Retaining Employees: Where Did I Go Wrong?


It happens all too often. An employee who does good work for you – and one you think is happy – gives his or her notice. This is not what you wanted – to lose an employee whose knowledge and work ethic you value. Sometimes, when that happens, you learn that the employee wanted to expand their capabilities. Had you known beforehand; you could have done something about it.

How do you retain employees? Communication is key to keeping good employees. It’s all about how well you know the people who work for you. And surprisingly, keeping an employee may have little to do with salary level. Here are the methods we’ve found work best.

1. Building Positive Relationships

From day one, there should be a consistent two-way conversation going on between manager and employee. And that conversation has to include face time. It can be hard in today’s world where telecommuting and remote working is the standard, but unless you can meet face-to-face, there’s often something lacking. Phone meetings can help, but they don’t seem to have the same effect as personal meetings. Instead, get comfortable with Zoom and have some face-to-face video meetings. Later, you can arrange to take the person to lunch – even if you do have to eat outside during the pandemic.

2. Seeking Reinforcement

A good two-way street includes some coaching, mentoring and brainstorming together. Seeking advice and opinions from your employees has tremendous value. They become more engaged with the project. And they feel respected. And no matter how young and inexperienced the employee is, take their suggestions seriously. They may have a valid point when it comes to the younger audience, and certainly, we can all learn!

3. Expect Good Work

Valuable employees want to work. If you expect and demand good work, the people in your organization will respect you more. A client once said to me that when she was interviewing for a very good position, the HR manager told her that her potential boss was a very demanding executive. The HR manager noted that this particular boss was fair, but that his expectations demanded employees who were high performers. Rather than scaring her, my client was thrilled. She wanted to grow and stretch her capabilities. As long as the boss had a reputation of being fair, she was fine with his expectations. Good managers should be reviewing the performance of their employees on a consistent basis. Setting expectations, including metrics, helps reinforce the value of an employee.

4. Plan for Growth

Performance reviews are important. They not only help you set expectations, but add accountability measurements. And employees like reinforcement. Bahar Consulting recommends a weekly meeting with direct report employees. This weekly meeting serves as a check-in to discuss tasks, provide feedback and review the status of projects. As a result of these meetings, managers should have an understanding of the employee’s goals and aspirations. By the time the annual review comes around, managers can openly discuss long term plans, including any skills that the employee would like to gain. At this time, both parties should come to an agreement on stretch goals for each year. With regular communication, managers are more likely to build the career path for an employee that he or she envisions.

5. Add Perks

Beyond salary or bonus, think about rewarding performance in other ways. Most companies have room for perks – even if they are small. Perks can include a monthly spot award, a special benefit to a team or annual lunch celebrating anniversaries. Perks can include a gift card or an afternoon off.

6. Ask your Employees

You might be surprised at what makes an employee stay at your company. Ask them, especially long-term employees. Find out what keeps them there and use that information to reinforce those employees who you want to keep.

Hiring employees is only the start to creating a powerful workforce. Keeping them will save your company valuable time and energy searching for the right employees. And productivity levels are highest when employees are engaged in their work and enjoy the environment.