Leadership Simplified: Doug Van Dyke


Employee Retention: Strategies for Keeping Key Team Members

Volume: December 2013

By Doug Van Dyke, Leadership Simplified, www.leadershipsimplified.com


When a key team member bolts for another job, many leaders assume that the reason behind their departure rests solely on making more money. There is logic behind this assumption, since most competent workers who choose to leave an organization earn a higher salary at their new job. Research, however, tells us that under normal circumstances key team members view salary as the fourth most important feature of their job. This is wonderful news because often times leaders do not have total control over the salaries of their team members. On the other hand, leaders do have lots of control over a bevy of other items that can help to retain key employees. As long as key employees feel that their compensation is fair, the following three areas tend to be valued higher than salary. 


  1. Training & Development. The best means for leaders to build a retention wall around key team members is to grow and develop them. This is especially true for team members who are part of the Millennial Generation (born between 1980 and 1995). For added success, leaders should consider creating a training roadmap that helps to fully develop selected team member’s skills.        


  1. Communication. People want to know what is going on in an organization. Moreover, they want to hear it first-hand, from their leader or from C-Level decision-makers. Frequent communication contains the added benefit of crushing the grapevine, which can drain energy from an organization as it propagates misinformation.


  1. Effective Feedback. A recent study examined the effects of feedback on three groups of employees. The first group received only positive feedback. The second group received only negative feedback. The third group received no feedback whatsoever. When asked which feedback silo was most effective, most leaders say “the positive feedback alternative,” and they are correct. The answer chosen for second most effective is typically “no feedback.” The No Feedback method, however, was not more effective than the Negative Feedback method. The takeaway from the study is this: Feedback of any flavor is preferred over no feedback at all. Leaders who seek to enhance productivity should focus on the positives, and stir in a little constructive feedback when the timing is right.  


Bonus Item: Visionary Leadership. Leaders who share a compelling vision with their teams tend to have a higher retention rate when it comes to key employees. The vision of these leaders possesses three qualities: First, clarity regarding where the team is going and in what time frame. Second, exactly why the team is moving in a certain direction. Third, a detailed roadmap on how team members fit into the journey on which the team has embarked.     


Bottom Line: Leaders who embrace a multi-pronged employee retention approach that includes training & development, frequent communication, and effective feedback tend to enjoy high success rates. Further, by leveraging a visionary leadership style, leaders can help key team members feel valued and part of something significant. Do these strategies always trump the allure of a bigger paycheck? The answer is no, but if leaders help their best people grow their skills and engage in meaningful work, leaving becomes significantly more difficult. 


Until next time, be well.   


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