Employee retention? It’s all about trust

Michael Boyd

The key to retaining quality employees in any organization is trust. 

People join an organization because they want a particular job. They stay with the organization based on the quality of the relationship they develop with management, especially their immediate supervisor. Compensation, benefits and job security are important, but the feeling of trust and mutual respect is the anchor for most employees. Companies who focus on employee retention also begin to attract a higher caliber of applicant. Longer retention pays dividends in increased performance, higher productivity and improved morale among a workforce that truly wants to see the company achieve its business goals. There are several strategies that successful companies can use to attract and retain the best employees.

Onboarding/orientation starts a new employee off on the right foot. Taking time to explain the company’s culture, policies and procedures in detail gives a positive first impression. This step should not be rushed. Most of the information is new and detailed. Giving employees time to process information establishes a caring relationship and encourages two-way communication.

Communication and feedback are critical to sustaining a positive relationship. Formal communication should be regular and factual. Weekly team meetings with a fixed agenda regarding the team’s collective performance, company directives, issues and opportunities are essential. Also important are regular one-on-one meetings between the supervisor and subordinate. They should be private and involve more listening than talking by the supervisor. Once a year annual reviews, while mandatory, are insufficient for building trust. Informal communication during breaks, while not a substitute for formal communication, also strengthens the relationship.

In addition to effective communication, training and professional development create an environment that promotes career advancement. Enlightened managers seek to know the short and long-term goals for each team member. They budget for the training and professional development opportunities that help the employees achieve their goals. This strategy is not without risk as some employees take advantage of the training and then leave. The upside, however, makes this risk acceptable.

Fairness in employee compensation is essential to retaining staff, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. Trust is quickly eroded when there is favoritism, nepotism, or inconsistency in the administration of the compensation package, including benefits.

Best practices include written policies and procedures, on-time performance reviews and raises, and equal distribution of benefits based on position, tenure and rank. In addition to pay, the company’s system for recognition and rewards reinforces the trust relationship when administered with the same objective fairness. Seemingly small gestures like gift cards, emails and time off, can go a long way to increase morale if done sincerely and regularly.

Work-life balance is increasingly important in today’s workforce. Employers who recognize the demands of family life outside of work and provide solutions are rewarded with increased loyalty. Flexible scheduling and telecommuting are just two of the ways employers can offer options to their staff.

Encouraging employees to take leave and providing effective coverage during the leave, shows concern for the emotional well-being of the individual.

Organizations that address retention strategies on an annual basis stay ahead of the changing market conditions. Salaries and benefits must be competitive, communication channels open and the investment in professional development equal to or greater than the competition.

The challenge is great, but the rewards are greater.

Michael Boyd is the program manager for Business and Workforce Development at Hagerstown Community College. He can be reached at mdboyd@hagerstowncc.edu or 240-500-2490.