Reward and Retain: Keeping Your Best Employees!

April 2016

Who can you really count on when the chips are down? If you answer with a list of employee names, those are the people who can keep your company functioning and thriving in times of stress. Having these people around in important positions throughout the company is invaluable. Good employees consistently work toward peak performance and can be counted on when obstacles arise. So how do you keep these employees in the fold?.
The first guideline that needs to be established is that of a positive work climate. People who like coming to work tend to do their best every day. With this in mind, employers need to get serious about following guidelines to retain good employees. Let’s focus on six essential areas that will help in accomplishing this goal:
Provide ongoing training in technical, management and leadership skills. This type of training must become a way of life in your organization. Your supervisors can provide technical training on the job by setting the atmosphere for training the employees thoroughly in their jobs; explaining and demonstrating the key technical skills; letting the employee do his/her job; and following up to determine if the employee is doing the job properly.
This technical training should be ongoing and continually reinforced. You also have to expose your foremen and superintendents to functional and adaptive skills training such as planning, leading, organizing and controlling; dealing effectively with people; communicating; motivating self and others; establishing a motivational climate; building teamwork and appraising performance and accountability.
If supervisors don’t receive training in these areas, they may become disenchanted with the organization and then eventually leave (if you don’t get rid of them first).
Set goals. Goal setting, which is setting specific, measurable targets to accomplish in a specified time frame, is extremely important because it is a tool for the following keys to success.
Monitor performance. Workers need to know how they’re doing according to standards.
Give direction so that they know what’s expected of them and, as a result, have a clear focus on what has to be done.
Involve workers in the overall work plan by asking them for their input prior to setting goals that affect their team.
Through goal-setting, employees feel like they’re key members of the team. When employees feel that way, there’s little chance they will leave.
Provide incentives. Incentives are tangible rewards that are given to those who are peak performers and make positive contributions to the profitability of the company. You need to pay incentives for the critical factors affecting productivity, such as effective labor management and quality, or maintaining a safe work environment with sounds safety practices. If the foreman and his crew are highly safety-conscious, you may want to add an additional percentage for the safety factor.
Additional dollars could also be set aside for such other critical factors as effective utilization of tools and equipment, attendance and punctuality and working effectively with others.
Employee participation. Involving employees in decision-making gives workers stronger feelings of loyalty to a company. Before making any changes that affect employee performance, it is suggested that you meet with the workers in advance to explain the reasons for the change and to determine if they have any ideas for implementing the change. If you’re not going to use the employee’s suggestion, then it’s important that you explain why.
Provide positive reinforcement. This is giving people positive feedback for doing good work. It’s the concept of finding somebody doing something right and letting him know you appreciate it. There’s a leadership principle that says, “When you reinforce positive behavior, it tends to repeat itself.” When giving positive feedback, make sure the following three elements are included:
Be specific. Rather than say “your quality is good” say the following: “On your last three jobs there was no rework, and I want you to know that you have made a positive contribution to the profitability of the job.”
Be timely. The best time to give positive feedback is right away.
Be relevant. Don’t just toss compliments around. Make sure you’re giving positive feedback for positive actions that enhance the overall success of the job.
Improve worker motivation. There are a variety of things that you can do to facilitate worker motivation and create the desire for people to stay with the company:

  • Increase pay as an employee’s skill improves or when they take on more responsibility.
  • Clearly explain what you expect of people and follow up to ensure that they’re meeting expectations.
  • Provide coaching if they’re not sure of how to do something or if they’re having difficulty performing an assigned task.
  • Remove the barriers that have a negative impact on employee performance and morale.
  • Encourage feedback so that negative situations can be dealt with right away.
  • Let employees work without interference.
  • Give employees all of the resources they need to do their job effectively.
  • Provide ongoing feedback on employee performance.

All in all, the most important lesson to take away from this article is that the retention of good employees is not a foregone conclusion. It is up to the employer to take action so that the workplace is conducive to employee satisfaction. You don’t want to lose peak performers if you can help it, so help it!

Norb Slowikowski is president of Slowikowski & Associates, Inc., Darien, Ill. To contact him, email