Seven Secrets to Employee Retention

Feb 6, 2015

Top Secrets to Employee Retention

At Kimmel & Associates we have a unique perspective on how to keep your most valuable employees. There are secrets to employee retention and we’re willing to share a few with you. Companies routinely conduct exit interviews to determine why they lost top talent. Many use an anonymous source like SurveyMonkey to determine why their new recruit just hit the door.

Pardon me, but at this point does it really matter? You have already lost—you’ve lost the time you put into onboarding this employee and you’ll lose more time as you search for and train his or her replacement. What you want to do is STOP being the loser in this game. Let me share with you some strategies that can help you WIN!

Is Salary the Secret to Retention?

Businesses often assume that money is the major consideration in employee retention. While salary certainly is a key factor, there are other motivators that influence retention. Firms often overlook the value of small considerations that impact employee satisfaction in a major way. After spending over 34 years in executive recruiting Kimmel & Associates has discovered that it’s NOT all about the money.

At Kimmel we talk with over 800,000 contacts each year—over 3,000 a day! We have developed personal relationships with over a million top candidates. We have listened to what they tell us about why they are dissatisfied in their current position. And we know what they hope to find in their next.

We’ve heard the same story over and over again. Here are seven surprising factors that will help you recruit new talent and retain your current key staff longer. And if you read through to the very end, I’ll reveal the Golden Rule of Retention.

  1. Communication

    Remember the signature line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke?” “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Communication in the workplace is vital to employee retention. A failure to communicate leads to frustration. Employees want to know what is happening. Is the company solid? Are you going to expand or tighten your belt? Company leaders should share both good news and bad. Uncertainty is the worst news. Without clear communication people will draw their own conclusions and these are generally much worse than reality.

  2. Opportunity

    People need to know they have a future at your company. There should be no doubt that your plan is for them to remain with you over the long haul. You should make it clear to employees that you see them in your company’s future. This gives them the confidence they need to “nest” and begin to put down roots in your company and in the community.

  3. Family and Quality of Life

    Years ago, one of my small children was shocked when she saw her teacher at the grocery store. She couldn’t imagine that the teacher had a life outside of class. Remember your employees have a personal life outside of work. Their outside life greatly impacts job satisfaction. A spouse is always 51% of the career decision. If you prove you care about an employee’s family and their quality of life your employee is much less likely to consider other opportunities. Do everything you can to set up a benefit program and perks that meet the needs of your employee and his or her family.

  4. Culture of Fellowship

    It’s easy to leave a job but hard to leave your friends. Creating an atmosphere of friendship and fellowship is one of the most important things you can do to generate company loyalty. Sponsor company events that let employees have fun together and be sure to engage the employee’s family. This is one of the most overlooked and underrated retention strategies.

  5. Challenging Work

    Nothing is more frustrating than hitting a wall. Often employers unintentionally create barriers by not providing challenging work. Talented people feel accomplishment when they rise to a challenge. Benjamin Franklin provided amazing insight when he said:

    Money has never made a man happy, nor will it.

    Talented people want an opportunity to excel. They want to be able to list milestones and accomplishments on their performance reviews or resumes. Companies who are most successful at retention set a high bar, help employees jump over it, and then set it again. If employees do not have opportunities to excel they will move on.

  6. Appreciation, Recognition, and Value

    Another aspect of communication is recognition. Be sure you regularly do things to show your appreciation for a job well done. This is the area where most companies have the greatest opportunity to improve. Recognition fosters loyalty and trust. And it costs only a small amount of time and money. It’s one of your best retention strategies. Try making a congratulatory phone call or personally passing by an employee’s desk to express your appreciation for the work they do. Never underestimate the powerful effect this has on employee retention. Other forms of recognition might be a personal email, gift card, or an invitation to dinner with you and your spouse. How about tickets to a sporting event or a concert? Whatever the method be sure you regularly communicate appreciation and recognition to employees. Let them know you value them. A small effort pays big dividends when it comes to employee retention!

  7. Trust and Integrity

    Company leaders should personify personal integrity. Their lifestyle should reflect company values. A character breach at the top is one of the most damaging events for employee retention. Good people will not work for someone they cannot trust implicitly. But they will run through fire for someone who has earned their absolute faith and trust.


    Recruiters will inevitably approach some of your key employees. When this happens remember retention really is about more than just salary. Your employees will likely create a pro and con list.  On one side will be all the reasons why he or she loves your company and wants to stay. On the other will be reasons why your employee may move on. As an employer, you want to be sure the pro side is loaded with reasons why the employee wants to reject that offer and stay with you. What’s the secret to employee retention? Make them feel special! Use the seven points above to continually reassure your employee that you need him or her and appreciate the work they do. Be sure you put your star employees in the limelight. Make them feel special and the pro list will always be weighted in your favor.

About the Author

Charlie Kimmel

As President and CEO, Charlie has dedicated his 25+ year career to executive search at Kimmel & Associates. Charlie joined Kimmel & Associates in 1990 as a Recruiter. In 1993, he graduated with honors from the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where he received a BA in History.

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