16 Simple Ways to Invest in Your Employees and Reduce Turnover

Good help is hard to find—and even harder to lose. As a business owner, employee turnover doesn’t just eat into your time, but also your bottom line.

The fact is, if you’re not investing in your people, you’re not investing in the future of your business. Investing in your employees is an important part of creating an engaged workforce and an effective way of reducing turnover for your business.

Start using these tips to invest in your staff and reduce employee turnover before it takes a turn on your profits (and your workplace culture).

1. Invest in their personal and professional development

The reality is, many people feel disconnected and disengaged at work, and a big part of that is due to a lack of challenges and development. When workers feel like they’re stagnating or heading towards a dead-end, your employees will undoubtedly look for employment opportunities elsewhere.

So, how can you invest in your team’s personal and professional development and ensure this doesn’t happen?

One idea to consider is something called an Individual Development Plan (IDP). An IDP is a fantastic tool to help employees set and reach both short- and long-term goals. IDPs empower individuals to ask themselves, “Where am I now, where do I want to be, and how will I get there?”

To really get the most out of each IDP, managers and their direct reports need to conduct some type of monthly check-in. If you aren’t helping your employees consistently track against their goals, then they won’t make any real progress. Schedule a monthly chat to help them hold themselves accountable to their goals and give them direction on how to make continued improvements to achieve them.

If you’re looking for an IDP template, here’s one you can download.

2. Integrate new hires quickly

More than half of all employees who quit voluntarily do so within their first year. One of the top reasons? Lack of engagement. While your instinct may be to get new employees working behind the register as soon as possible, it’s important for them to feel plugged into their job from the first day. Getting them comfortable with their roles and responsibilities before the actual work begins can go a long way in reducing employee turnover. The next time you hire a new employee, make sure they receive:

  • a clear agenda or schedule of their first day
  • an overview of your business values
  • Insight into how they contribute to the business’s overall mission
  • the chance to ask questions
  • opportunities to meet and interact with their coworkers

3. Set clear expectations for each role

Employees want to be clued into a bigger purpose, but also know the day-to-day expectations for their roles. If your employees think making “X” number of sales equals success when you see that same number as a sign they’re falling behind, unequal expectations can lead to conflict and resentment. Instead, discuss goals and responsibilities during the hiring process. Make sure they’re comfortable with the pace and unique expectations for their role before they even start.

4. Start a buddy system

The biggest factor in employee happiness? Having a friend at work. Up to 70 percent of employees said that work friends were “the most crucial element” to a good work life. While pairing your new hires with more seasoned employees may not make them automatic BFFs, it will ensure they know at least one friendly face and have someone on hand to answer questions and supervise their work.

In addition to training, “buddies” can give updates or do quick write-ups at the end of the day about new hires’ performance. You’ll be able to stay one step ahead of any big issues, like gaps in training, and give your experienced employees a change of pace.

5. Build a mission statement that gets employee buy-in

In today’s workforce, employees are looking for more than just any way to pay the bills. They want to make a difference and have a greater societal impact, particularly millennials. While 50 percent of millennial employees say pay is the most important factor in a job, 50 percent are also willing to take a pay cut for a job that matches their own values.

Take some time to write a mission statement for your business and ask your current employees to contribute. What do they find fulfilling about their roles personally? What impact are they seeing or hearing from customers each day? Combining their experiences into your business values gives employees a sense of ownership in their work and the business’s overall success–leading to more engagement, more motivation, and better performance.

6. Prioritize work/life balance

Building a business doesn’t leave much time for sleep, but don’t forget that your employees’ performance directly impacts your success. They’re often the public face of your work, interacting with customers and doing the day-to-day tasks to keep things running smoothly. You can’t afford to burn them out.

If you keep asking more from employees than they’re physically able to give or expect them to sacrifice more than they expected or want to, they won’t stick around for long. Do your best to avoid scheduling long shifts back to back or asking them to work regular overtime. Be flexible when they request time off. Your business may be your life, but the people working for you have their own lives outside of work as well.

7. Host team building activities

While you obviously can’t force friendships in the workplace, there are ways you can foster it.

Things like scavenger hunts or playing sports together are some great ideas. They both get people into groups and require people to work together to achieve a common goal (just like your business). This epic list of team building games is a fantastic resource to help you find new games to play together to help your employees bond with one another.

You might also want to consider doing a yearly team offsite. Offsites give your team a chance to step away from the day-to-day work and build camaraderie. Plus they’re a ton of fun and can give your team something special to look forward to each year.

8. Compensate competitively

You aren’t the only one concerned about your bottom line. Nearly 90 percent of working Americans are worried about finances. With the average minimum wage worker making around $20,000 a year as costs of living climb even higher, paying minimum wage won’t always be enough to attract the most qualified job applicants or convince your best employees to stay.

Check out Payscale and Glassdoor for average pay ranges based on role, industry, and location. And remember: compensation includes more than just hourly pay. You may not be able to give everyone a raise, but you may be able to add in benefits like extra paid time off, more flexible work options, or an employee stock option program (ESOP).

Note: Reevaluate pay at least once a year. Once you know where you stand as far as employee compensation, set a reminder to check back in annually. More than 1 in 3 employees will look for a new job if they don’t receive a raise, and almost half expect a raise in the next year. If you aren’t compensating your employees competitively, someone else will.

Build the work schedule in minutes, communicate with employees, and handle schedule changes with ease with When I Work.

9. Offer the perks and benefits that matter to them

When it comes to perks and benefits for your employees, there is no magic bullet. In order for your perks to be effective in keeping your employees happy, they need to be tailored to their specific needs and desires.

For example, if your team works around the clock and regularly puts in overtime, a service like car washes and dry cleaning would help them save time in their personal lives. If you have several members of your staff with young children, consider childcare services. You can also offer a stipend that goes towards things like books, conferences, and courses that are related to personal or professional development.

Another perk that most employees can rally around is free food. A survey conducted by Peapod found that 67% of full-time employees with access to free food at work reported being “very” or “extremely” happy at their current job. 

10. Foster a healthier work environment

Researchers from Harvard found that medical costs decrease by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs. In addition, absenteeism costs are reduced by about $2.73 for every dollar spent on wellness.

When you also consider that 87% of employees consider health and wellness offerings when they choose an employer, it’s obvious that focusing on health at work is important to both the employee and employer.

Here are some really simple ideas you can implement to create a healthier work environment:

  • Do some quick exercise before your next company meeting. This can be something as easy as jumping jacks, squats, and pushups.
  • Throw down a challenge like the 7 hours of sleep challenge (who can collect the most nights of 7+ hours of sleep in 30 days) or the mile a day challenge (who can collect the most 1+ miles run in 30 days). Challenges and contests are a great way to get people involved in wellness programs, especially if there’s an extra incentive for winning (like a gift card or cool prize).

11. Create weekly recognition events and monthly achievement awards

Can you guess the #1 reason why most Americans leave their jobs?

Is it pay? Maybe it’s because they have a terrible boss?

It’s actually because they don’t feel appreciated at work.

While praise and recognition aren’t the only things that motivate employees, being recognized for hard work goes a long way. To really succeed in creating an environment where employees consistently feel appreciated, try integrating recognition into weekly and monthly activities.

Something as simple as a weekly team meeting to recognize excellent work or achievement by another member of the organization can be super impactful.

On a monthly basis, try out some awards for top performers. Here are a couple of award ideas to get you started:

  • The Duct Tape Award – The person who fixes everything
  • The Pearly White Award – The person who smiles the most
  • The Cliff Jumper Award – The person who takes the most risk
  • The Value Victor Award – The person who embodied your values the most

Want to create personalized awards to give to your employees? Use this Employee of the Month Certificate Builder from When I Work!

12. Celebrate their anniversary with something personal

Staying on the theme of appreciation for a second, it’s so important to celebrate and appreciate your people on their work anniversaries.

A study conducted by Entelo found that people are most likely to leave their jobs after their first, second, and third year at a company. Given this data, it’s crucial that employers make people feel awesome on their work anniversaries to help combat the yearly spike in voluntary turnover.

My top recommendation for business owners is to have the employee’s manager, someone from the executive team (CEO, President, Co-Founder, etc) and a coworker come up in front of the team to honor this person on their special day. Share stories of their hard work, highlight some of their accomplishments, and communicate how grateful you are that this person chooses to help your business move forward every day.

Another thing I recommend to business owners is to write a hand-written note to the person celebrating a work anniversary. We use this to fortify relationships with our customers and vendors, so why not do it with your employees too?

13. Allow your talented team members to move laterally within the business

Often times, you’ll hire a younger employee who is still figuring out which career path she wants to pursue. She’s driven and motivated, but her passion may lie in another area of your business than the one she was hired for.

Promote from within and help that person make the transition into a new department. When they focus on their passions and interest, your employees will be a lot more likely to be engaged and do a better job for your business. This will help you retain some of your younger talent when they would have otherwise abandoned ship.

14. Create a feedback culture

Taken by surprise when your last employee quit? Not a good sign. The moment you realize an employee is unhappy shouldn’t be when they turn in their resignation, especially not on a small team.

Good workplace communication means that you feel comfortable showing employees where they can do better and your employees feel safe enough to speak up when something isn’t working for them. After all, everyone needs feedback to improve (even Bill Gates).

One simple way to gather feedback is by sending out a survey. Try an email survey or pass out paper surveys at the beginning of a shift and let employees fill them in during downtime. Ask questions about how engaged they feel at work, what they enjoy doing, what they believe is working well, and what could be better. Then take some time to sort through their answers afterward. Keep an eye out for any trends and overall levels of engagement.

15. Deal with “toxic employees” as soon as possible

One thing you may uncover in your exit interviews is that your employees’ comments all relate back to the same issue, or even the same person. Don’t be surprised–up to 50 percent of employees quit their job because of a bad manager or supervisor.  Known as “toxic employees,” these bad supervisors (or fellow employees) can wreak havoc on team morale and your entire business. They may be bringing in great sales or have crucial skills, but are effectively chasing away everyone else you hire.

If you can’t get rid of your toxic employee, try to limit their impact on the rest of your team as much as possible. As a small business owner, this isn’t always practical (or possible) for smaller staff. If that’s the case, then it may be time to make the hard decision between one bad apple and the rest of the barrel.

16. Hold exit interviews

Want to know why your employees are leaving? Just ask. It may sound too easy to be true, but exit interviews can be a great means of closure for both you and your employees. Put together a standard list of questions to ask on their last day. Include things like what the employee enjoyed most about their experience, what they enjoyed least, what they believe could be improved, and any advice they have for other incoming employees. Just like your employee feedback survey, you’ll likely start to see trends in the answers you collect.

Eliminate Turnover by Instilling Loyalty

Investing in your employees is not only great for the individual, it’s also beneficial for your company. You don’t have to spend lavishly either – many of the ideas in this post won’t cost you very much to get started. But most importantly, they will make a difference in the lives of your employees, and that’s something that will instill loyalty and reduce turnover.

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