Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Few Ways to Bolster Employee Retention

Last week, I homed in on the idea that employee retention efforts should be a strategic initiative distinct from recruitment.

So then, what exactly should an employee retention initiative involve?

You’ve probably heard a thing or two about Southwest Airlines’ corporate culture. The company seems to have nearly perfected a culture that attracts, retains and motivates excellent employees.

The leaders at Southwest understand that building a great culture takes much more than an annual company picnic and an occasional mass greeting from the president. It’s a sustained, multifaceted effort—a lot more than I can get into here. So, for further reading, check out this good overview from the U.S. Department of Commerce about Southwest’s culture-building initiatives.

The name of the game is instilling confidence in your most important workers—confidence that your company is making strategic moves that ultimately benefit them, confidence in their professional and financial future and confidence that they know how to help the company cause.

These are corporate-culture issues that live and die with company leadership. Therefore, building a culture that breeds the confidence and participation of your top talent requires regular reinforcement from the CEO via sustained communications with employees.

One of the most effective ways to do this—although it shouldn’t be the only way—is through a regular internal communications vehicle, which can take many forms. Short or long. Electronic or print. Weekly, monthly or quarterly. To return to the Southwest example, the air carrier publishes a bright, fun and yet strategy-focused employee magazine, LUVlines.

Whatever form your internal communications vehicle takes, it should repeatedly share insights about the challenges of your marketplace, explain your company’s vision for success and drive home how employees can support the strategy. It should be the voice of company leadership, peppered generously with examples of how all employees are participating in the efforts to win whatever game you’re in.

And it should be only one element of a sustained effort to build a culture in which your best and brightest can thrive for many years.

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