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4 Keys to Craft an Effective Employee Retention Strategy

Updated: Sep 22, 2022

We have all heard the trendy term “quiet quitting” and read stories about the “great resignation” in the past months. The fact is that there are around 1 million job vacancies in Canada today. These issues combined with concerns over employee retention are sobering revelations for many business leaders.

As I speak with business owners across the country, they tell me that employee retention issues, together with the difficulty of attracting talented candidates, threatens their ability to thrive, grow and, in some cases, even survive. One interesting point I do notice is that many people think that employee retention is all about higher pay or better benefits. The fact is, compensation is only one of the many factors that engage and retain talented employees. A recent article in Harvard Business Review states that “even those who highlight the motivational effects of money accept that pay alone is not sufficient.” So does money make our jobs more enjoyable? No, not necessarily. It’s a component, but more pay doesn’t always mean you’re happy and motivated in your job.

So what does this mean for business leaders concerned with hiring and retaining the right employees? For many, it’s questioning how they are doing things to insure the retention of their current team members. You might ask, “What makes up a good retention strategy anyway?” Let’s look at a few key elements that I have found to be very helpful over the years when it comes to successful employee retention.

1) Acknowledgement – As a busy business leader, you have lots of things to occupy your mind and your daily schedule so it’s often in the day to day that we take for granted the ongoing contributions of our valued employees. It might be as simple as someone who always remembers to order the right supplies for the break room. Perhaps it’s the late-shift employee who shovels the walk before they leave in the morning. Consider also that salesperson who leaves home at 5:00 am to make that early morning client meeting. Whatever the level of personal effort, all these things contribute to your team’s success and the future growth of your business. For this reason, you, as the leader, need to ensure that there is opportunity to recognize the individual contributions of your team members. This can be as simple as telling them how much you appreciate that they remembered to refill the copy machine paper when you notice them doing it.

In many cases, creating a formal rewards program can play a key role in creating the cultural norm of acknowledgement. Together with appropriately structured compensation plans and performance management programs, the importance of a rewards program cannot be overstated. The recognition employees receive for their years of tenure, internal promotions or the completion of training programs can go a long way towards saying “We appreciate your effort.” Your goal is to embed this into the culture of your organization.

2) Opportunity for growth and advancement – We all see the various statistics on average length of tenure in different industries and types of roles. Many times, it’s necessary for an employee to leave if we can’t offer them the next opportunity in their career. With this in mind, team leaders need to prepare for that. Look for every opportunity you can find to keep them on the team. This is especially true in small to medium sized businesses where, in many cases, the company’s competitive advantage is their unique culture and how they do things. On-boarding and getting new employees up to speed is time consuming and costly. It’s not easy or quick to convey your company culture to a new employee. That is why it is critical to establish growth opportunities where you can to ensure continued employee retention.

Providing opportunities for growth sends the message that you care about your team. These don’t always need to be formal in structure. For example, peer-to-peer learning activities can be very effective. Giving a promising junior employee in the warehouse the opportunity to work in customer service could pay huge dividends. Synergies can be created by providing employees with the opportunity to learn how the different departments can work together to improve your service offering. In addition, it provides a potential pool of new customer service reps in the case of a promotion, attrition, or someone leaves to become the next sales manager elsewhere. If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it should have been that having a backup for absent employees is critical to ensuring seamless customer service and internal support.

3) Education and Training – Establishing programs to learn new job skills from their peer groups with on-the-job training says, “Hey, your growth is important.” Additionally, education programs, either in-house or provided by an outside training firm, will benefit you. It’s a very effective aspect of your retention strategy to recognize high potential employees and provide the right person with professional growth opportunities. Nothing makes you feel better than having someone tell you that they want to invest in your development and future growth potential.

These programs should be formalized and available in a fair and equitable manner. Usually, training is required to be focused on developing skill sets directly connected to an employees specific role. Sometimes they are structured as an employer reimbursement plan to allow for growth opportunities outside the employee’s current job scope. In any case, the employer will undoubtedly receive more in return from that employee than the initial educational investment.

Many SME’s lack the internal resources to provide specific training like sales and leadership coaching. In this case, an investment with a third party business coach and trainer is very valuable. It will pay dividends in improved performance and your bottom line. Whatever the investment you might make, I assure you the business will benefit from the level of renewed engagement and improved performance.

4) Gratitude – Gratitude can be conveyed to your employees in many different ways. I believe the more individual, situational and genuine it is, the more effective. It might be as simple as praise for going beyond normal job requirements or a specific task well done. One of the benefits of recognition and gratitude is building trust between eployees and creating an atmosphere where they are more likely to help each other.

No matter how it’s shown, the bottom line is; Praise and recognition are crucial components of well-rounded work cultures and an essential ingredient in any retention strategy. Moreover, if employees feel valued and cared for, they will value and care for their colleagues, customers and teammates. Just as stress promotes stress, so too does caring promote more caring. People want to feel valued and to know that their talents and skills are being put to good use.

If you would like to learn more about employee retention, leadership & sales training or other business development initiatives please contact us at:



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