Retaining Valuable Employees
When a valued employee quits, the loss to the employer can be serious. Not only will the firm incur substantial costs to recruit and train a replacement, but it also may suffer temporary declines in productivity and lower morale among remaining employees who have to take on heavier workloads. Given the negative impact of turnover – the permanent separation of an employee from a company – most organizations do whatever they can to retain qualified employees. Compensation plays a key role in this effort: companies that don't offer competitive compensation packages (including benefits) tend to lose employees. But other factors come into play, some of which we discussed earlier, such as training and development, as well as helping employees achieve a satisfying work/nonwork balance. In the following sections, we'll look at a few other strategies for reducing turnover and increasing productivity.
Creating a Positive Work Environment
Employees who are happy at work are more productive, provide better customer service, and are more likely to stay with the company. A study conducted by Sears, for instance, found a positive relationship between customer satisfaction and employee attitudes on ten different issues: a 5 percent improvement in employee attitudes results in a 1.3 percent increase in customer satisfaction and a 0.5 percent increase in revenue".
The Employee-Friendly Workplace
What sort of things improve employee attitudes? The twelve thousand employees of software maker SAS Institute fall into the category of "happy workers". They choose the furniture and equipment in their own (private) offices; eat subsidized meals at one of three on-site restaurants; enjoy free soft drinks, fresh fruit on Mondays, M&M's on Wednesdays, and a healthy breakfast snack on Fridays in convenient break rooms; and swim and work out at a seventy-seven-thousand-square-foot fitness center. They set their own work hours, and they're encouraged to stay home with sick children. They also have job security: no one's ever been laid off because of an economic downturn. The employee-friendly work environment helps SAS employees focus on their jobs and contribute to the attainment of company goals. Not surprisingly, it also results in very low 3 percent turnover.
Recognizing Employee Contributions
Thanking people for work done well is a powerful motivator. People who feel appreciated are more likely to stay with a company than those who don't. While personal thank-yous are always helpful, many companies also have formal programs for identifying and rewarding good performers. The Container Store, a national storage and container retailer, rewards employee accomplishments in a variety of ways. Recently, for example, twelve employees chosen by coworkers were rewarded with a Colorado vacation with the company's owners, and the seven winners of a sales contest got a trip to visit an important supplier – in Sweden. The company is known for its supportive environment and has frequently been selected as one of the top U.S. companies to work for.
Involving Employees in Decision MakingCompanies have found that involving employees in decisions saves money, makes workers feel better about their jobs, and reduces turnover. Some have found that it pays to take their advice. When General Motors asked workers for ideas on improving manufacturing operations, management was deluged with more than forty-four thousand suggestions during one quarter. Implementing a few of them cut production time on certain vehicles by 15 percent and resulted in sizable savings.
Similarly, in 2001, Edward Jones, a personal investment company, faced a
difficult situation during the stock-market downturn. Costs had to be
cut, and laying off employees was one option. Instead, however, the
company turned to its workforce for solutions. As a group, employees
identified cost savings of more than $38 million. At the same time, the
company convinced experienced employees to stay with it by assuring them
that they'd have a role in managing it.