How to Keep Your Best Employees

Below is an excerpt from ProService Hawaii’s latest ebook “Employee Retention in Hawaii: Strategies and Insights for Small Businesses”. We spoke with 5 local employers who have implemented innovative, successful employee retention programs and asked them to share their insights and strategies on how to keep employees engaged, happy, and at your company.

You can download the rest of the ebook here or by following the link at the bottom of the article. We hope these insights give you some new ideas on how to retain your best employees.

Hawaii’s Retention Problem

When an employee leaves his or her job to take a new opportunity, it normally costs the company 20% of that departing employee’s salary to find a replacement.

In Hawaii, where we already have a limited labor pool to start with, low unemployment, the high cost of living, and the pull of the mainland, make keeping staff on board a real challenge.

Furthermore, societal norms are shifting. While employers used to be able to count on fresh recruits for the entirety of a forty-year career, recent trends point to more “churning and burning” than in years past. Millennials, the generation of young employees who are vital to a business’ long term success, are more likely to hop from job to job than previous generations.

Mark Babin, MMi Realty Services, Inc., President

MMI Realty Services, Inc. is a commercial property management and leasing company that specializes in shopping centers and office buildings. Mark Babin has been with the company since it first opened its doors in 1984, and has worked his way from controller to president.

General Retention Philosophy

Mark’s strongest belief about employee retention is that it happens every day. Fighting to retain employees at the last second is like refusing to throw a punch and then trying to win a boxing match in the final round.

Retaining employees for any serious stretch of time requires continuous, active engagement by management to ensure that employees are satisfied.

Company Culture

“Culture is not a top-down phenomenon. It’s important to listen to the boots on the ground. That’s where it all happens.”

Keeping it Simple

“Early in my career, I wasn’t proactive about employee retention and I lost a really great one, the kind you remember. I tried to fix it, but it was too late. Now, I want to do that ahead of time and avoid the situation altogether.”

Mark emphasizes a simple ideology: “Utilize the Golden Rule. Treat employees at every level like you would want to be treated. It’s crazy how simple that is to do and how well it works.”

Mark avoids the use of any “official” retention programs, preferring instead just to get into the thick of things. “It’s far more informal for us. Here, employee retention happens by walking around and l istening to employees. This works for us and avoids the formality you find other places.”

The informality of Mark’s retention strategies sacrifices certain measurable data, but offers
employees a direct connection with upper management. Spending time around the operation, speaking with those who do the work, and listening to their opinions strengthens the connection between employees and the company.

Finding Employees Who Fit

“People stay when they feel that they’ve found a home. When they feel appreciated, the money’s right, and they’re comfortable. They stay when there’s a fit. When there’s balance.”

It’s Not All About the Money

“We try to minimize turnover and think that respect really helps.” Mark believes that letting employees know what is expected of them, that their work is appreciated, and what their future with the company looks like, shows them respect and lets them know they are valued.

Though a central tenet in his retention philosophy involves proactive engagement, Mark still
understands that not everyone will stay. He strives to retain employees for the length of their tenure, but by the time they’re ready to leave, he is usually ready to let them go.

“If the turnover is the result of dissatisfaction with money, so be it. Money is a short-term motivator. We’re trying to be proactive in providing a satisfying work experience.”

“I think you have an obligation to the company and to your team to try and keep employees, but not exclusively at their exit interview. If we can talk with them and we learn that we’re overlooking something – for instance, they don’t know where they’re going here or their role is undefined – we’ll work to make that right. But I’m not comfortable making a counter offer based exclusively on pay. I’ll address other issues – like support and career path – but I’m not laying down more money.

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