Mar 26, 2002

Ten Low-Cost Steps to Keep Employees from Job Hunting

I recently read an on-line newsletter from a senior position
recruitment firm that because of the high turnover rate of senior managers,
even non-tech oriented companies were beginning to offer signing bonuses,
salaries of more than $100,000 and stock options for middle managers. In
addition, a newspaper career counselor recently advised a reader that unless
you had an employment contract, nine months was long enough for a job.


It was noted that if you move it should be for more than
just money. It should be for a better company fit, for skills enhancement and
that the move fit into the your career game plan.


The employment rules today are ... there are very few rules.
There’s no longer a stigma attached to people who have had three or four
job changes in the last few years. That’s good news for people who want
to “shop.” It’s bad news for companies.


Senior executives know that 60–80 percent of the
organization’s inventory leaves thru the front door every evening. Every
time part of that inventory doesn’t return it costs dearly to replace the
individual. Since no one has unlimited staffing budgets employee retention is
the best way to keep your largest cost under control.


The primary motivation for individuals who are job hunting
seldom is simply a bigger paycheck. There are low-cost efforts you can
undertake to retain the people you want to keep.


1,2 Flexible hours and telecommuting. Increasingly executives are realizing that offering
flexible hours and telecommuting are the most cost-effective ways to hire new
good people and retain present personnel. The combination of flex time and flex
place are inexpensive and convenient.


Many times it also makes better use of your overall physical
and fiscal resources. Managers are realizing they can focus on the best
possible person for the job regardless of where he or she lives. They eliminate
the high cost and personal disruption and concerns that surrounds relocation.
This is especially true for companies in New York City or California, where
housing costs and daily commutes are more than some people want to confront.


With telecommuters, companies also don’t have to pay
for office space, parking and commuting costs. In many instances the savings
can be substantial.


More than 60 percent of the nation’s firms have
increased the number of telecommuters over the past two years. According to
AT&T’s National Survey of Teleworker Attitudes and Work Styles, more
than 60 percent of the respondents felt telecommuting was positive for their
careers. Sixty-two percent found no difference in working at home and 15
percent felt more connected to their workgroups. Seventy-one percent were more
satisfied with their jobs after they began working at home.


In making the move, companies must outline the location and
hours of work, who owns the equipment and who’s responsible for repairs.
Many firms find that with Internet connectivity people are not only more
productive when they work off-site but they actually put in longer hours. The
individual’s commute is only 15 steps rather than more than 15 miles and
people can focus all of their attention on the task rather than routine office


3 Praise. It sounds
extremely simple but with reduced staffs, increased workload and compressed
time schedules, it is easy to forget compliments. While some people are
self-reliant and self-assured, it is amazing what a few well-chosen words

can do. People need to know that their efforts for the
company are recognized and appreciated.


This is especially true for junior people who may be taking
on projects or activities for the first time. Each success should be
acknowledged so the individuals will grow and have the confidence they are
growing personally and professionally. However, don’t overdo it and
don’t spread the praise around so much that it becomes meaningless.


4 Employees training employees. Firms spend hundreds of thousands or millions of
dollars each year conducting formal training sessions. For some of the skill
sets, formal training is a must.


However, increasingly organizations find that it is not only
more cost-efficient but also more effective to have employees teach each other.
The company’s most valuable resource is its people; leverage their
experience, capabilities and technical/work expertise. Mentoring allows
seasoned professionals to not only share theory but also “real
world” experience. This often is more valuable than classroom


It helps both the trainer and the trainee. The trainer gains
recognition for his or her technical or business expertise. The trainees gain
insights into practical applications and knowledge they can confidently and
immediately use.


5 Clear career paths. Let
employees know the company’s and department’s plans for the next
one, three and five years. Identify opportunities for people. Explain what is
required for them to move forward in the organization. Without a clear-cut
understanding of what they have to do to advance, people quickly become
demotivated. At that point they begin looking for “better”


6 Work with cutting-edge technology. Every organization advocates letting people work on
special or new technology implementation projects, but these programs and
projects often are given to the same few “stars.” The
high-potential types get the projects because management wants to make certain
the effort succeeds. As a result some members of the team never get the chance
to stretch themselves and grow.


If you find this occurring, use the team approach with teams
made up of senior and junior personnel. Keep in mind that even your best staff
members aren’t good at everything. Sometimes they can learn from new
members in the team. As individuals develop a broader range of understanding
and expertise let them lead teams on new projects. This keeps people from being
pigeonholed or left out so they cease to grow.


7 Shield your people. Whether
clients are internal or external, one of senior management’s most
important jobs is to manage and control the interaction between
“clients” and staff. Senior managers should be the lightning rod
that shields others in the team so they can focus on their work.


Because your work is an inexact science at best,
occasionally things will go awry despite the best plans and individual efforts.
When this happens, it’s the manager’s responsibility to not only
defend staff personnel but also take the heat. Once the problem is solved or
resolved, the individual(s) involved can be counseled on how the situation
could have been avoided or corrected so the problem is avoided in the future.


8 Emphasize benefits package value. If your company offers good benefits, make certain
employees know the value of those benefits above and beyond their weekly or
monthly paychecks. Depending on the company, benefits can be 20–30 percent
of their total compensation.


In addition, you may want to consider adding or offering
benefits that cost very little or nothing. Noncash incentives can be a key
means of retaining people. The right mixture of these incentives often helps
keep employees and often keeps them from leaving just for an increase in his or
her salary. Days off with pay at the completion of a major project, paying for
attending conferences and educational/informational seminars, flex time,
childcare, wellness credits, corporate or departmental health club sponsorship
and similar benefits can do a lot to keep people from considering job offers.


9 Supportive culture.
Recognizing birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions as well as impromptu
parties for the completion of a major project is a cultural activity that says
“you’re important” and “you matter.” Little things
can build big loyalty. However, when this cultural support comes down as a
corporate edict, it often is ineffective.


10 Small gifts, cash prizes. Small, impromptu gifts such as sporting event tickets, free meals,
theater tickets and on-the-spot cash awards of $25–$50 is a way for
department mangers to recognize an individual’s accomplishments or
contributions to the organization. But since incentive awards have become
commonplace they often can lose their effect. When the awards are given,
combine them with public recognition.


The football tickets or dinner aren’t important to
professional staff members and certainly won’t keep them from taking a
better job offer. However, receiving the recognition in front of their peers
can build team and organization loyalty.


When the big offers come they can force people to consider a
move. It’s up to corporate and department managers to use as many of the
low-cost incentives as possible to keep people from looking for a new job or
cut off overtures at the outset. Low-cost incentives should be part of your
total compensation program. Don’t take them for granted or you’ll continually be hiring and training new people. Constant replacement is far more expensive than the incentives.     

About the author

G.A. “Andy” Marken is president of Marken Communications, Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif. He may be reached at [email protected].