Human Resources

Retaining Employees: Don’t Let the Competition Poach Your Star Employee

retaining employees

Finding and retaining employees with talent can be one of the biggest challenges a small business owner faces. To make matters more difficult, once you find a “superstar,” you need to be on your toes to prevent competitors from poaching that employee.

It’s only natural that such talent-robbing activities go on. The attributes that make your superstar so appealing to you may look equally promising to other employers. Fortunately there are things you can do to minimize the odds that he or she will either start to look elsewhere or hear out a competitor’s plea to “join the opposition.” Consider the following:

1. Don’t over-promise. Perhaps you sensed at the hiring stage that this individual was special and worth pursuing. You may have made promises about the position that you meant at the time, but that have so far not come to fruition. While you may have forgotten about those promises, be assured your employee hasn’t. Promises that aren’t kept sow the seeds of disillusionment, which often triggers the impulse to start looking elsewhere for a new job.

2. Monitor industry standards for salaries and benefits on a regular basis. Depending on the industry, salaries and benefits for talented employees may always be in flux. If your business falls behind in these areas, your star employee becomes much more vulnerable to a competitor’s entreaties. Stay on top of these key factors for retaining employees so you’re not caught by surprise.

3. Conduct frequent reviews. Any once-a-year employee performance review can easily miss an employee’s dissatisfaction or other hints he or she is entertaining a competitor’s offer. One consideration may be to institute quarterly reviews that include a focus on employee concerns and issues, so they can be addressed as soon as possible. Even more frequent and informal “mini-reviews” — where you commend your star employee for a job well done and see if help is needed in any area — can also be a good idea, as long as you are able to provide reviews on the same frequency basis to all your employees.

4. Get to know your employees. Of course you’re aware of employees’ unique abilities and hopefully stellar work habits. But how well do you know their career goals and ambitions, what job satisfaction means to them, and whether areas of concern can be proactively addressed, thus minimizing potential discontent? (Again, if they’re in talks with a competitor, that organization is likely asking these critical questions.) By establishing a clear line of communication, you’re more likely to catch any signs that your employee is thinking about jumping ship.

5. Offer opportunities for growth. Salary and benefits can be key retention drivers, but they’re not necessarily the only ones. A star employee is generally a person who wants to be challenged and is looking to take on new responsibilities. If your budget won’t permit a dramatic increase when warranted, look for new tasks or projects this person can lead. It offers the opportunity for personal and career growth — attractive prospects for a “take-charge” employee.

6. Acknowledge achievements. Too many employers forget how much impact a simple bit of praise can have on an employee (stars or otherwise). Ideally, you could offer some significant non-financial reward or recognition event, but even pausing in the course of a busy day to say, “Thank you for your work on this project,” likely means a lot to your staff.

7. Strive to be an employer of choice. Most employees recognize a great place to work when they see it. While some will always be looking for other, “better” opportunities, if you instill a culture of teamwork, personal and professional advancement, competitive salary and benefits, and recognize achievement, you can gain a reputation as an employer of choice. Not only can this attract more star employees, it can make the job of poaching those employees that much harder for the competition.

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