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Empowering Employees for Retention and Success

In today’s competitive job market, employee retention is more critical than ever. Companies invest significant resources in hiring and training talent, only to see them leave within a few years. The primary reason? Ineffective management and lack of actionable feedback. Imagine a basketball team where the coach only provides scores and vague labels like "strong performer." Would the team improve? Unlikely. They would seek out another coach and team, one that provides clear, actionable feedback and fosters growth.

Similarly, employees need more than just performance labels to thrive. They need transparent expectations, personalized career planning, tools for actionable feedback, and fair compensation. Let’s explore these strategies in detail and understand how they can transform your organization.

1. Get Real: Be Transparent with New Hires

When hiring, transparency is key. Many new hires, like Sarah, start their jobs with only a vague idea of what it takes to succeed. They guess at the milestones needed for promotions and career advancement. By clearly outlining expectations and making implicit contracts explicit, you can eliminate guesswork and set your employees up for success.

For instance, at your company, you could implement a policy where achieving specific targets in the first six months triggers a promotion review. This kind of clarity helps new hires understand what is expected and reduces anxiety, leading to better performance and job satisfaction.

2. Invest in Career Planning for Everyone

Career planning should not be reserved for high potentials alone. Every employee, like John, benefits from having a clear, annually updated career plan that includes training and skill-building opportunities. This investment shows employees that the company values their growth and is committed to their long-term success.

Imagine implementing a comprehensive career planning program at your organization. Employees like John, who receive regular updates and support for their career goals, are more likely to stay engaged and loyal. This approach not only boosts retention but also enhances overall job satisfaction and productivity.

3. Provide Tools for Actionable Feedback

Like a good coach, provide employees with specific, frequent, and respectful feedback. Implementing feedback scripts can dramatically improve performance. For example, consider your team member, Lisa. With feedback tools, she receives clear, actionable advice regularly. Lisa knows exactly what she needs to improve and what she’s doing well, which boosts her confidence and performance.

By providing feedback scripts and regular check-ins, you foster a culture of continuous improvement, much like a successful sports team. This investment in feedback tools and training will pay off in higher employee engagement and better performance.

4. Keep People at Market Pay

Fair compensation is crucial for retention. Underpaying employees is a short-sighted approach that often leads to higher turnover and increased costs. Let’s break down the numbers to see why paying market rates is crucial.

Consider an employee, Alex, who starts at a $70,000 salary. In the first year, Alex provides $35,000 worth of value due to the initial learning curve. If Alex is underpaid and only receives a 3% raise in the second year while the market rate increase is 10%, the gap grows:

- Year 1: Salary $70,000, Value $35,000

- Year 2: Raise 3% ($2,100), Market rate increase 10% ($7,000)

By the end of the second year, Alex's salary is $72,100, but the market rate is $77,000. Feeling undervalued, Alex is likely to leave. Replacing Alex costs you 50% of the new hire’s salary in training, which can be around $40,000.

Instead, if you keep Alex at market rate:

- Year 1: Salary $70,000, Value $35,000

- Year 2: Raise 10% ($7,000), Salary $77,000

Alex stays, providing full value and more over time. Keeping employees at market pay ensures you retain experienced staff, saving money on recruitment and training in the long run.

5. Turn Around Under-performance with Actionable Feedback

So, what if Sarah, our hypothetical employee, is not performing well? As a former general counsel, my biggest learning was that specific actionable feedback can turn performance around when everyone is on board—the manager, the admin team, and the employee. Even if you get the manager's buy-in, it's useless if the employee doesn’t buy in.

One of the most surprising and in hindsight obvious things I’ve seen at Chea Seed is that when employees get negative feedback, their minds are often already focused on leaving. We actually saw dissatisfaction with advice when coaches gave guidance about how to navigate feedback people didn’t like. People wanted job search help immediately. So, we had to change our coaches’ approach to agree on goals before advice was given.

If your employee is not in a culture where feedback is seen as a gift, it could initially be challenging. Feedback needs to come with a commitment to investing in the employee. Will everyone perform well? Of course not, but you hired that person for a reason, and those reasons are still there. How can your organization invest to highlight their strengths and minimize the negatives? Again, if it’s seen as a math problem instead of a human problem, it’s often easier to overcome.

Retaining top talent requires more than just good intentions. It demands a strategic approach that includes transparency, career planning, actionable feedback, and fair compensation. By investing in these areas, you not only boost retention but also create a more motivated, productive, and loyal workforce. Remember, just like in sports, a well-coached team always outperforms one that’s left to figure things out on their own. Empower your employees today, and watch your organization thrive.

We are excited to announce that Chea Seed will be available for groups starting in June 2024 for HR departments, search firms, and college career and alumni offices. We are also offering our services to non-profit groups at zero cost for the first year, as making expert career help accessible is our mission. Try Chea Seed for your group and experience the transformation firsthand.


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