This article first appeared in the December 2015 issue of Wine Industry Advisor

By Shelley Brott, The Personnel Perspective

expertEmployee retention is a HOT management topic. Forward-thinking employers know that emphasizing employee retention is a key strategy, as losing excellent employees and hiring and training new employees can be very costly and time-consuming.

One of the best retention strategies is to start by hiring the right person in the first place. What do I mean by this? The person you think is the “best” candidate (who has all the qualifications you desire) often may not be the right person if they aren’t a match with your position, organization, and culture. Fit is critical. Start by employing people who truly desire to work for you, in the very position you are hiring them for, in your particular work environment. Key steps to accomplishing this include developing accurate position profiles, utilizing a rigorous interviewing process, and making sure your candidates thoroughly understand the job and your organization.

Next you’ll want to proactively integrate your new team member. I can still remember starting a new job and having to dig up my own supplies. That memory sticks with me, many years later. So be ready for your new employees and provide them with an effective orientation process. Consider developing a mentor program to support them. Have appropriate resources ready and available, take your new employee to lunch and make them feel welcome, productive, and appreciated. The more you can empower your team and give them a sense of ownership in your organization from the get-go, the stronger and more committed team members they will become.

Provide inspiring growth opportunities. Opportunities for growth correlate with a high degree of employee commitment and loyalty. These can include ongoing coaching, training, job changes, special projects, the opportunity to mentor others, and temporary assignments. Give your employees the opportunity to develop and use their unique skill and interest areas. This can go well beyond the responsibilities of their regular position. Do you have an employee who has a creative streak and loves to write? That employee can develop your Wine Industry newsletter or contribute in other creative areas. One employee’s nightmare assignment may be another employee’s dream – the important thing is finding that right fit.

Make the most of your employee compensation, rewards and recognition. Find out what is really meaningful for your employees – it may be more than just money. I once asked a team I managed to let me know what type of recognition “worked” for them each individually. The differences were fascinating – ranging from verbal acknowledgement to new shoes. A sincere and timely thank you for a job well done goes a long way. Let your employees know you appreciate them, and be creative and timely with your accolades and gratitude.

Your “total compensation” also includes benefits. Make sure employees understand and make full use of their benefits packages and that they have support within the organization to do so. Unfortunately many companies put significant resources into generous benefits plans, only to be lacking in effective employee communications, training, and support to use them.

Communication is a key part of many retention strategies, including actively listening to your employees. What do they want and expect? If they have left your organization, what did they want and what was missing? Conduct thorough exit interviews with your departing employees. You may discover trends that will help you create a more successful work environment.

Speaking of environment, what do you think the company culture is like at your organization? What are your organizational values? How would you describe the work environment? When we conduct certain trainings we ask employees how they want to be treated in their workplace. Almost without fail, the first two responses are “with respect” and “fairly.” What would employees say about your environment? The most effective organizational cultures are ones that emphasize things like open two-way communication, support, risk-taking, innovation, balance, flexibility and trust, among other things. Managers and supervisors have the opportunity to create and support a positive culture for their employees, through effective coaching, communication, training, and other positive management techniques.

Other potential retention strategies include things like individualized plans for targeted employees, free food, staff outings, on-site massages, and work/life balance initiatives. The sky’s the limit. Whatever you choose to do, the first step is to create a plan that works for your specific organization. While sometimes turnover is unavoidable, a proactive approach will help you retain the employees you need. And, most importantly, it will help you create a more positive work environment for your entire team.