How to Keep Good Employees in 2018

March 9, 2018

The war for talent continues. Employers are looking for great talent and, once they find it, are working hard to keep it. This article looks at some strategies for how to keep your good employees in the year ahead.

What to Think About and Why

For many people, a new year may mean a new job. People tend to reflect on where they are in their current jobs during the first months of the new year, and many employees start looking for new jobs after making it through the previous year. Knowing that your employees may be reflecting on their jobs and whether they want a change at this time of year, you should take some time to consider new strategies for keeping your good employees.

Wisconsin Employment Law Letter typically focuses on legal tools employers can use to keep good employees, like nonsolicitation and noncompete agreements. These legal tools are a necessary part of your employment practices, but they aren’t designed to keep good employees happy and motivated at work.

You should always be thinking about how to keep your people employed and engaged. Below are some nonlegal but powerful strategies to help you keep your good employees happy, engaged at work, and employed with your company.

Strategies for Keeping Your Top Employees

Pay employees what they’re worth. This strategy is obvious: Pay your good employees at or above market rate. But here’s a not-so-obvious and somewhat provocative strategy: Pay your best employees unfairly compared to your average employees. In other words, recognize your best performers, the ones who have the biggest impact on your business, and pay them accordingly. To be clear, it’s discriminatory to set someone’s pay based on her race, gender, or some other protected class. That said, it isn’t discriminatory to reward your best performers according to their performance. If you pay your best performers the same as your below-average performers, your best performers may walk out the door.

Explore nontraditional compensation. You might consider implementing nontraditional compensation programs, such as housing assistance, student loan assistance, or vacation programs. Under a housing assistance program, the company typically provides the down payment for a house as a loan that the employee repays with years of service. In a student loan assistance program, the company agrees to pay a portion of the employee’s student loans for each year he is with the company. Vacation programs can be anything from giving employees paid vacation time, paying for flights and lodging, sending them to industry events, or providing a sabbatical period.

You can be as creative as you want in designing nontraditional compensation programs. Just be sure to design a good program with clear rules that the company can afford and you can make available to all eligible employees.

Provide continuous learning opportunities. Surveys show that Millennials and Generation Z (the next group after Millennials) truly value continuous learning opportunities. You can satisfy the desire for continuous learning at your company by providing opportunities for formal classroom training, experiential training, a job rotation program, or a mentorship program. You can pay for employees to attend industry training events or conventions. Or you can pay to send good employees back to school for advanced degrees.

You can also create opportunities for continuous learning within the company by assigning high performers to company management committees. Perhaps the best continuous learning opportunity for your star employees is the opportunity to sit in and observe executive teams making decisions or setting the course for the company. That provides real-world training and a sense of inclusion for your star employees.

Communicate with employees regularly. This strategy is obvious, but most employers don’t use it. Talk to your employees about their jobs, about their lives, and about the direction of the company. The best employers send managers to have “career conversations” with individual employees on a quarterly basis. The best employers also explain their compensation decisions to employees at least annually. Some employers are afraid of how employees will respond, but these conversations help build trust and a sense that the company cares about individual employees.

Celebrate accomplishments. How often does your company promote and celebrate individual accomplishments? It likely doesn’t happen very often, but it should! You should find ways to offer public praise for your employees’ great accomplishments. You should also find ways to offer private thank-yous to employees who made contributions that need not be publicly praised. The point is, you have to find ways to recognize and celebrate the performers and the acts that help the company.

Bottom Line

Great, high-performing employees are engaged, motivated, and loyal. Those attributes aren’t built or fostered by nonsolicitation or noncompete agreements. Instead, you can work toward engaging and motivating your employees by trying some of the strategies listed above. These strategies can help you keep your employees with you in 2018 and beyond.

This article, slightly modified to note recent updates, was featured in the February 2017 issue of the Wisconsin Employment Law Letter, which is co-edited by Axley Brynelson Attorneys Saul Glazer and Michael Modl and published by BLR®—Business & Legal Resources. Reproduced here with the permission of BLR®—Business & Legal Resources.

For more information about "How to Keep Good Employees in 2018," contact Tyler K. Wilkinson at twilkinson@axley.com or 608.283.6783.