoy more than others. Why not consider letting employees choose what they get to do on a given day? Assuming skills are equal, if you have an employee that prefers being in the back checking inventory and stocking shelves and another who likes interacting with customers and working the register, why not let them do just that? As long as employees think the division of labor is fair and they’re happy, let them do what they prefer at work.
Celebrate special occasions. Whether it’s a holiday party at your home or a lunch out on the boss, celebrating a holiday, birthday or reaching a team goal is a great way to show employees you care. If feeding everyone a meal isn’t in the budget, bringing in donuts, breakfast tacos or something you made at home is usually just as appreciated. Another tip is to avoid making it a weekly or monthly thing. If you do, then you’ll feel obligated to do it and it could get expensive. Special occasions don’t have to be limited to official holidays. One client I work with picks a random day of the month to celebrate and holds a “Just Because Cupcake Day,” where she brings cupcakes to work as a surprise for employees.
Reward great work with paid time off. There’s nothing that feels better than the boss coming up to you an hour before closing to tell you to go home early. The same goes for finding out that you’ve been given a half-day off on Friday for doing such a great job last week. You don’t have to make paid time off a regular thing, but something reserved for employees who have put in special effort beyond what’s expected. It’s also a great idea to let employees know what they can do to earn paid time off. It gives them a goal and something to strive for.
Online recognition. Whether you like social media or not, it’s a great way to communicate with your customers, potential customers and your employees. Rather than just telling an employee they did a great job, take a photo of the employee and post it on social media, publicly acknowledging their great work. I recently saw a post on a grooming shop’s Facebook page where the manager posted a picture of one of his new groomers posing with a puppy who had come in for its very first groom. The puppy looked awesome and the groomer looked excited and happy that she’d not only done a good job, but that the world was going to know about it. This type of recognition takes seconds and costs nothing but pays off in a big way. Look for opportunities to catch your employees working hard and showcase them for everyone to see. Additionally, it’s a great idea to add your employees’ photos and a short paragraph about them on your “About Us” page of your website. I personally love to click those pages for businesses I frequent and see the people I’m going to interact with. When a business has an about us that’s generic, doesn’t give names and doesn’t show photos of their owners, managers and employees, it creates a less personal experience for the customer.
Get creative with gifts and rewards. Even though most people would appreciate a card with a gift card tucked in it, consider being a little more creative when it comes to gift giving. A portrait of the employee’s pet, hosting a painting party for your team or sports memorabilia from an employee’s favorite team not only shows your creativity and caring, but that you pay attention to who your employees are as individuals.
Michelle Howison, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a human resources expert and has been a consultant to many Best Places to Work (BPTW) recipients. In fact, she’s taken several companies to BPTW status in less than two years, so she knows what it takes to create the right culture and environment to support employee satisfaction.
“It’s important to recognize employees as individuals and to make your recognition efforts personalized. Just as your customers are looking for personalization in their products and services, so are your employees,” she noted. Howison recommends giving employees a survey to complete when you’re in the onboarding process. Ask them what they consider a gift. Ask about their likes and dislikes, favorite stores, snacks and foods they love, authors they read, travel destinations they have on their bucket lists and more. Howison added that knowing this information about employees will ensure that they are rewarded with something that’s truly meaningful to them.
Give them handwritten notes and special thank yous. Although many people think the age of the handwritten note is dead, Howison said that’s just not true. “Most of my employees are younger and they still appreciate it. They appreciate that I take the time to write a note rather than blasting off a group email.” Howison said another great way to recognize employees, especially teen employees, is to send a note to their family sharing how much you value them or appreciate them. “Parents hope that their children behave appropriately in public when parents aren’t around and that they’re reliable and hard-working employees,” she said. “Taking the time to send a note to an employee’s parents not only reassures the parents but turns into an opportunity for the parents to praise their children for their great work.”
Amy P. Castro, MA, is a business, leadership and communication expert, author and speaker who helps pet industry professionals grow their loyal customer base by building a “Best in Show” team that can deliver a 5-Star Customer Experience.