5 Low-Cost Ways to Keep Your Top Employees

5 Low-Cost Ways to Retain Your Best Employees

Keeping star employees on your team is critical to your success as well as the long-term results of the organization.

This can be a real challenge. Star employees who consistently deliver are always in demand, no matter how the economy is doing or what the unemployment statistics say.

Sometimes, traditional methods of employee recognition are unavailable.  You can’t give them a promotion because there aren’t any open positions. You can’t offer them a raise because there’s no money budgeted this year.

Instead, consider a lower cost, higher return-on-investment option.

Encourage them to create the job they love.

This approach establishes a protective barrier between your star employees and the barrage of suitors including recruiters, managers from other departments, and your competition; thus making it easier to retain them.

It also engages them to create the job they love without getting trapped in the mindset that the grass might be greener on the other side, which increases employee productivity.

Note this approach involves your employees taking action so it means less, not more work for you. All that is required from you is encouragement and openness to a new perspective.

Here are five strategies to keep your star employees by allowing them to create the jobs they love:

1. Encourage Employees to Continually Redefine their Job

It’s easy to let a job description confine them to work they’re tired of. Challenge them to see it as the “clay on the wheel” that they mold in a way that not only meets your organization’s needs but also broadens their potential.

Ask them to dream bigger for their current role. Think of their job description as a starting point for their job –not the end point. What does that mean about the possibilities for creating something new for their work day?

2. Ask them to Create a Work Wish List

Demonstrate interest in their development by asking them to write a list of the work that’s engaging. Work that plays to their natural strengths, passion and skills doesn’t feel like ‘work’. Spending the day on engaging work is less depleting, and they’ll find themselves more confident and more inclined to be generous with their time, energy, and focus.

Just showing interest here will boost your star employees’ feeling of appreciation. You’ll use their work wish list for the remaining strategies below.

3. Teach them to Play to their Strengths

Ask them how they can modify their current work to make it more engaging. It may not be realistic to eliminate all the work that wears your star employee down, but you can help modify some work responsibilities to play to their strengths.

For example, the only way I could survive an Excel analysis was to schedule a presentation to share the findings. I could then approach the required work with more enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I’ve had clients who enjoyed preparing presentations but dreaded presenting. They made sure to include lots of film clips and group breakouts.

All these actions modify the work you have to do and make it more motivating. Ask them how they could slightly modify their work to play more to their strengths.

4. Encourage them to Collaborate

Thankfully, humans are unique individuals who enjoy different kinds of work. Ask them to stay on the lookout for collaborators with different skills and interests.

This step might sound unusual, and that’s because it is. There’s a common perspective that suggests we should all strive to be good at everything instead of tapping into each other’s strengths.

Ask them to list their three closest coworkers. What are they good at, and what are their biggest challenges? Where could your star employees help them? Where could they help you?

5. Ask them Which Tasks they Enjoy Most

Many employees assume the boss knows the areas where they are most proficient–a risky assumption. Unless your star employees articulate what work is most engaging for them, they may be assigned whatever tasks seem like a good fit or whatever they’d prefer not to do themselves. This can lead to frustration, so ask them to give you examples of work they would prefer to do.

Now select one of the strategies above, and try it in your next conversation with some of your star employees. Notice the positive impact it makes.


P.S: Download my free report, 7 Strategies for Senior Leaders To Get the Most Out of Their Workforce

A modified version of this article originally appeared in Ben Fanning’s Inc Magazine column