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by David Smith | March 10, 2009

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It happens all the time - a recruiter calls your top employees, asking how happy they are and would they be interested in learning about an exciting opportunity.


This kind of call can go a couple of different ways - they can smile, be flattered and politely say, "Thanks, but no thanks" or they can say, "I can't talk now. Call me at home."

In most cases, you can have an impact on the outcome, but you can only impact it by what you do before the call comes. We recruiters are not thieves who steal people who don't want to leave. We're making people aware of opportunities. It's up to you to make sure your employees have no reason to leave - that their greatest opportunity lies with you.

Employment Agreements
Enforceability of non-compete agreements can be a lifesaver, or only a mild deterrent. Each state is different and you should seek help from a competent attorney. (I'm not an attorney - please don't consider this legal advice - I'm just a guy who's seen a lot in my 15 years in the staffing business.) If you haven't had your employment agreement reviewed recently, you may find out the hard way that it doesn't meet current standards for what is reasonable and enforceable.

You can seriously compromise yourself if you do not consistently enforce your agreement. If you look the other way for some employees and not others, it will create problems. Inconsistency on your part encourages others to ignore the agreement, too. Relationships between employees do not end when someone leaves and they WILL talk!

Competitive Compensation
Are you paying your people enough to help them feel that they are getting a fair return on their efforts? You'll notice I didn't ask if you are paying more than anybody else is. If you are at least paying at an average level and have other things in place, your employees are not likely to leave for a small increase. Surveys have consistently shown that compensation is important but not the primary reason employees leave. ~ Consider establishing bonus programs and contests for all salaried employees. If you don't have them in place already, use your current performance standards and budget projections to create criteria. It is also important for your bonus plan to be one that celebrates success. A big potential bonus that is hard to reach may not be as attractive and motivational as ones that are incremental. A mixture of short term and long term goals tied to your bonus plan will help your staff enjoy frequent victories while keeping their eyes on the big picture as well.

Compensation means more than salary and bonus. Is your health insurance the best you can afford? How about your vacation/sick time off policy? Many companies are opting for a more progressive Personal Time program that allows employees to use time off without differentiating between the reasons it is used. In today's workforce, flexibility is a major issue. More people are striving to achieve a balance in their lives and the more you can acknowledge it, the lower your turnover will be.

Career Advancement
One of the most common reasons people leave is because they feel like they've hit a dead-end or the potential for advancement is so far down the road that they can't see it. Do your employees know what their next step can be? Discussions with employees about their career development needs to happen more often than at their initiative.

Are you providing ongoing training so they know you believe in them and in their future with you? Don't be drawn into believing you are just training them to work for a competitor. If you do not invest in their future, they will believe there is no future with you.

Company Culture
If your employee doesn't want to abandon you or their teammates, they will be less likely to leave. That means making sure that your staff has fun amid the furor of their daily lives. Bring in breakfast or lunch frequently - it's an inexpensive way to create a time for socialization and team building. When you have evening events (and if you don't, you should), invite family members. A spouse or significant other will have input on whether or not your employee changes jobs. Trust me on this. I've seen deals go bad because the employee's partner didn't want the change to happen. You need them on your side!

Does your environment encourage active participation in a Continuous Improvement program? People need to know that their opinion matters. Employees need to feel proud of their company and the quality they produce. Having input in how things are done creates "buy-in" and a sense of ownership.

Conclusion
By the time you hear that a recruiter has called your staff, it may be too late to act. (By the way, don't even bother to make a counteroffer. We recruiters preach incessantly about how bad it can be to accept one!) Even if it is not in your nature to be "warm and fuzzy", you can create loyalty, excitement about the future and a sense of family that will make your staff recruiter-proof.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues

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