SMB HR: 10 Strategies to Retain Top Employees

Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Posted by John Beagle

Management expert Jeff Kortes says to "Fire the Slugs, your good performers will love you."

Every SMB has some type of employee turnover problems.  Depending on the study you look at, the impact of turnover ranges from three months of salary for a low level employee who leaves to as high as 400 percent of the annual salary of an upper-level person who leaves. 

According to Jeff Krtes, “It’s doesn’t have to be all bad,” says management expert Jeff Kortes, author of the book No Nonsense Retention. Jeff explains, 

“There’s good turnover, and bad turnover.”

Firing a non-performer is good turnover. When a top performing employee leaves to go elsewhere and leaves your organization with a huge void, it’s bad turnover.  It can affect the performance of the entire SMB.    

“If you are going to maximize your organization’s performance you have to make a conscious, top-down management decision and commitment to develop a no nonsense approach to retention.” 

Here are Jeff Kortes' top must-do actions items for retaining the human assets you’ve worked so hard to acquire:

1.            Start at the top!  Assess your supervisory and management team!  Seventy percent of the people say that the worst thing about their job is the boss.  Find out what’s wrong and fix it! Identify the prima donnas and micromanaging control freaks, the whiners, complainers, and blamers. Get them basic supervisory training  and improve their performance continuously. If you are the boss, take ownership!

2.            Clean Up the House!  Identify the non-performers. Identify the poor managers and supervisors. If they do not respond to training and show significant improvement, remove them from an influential role and replace them with someone that does what is truly desired and required for the role and position they are in.

3.      Manage Visibly!  Get out of the ivory tower.  Begin each day by walking around.  Stroll around the floor several times a day. Meet the customers, talk with employees, visit with the supervisors, greet the vendors, help the delivery trucks load and unload.  Get out of your office.  Let your employees know you are there and that you care. The point here is that you set lead by example.  If they like you they are less likely to leave you. Visibility drives retention.

4.      Care About Your People!  If you don’t really care about your people, your business is doomed. Caring is the reason why people stay. Get to know your people. Learn what each person likes and enjoys. Listen to them and learn about their interests, families, and hobbies.  Protect your people from harm and from others in your organization.  People are loyal to those who care about them and care for them.

5.      Keep your door open 80% of the time. Let your people know you are accessible to them. Avoid telling people to make an appointment or come back later. Make sure the time you do spend with your people is quality time.

6.      Focus on Employee Assistance Actively.  Sit down with the other managers in your organization and identify the problems that are faced by people in your workforce.  Develop innovative ideas and deploy specific new plans to provide employees with more flexibility in their work, support for their common needs, and help for dealing with personal issues that impact their life.

7.      Treat Everyone with Respect Always!  Every leader and manager and supervisor must set the standard that respectful behavior and sincere open appreciation are expected with no exceptions! Investigate and take immediate action of all non-respectful behavior incidents. Have the managers and supervisors bring food to be shared on a regular basis!  Break bread with your people regularly instead of forcing people to eat baloney. 

8.      Ask Your People What They Want!  Sit down with your people and ask them what they want out of their work. Identify what they want to grow, to develop greater control, autonomy and responsibility for the work they do for you.  Help them achieve these goals specifically and incrementally.  Meaningful engagement in their own future drives commitment and loyalty.

9.      Tell Your People What You Want of Them!  Be specific, clear and make sure you explain what you expect of them. Give them the tools, support and the time they need to get the work done. If they do not meet your expectations, bring them in and talk with them and find out what it will take to get them on track.

10.    Fire the Slugs.  Hold your people accountable for their performance.  If they don’t solve the problem, then terminate them with respect and dignity. Your good performers will love you. 

About the Author:
Jeff Kortes is President of Human Asset Management, a management consulting services firm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He has over 30 years’ experience in human resources in both public and private sector organizations in high tech, consumer products, manufacturing and construction industries. He received a B.S. Business Administration at Marquette University and an M.S.A. in Human Resources at Central Michigan University. He is a member of the National Speakers Association in Wisconsin and an adjunct faculty member at Upper Iowa University. Contact:  Jeff Kortes 414-421-9626 Tel

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