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How to retain key employees? (It’s not always about money)

Every employee is a key employee. As a performance professional, you are always looking for new business. This often means winning a business that is someone else’s main customer your key customer. You are not alone. You have a team or office that supports you. Competitors do their best to convince some of your key employees to become their key employees. How can you create an environment when they hang up on those competitor calls?

Strategy #1: Pay more money

It is often assumed that people move because someone else has offered them more money. The knee-jerk reaction is to offer your team member more money for staying. They tell them that they are an integral part of the team. They ask themselves, “If I’m so important, why didn’t you offer me more money sooner?” Meanwhile, industry publications conduct surveys and publish articles detailing the average salaries for various job descriptions in metropolitan areas. This strategy can work, but there are alternatives.

You’ve heard the phrase “golden handcuffs.” If your firm also advises on compensation plans, this may be an area where you have first-hand experience. Many companies award annual bonuses based on the company’s, office’s and employee’s performance over the past year. The big advantage is the one-time payment. Unlike a raise, the raise doesn’t become an integrated annual expense. The “golden handcuffs” come into play when the grant involves stock options, restricted shares, and vesting. This drives up costs for the competitor trying to hire them, as the key employee leaves money on the table by moving.

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Strategy #2: However, remember that money isn’t the only motivator

Many factors contribute to our financial comfort. Are you a one or two income family? Do you have kids in college? Are you in an area with a high cost of living? What are your overhead costs? In other words, although everyone wants money, for some people more is less of a motivator.

One financial advisor in New York has always impressed me because she has little or no staff turnover. I think in 25 years she only had three assistants. She explained the importance of taking the time to learn what people care about, rather than assuming that the solution is always “paying more money.” Here are some things that might be important to your key employees:

  • Continuing education. The key employee may be attending college courses in their free time. Maybe they’re working towards an advanced degree. Paying for some or all of your tuition and allowing flexible hours for study during exam time can make a difference.
  • Communicate company values ​​to others. Some key employees take pride in their company and are happy to educate new employees on the values ​​and culture and how to do the job efficiently. They are grateful for their career and want to instill the same value in others. You may be very fortunate to lead the office orientation and training program.
  • industry recognition. Some appreciate their professionalism. You join the industry trade group, lead the local chapter and want to attend the regional and national conference. You see yourself as a representative of the company. They can be very loyal if you cover their membership fees and the cost of attending conferences. They give them time to attend meetings and perform their club duties. They present them in office meetings and ask them to report on conferences.
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In these cases you have identified something more important than money. It’s often an activity. They have supported and sponsored her interest.

Strategy #3: Take care of them as individuals

We have friends in Asia. We hear stories about a bottomless labor pool. If someone leaves, their position can be filled immediately. We’ve heard that some of these companies don’t lay off employees because it would incur compensation costs. They make the work environment so unpleasant that the employee quits. When people are seen as anonymous and easily replaceable, loyalty disappears.

Let’s say you’re a star in the performance business. You have one or more people who support you. Your team members are convinced that you are successful. You could be promoted to management or work for a competitor. You are emotionally invested in your success. They worry about what will happen to them if you leave.

The first step in building loyalty is showing them they have a career, not just a job. There should be a path of ascension. Associates in law firms aspire to become partners. As your unlicensed assistant earns their certifications, they will transition from an administrative to a professional role. You get more respect. You may have a path for administrative staff to join the sales team, giving them higher earning potential.

Another strategy for developing loyalty is shared goals. If you do more business, they make more money. This would be made clear by the figures for each quarter. If you exceed your goal, you earn more. Now everyone is rowing in the same direction. You understand your business and you know your customers. If they have been rented away, this advantage disappears.

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Coming back to the “what happens next” scenario, a good assistant needs to know that as you rise in management, they have the opportunity to follow you up the ladder. In other words, you will bring them with you. This is common practice in large companies. Managers often bring their own people along because they are reliable and well-known figures.

When you share your success, you give people a career path and explain that loyalty works both ways. You should have a dedicated team.

Bryce Sanders is President of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW customer acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, Captivating the Wealthy Investor, is available on Amazon.

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