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Attracting and Retaining the Best Employees: Which Employer Benefits Do the Trick?

By Townes Haas   |    June 20, 2014   |    3:58 PM

What Employees Look for in Companies That Make Them Come and Stay

While this shouldn’t be news to anyone, employees don’t like being treated like a number. Yet oftentimes, businesses forget this and think that their best employees are replaceable – or at least that’s how they treat the person that was poached by another company or quit.

According to Forbes, to replace a key employee, it can cost “between 70% and 200% of the person’s compensation”. Further, it may be difficult to find another employee with the same skill set and experience. Employers may have to look hard to find someone whose skills are comparable to the employee who just walked.

Why Employees Leave

Most of the time, employees have been giving signs for months or possibly years that they’re not happy. This unhappiness depends on the employee: wanting more money, bored, unappreciated, etc. Companies, however, very seldom ask an employee the reason for leaving before it’s an issue. There might be an exit interview where the employee will sometimes air their grievances, but by that time it’s too late.

Even when an employee is satisfied with their job, 85% of workers will still talk to a recruiter or keep their eye out for better opportunities. Additionally, there are companies who actively look for opportunities to poach your best employees by offering them a better work environment or salaries. In fact, with the economy picking up, some people are predicting that employee poaching may increase in 2014.

Basically, there is no single reason for why employees leave – but they will leave if they’re dissatisfied with some aspect of their job or working environment. So how does a business go about attracting and keeping good employees?

What Businesses Can Do to Attract Employees – and Get Them to Stay

It would probably surprise most companies that the number one reason for a person not taking or leaving a job has little to do with salary. Employees do want to be paid well, but they also want a lot more.

What good employees want from companies consist of:

  1. Varied, challenging jobs: No employee wants to sit in a job and do the same thing day-in and day-out. They want new challenges and opportunities to learn new skills. Most employees have multiple skills; let them use them. Then, give them opportunities to take classes and learn new skills.

  2. Competitive salaries: While they don’t have to be paid the highest in the industry, they do want something that is competitive with other similar-sized businesses. Small businesses can research the salaries paid by other businesses in their area usually at the local Chamber of Commerce or industry association. Oftentimes, these associations have surveys of salaries in the area. Use them to stay on par with the competition. Also, offer a competitive benefits program and specialty perks like coupons to a local gym or taking employees to lunch once a month.

  3. Open Relationships: Employees want to work in an environment where they feel empowered to talk to their managers and share their thoughts and opinions. They also want their opinion to actually be important. Managers play a great role in why employees stay or go. If a company has a reputation of managers who micromanage and don’t listen to their subordinates, the business will never attract the right talent.

  4. It’s More than a Job; It’s a Lifestyle: If businesses are near golf courses, ski resorts, lakes, etc., use these perks in job openings marketing, and then let employees actually enjoy these activities. For example, let employees that work hard have an extra long lunch hour to go golfing or boating.

  5. Work-life Balance: Most employees have families. So they want a little flexibility in their workplace to accommodate doctors’ appointments, kids getting sick and the like. Plus, some employees may also want to work from home a couple of days of week or even have flex time where they work a four-day work week every other week.

  6. Recognition: Employees want to know that they’re appreciated. That appreciation can come from a simple thank you note to profit-sharing. The more incentives that can be given employees to work hard, the more they’ll come to a company and stay.
Companies Doing it Right

Google may be viewed as the “Evil Empire” by many outside the organization, but it has figured out how to keep its employees happy. With everything from on-site “laundry facilities to volleyball courts, from nap areas to a slide connecting work floors”, the company has seen a 12% improvement in productivity because of employee happiness. Google demonstrates that if employees are treated well, they’ll not only stay, but work even harder for the company.

Another tech company, HP empowers its employees by rewarding them for volunteering, paying for up to 12 hours of volunteer time per quarter. These types of incentives keep employees engaged in and make them feel good about giving back to their community. According to LinkedIn, community involvement especially attracts and motivates Millennials.

Ross Perot famously used a “bounty system” to attract employees to EDS. Employees who referred candidates that were actually hired received a payment. And it wasn’t just a one-time payment; further incentives were paid “when the person started work, when the person passed his first anniversary, when the person received a promotion, etc.”

This system encouraged current employees to find great people – and to make sure that those people stayed, a win-win for both the company and employees. Employees want to be valued from the beginning. They’ll do their research beforehand. Companies with good reputations will get and keep the great employees.

What has your experience been with attracting and retaining employees? Let us know in the comments!