Employee Retention: Keep Good Employees


How the Golden Rule Will Help You Keep Your Employees

Religious leaders preach it. Educators teach it. Parents strive to set a good example with it. The question is, will following the Golden Rule in the workplace result in improved employee retention?

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Golden Rule

Back in the day, employee retention was not the problem it is now. Workers prided themselves on how long they stayed with the same company. Receiving a gold watch or other recognition after 30 or 40 years of service was something to strive for. But times have changed.

These days, many employees keep an eagle eye on the job market, looking for higher pay, better working conditions and more attractive benefit plans. On the other side of the coin, many employers are constantly seeking to upgrade their workforce with associates who are more productive and less expensive. These factors contribute greatly to the current employee retention crisis.

Assembling a workforce represents a costly investment in time, money and effort. But employee retention is a challenge for many companies. Once you’ve got great people, how can you keep them from looking for greener pastures? What are the companies who are top in keeping their employees ‘down on the farm’ doing? Here are five proven ways to encourage employee retention.


At companies like Sodexo, a food and facilities giant, mentoring programs deliver a 2-to-1 return on investment. Experienced staffers are paired with newbies. There is a two-month check-in followed by an email survey every six months.

According to Jodi Davidson, Director of Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives, “Our studies show that for every one dollar we invest in the program, we get two dollars back in things like reduced turnover, increased productivity, increased customer satisfaction, and more efficient management overall.”

When I started teaching, the principal chose an experienced old-timer to guide me along the way. From lesson plans to contacting parents to setting up a schedule for changing bulletin boards, the mentor helped smooth what might have been a very bumpy road. Having her available to answer questions gave me peace of mind and, when problems arose, I knew who to turn to for direction. Instead of turning tail and looking for another position, I settled in for the long haul.” – Anne R., Michigan

Contests, Incentives, and Perks Big and Small

Everyone likes to be told they did a good job, right? It may seem elementary, but one of the top reasons for employee dissatisfaction is feeling undervalued. Just like kids strive to get gold stars for a job well done, employees covet words of praise. Internal recognition is one of the best ways to improve employee retention rates. When employees feel recognized by their employer, studies show they are more satisfied in their jobs.

The best recognition programs aren’t really ‘programs’ at all. There’s no start or end date, only the act of saying to someone — in front of other people — ‘You did good.’” – Paul Hebert, VP of Solution Design.

Employers can also use contests and other incentives to keep good employees motivated and energized. Who doesn’t want to win a trip to the Caribbean? Don’t have that kind of money? How about a gift certificate to a local eatery or tickets to a movie? If your employees have to work on the weekend, why not provide breakfast pastries on Saturday morning and pizza or subs for lunch on Sunday. Even these small outlays of money can have surprisingly big results when it comes to employee retention.

Years ago, I worked as a part-timer for a large retail company. I loved their badge recognition program. Fellow employees and management could fill out a card if they wanted to compliment an associate for going above and beyond. When an associate got a certain number of cards, they received a gold star on their red name badge. And, after a certain number of gold stars, they received a badge of distinction – silver, then gold, then platinum, and finally, diamond. A small monetary prize accompanied the new badge – but honestly, it was the badge which you wore on a daily basis that was the more important recognition.” – Vivian K., Colorado

Leadership Academies and Training Programs

Some companies put intensive training programs in place that constitute a large upfront investment. However, the results seem to pay off handsomely. According to Will Sutton, Executive Vice-President of BB&T, the bank’s internal Invest in your employees like you invest at the bank. Leadership Development Program has significantly boosted employee retention rates. “We studied retention levels over a five year period and found that — for graduates of the Leadership Development Program — the rate was 76%.” This is 45% higher than the average retention rate for new employees who do not complete the program.

When you invest in your employees, you demonstrate you believe in them. And when you spend the time and money to help them grow and develop, you can promote from within, which is another key factor in improving employee retention. Employees who know they have gone as high as they can will be more likely to look elsewhere for advancement.

Insurance and Retirement Plans

Pennywise and pound foolish.”

Don’t be frugal with small amounts of money, but wasteful with large ones. That’s exactly what happens when employers are so stingy with salaries and/or benefits that their employees are constantly leaving for companies that are more generous. You need to pay what your employees are worth, not the least that they will accept. Otherwise, you will incur the big costs of advertising, interviewing, and training new employees.

Recently, I was hired with a structured program of bonuses if I reached certain census goals within the year. I reached them within six months. Unfortunately, the owners of the company had underestimated my abilities and weren’t prepared to pay what they had promised. They made good on their promises, which included a raise in salary and the title of VP. However, they insisted on a new contract, which eliminated the bonus structure. Instead of a true reward, the company shortsightedly penalized me for my success…their success. So I left.” – Kevin H., Indiana

If Kevin had stayed, he would not have been able to make as much in his new position as he had in the old one. The owners had forgotten the Golden Rule. They had to advertise, interview and go through the process of training a new person. If they had treated Kevin as they would want to be treated, he’d still be there, helping them reach new levels.

Communication Between Employer and Employee

Whether your company has regularly scheduled meetings, an open door policy, or both, you need to provide a way for your employees to stay in touch with you. Employees who feel disconnected from the company culture will soon be working for a different company.

According to Mark Murphy, author of The Deadly Sins of Employee Retention and CEO of Leadership IQ, a Washington D.C.-based executive education firm, companies need to hold monthly check-ins with every employee to see what is motivating them and demotivating them. “Instead of getting two weeks’ notice when somebody is quitting, if you’re doing these conversations regularly, you should get a minimum of four months notice if you’ve got a real problem with an employee, and that’s just light-years better,” he says. Plus, this close communication gives employers a chance to address problems when they are still small enough to diffuse.

Putting in place an open door policy where 7 Sins of Business: Keep Good Employees frank discussions can take place without repercussions is another way to increase employee satisfaction. But just make sure the door doesn’t slam in the employee’s face if they criticize company policies or complain about management.

Remembering the Golden Rule – treat others as you would like to be treated – is a great way to temper your response to employees who aren’t happy. It can motivate you to use mentoring programs, implement internal recognition, support employee development, provide competitive benefit packages, and stay in touch. It can help you improve employee retention, which in turn will increase profits, keep your company operating more smoothly and contribute to reaching your business goals – which is really what running a company is all about, right?

The Author

Straight from the desk of

Kimmel & Associates

Kimmel & Associates

Marketing & Communcations

Kimmel is an executive search firm located in Asheville, North Carolina. Our professional recruiters are committed to exceeding client expectations. They work with the same dedication, honesty, and attitude of service that has been the Kimmel standard for over 34 years.

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