It’s not all about the money.

The subject of retaining your best employees will come up soon in your business, if it hasn’t already.  

According to a 2012 survey by human resource consulting firm Tower Watson, reported on by The Washington Post, 40 percent of global employers said they were having difficulty retaining “critical-skill” employees, up from 36 percent the previous year and 16 percent in 2009.

So how can you retain your best employees?

“Given the current demand for skilled professionals, this is a question that every employer should be asking themselves,” said David Leto, executive vice president for Palmer Group.

The Business Record posed the question to three local employment experts. Interestingly, their answers had very little to do with compensation and much to do with engagement.

Katie Roth
, Owner and President Portico Staffing:

Most employees don’t leave the organization; they leave their manager. They leave because there isn’t a defined career path. They leave because they don’t feel appreciated or heard. They leave because they don’t understand how or why their position is crucial to the overall success of the organization. 

In many organizations, these issues start day one with a poor employee orientation or no employee orientation at all. So if you want employees to stay, you need to change the reasons they leave.

My late husband, Luke, worked at an organization that had a two-week orientation program. Everyone went through it before they started the position they were hired for. Speakers from every department talked about what they did and why it was important. When he started doing his own job, he understood what the organization stood for, its values and culture. The CEO and chief operating officer had a monthly lunch where one person from each department was invited and they would share what was going on in their areas.

Employee retention starts with communication. Give employees a 90-day review. Make sure they understand why their job is important to overall success of the organization. Dole out appreciation every day. Ask them what they think about what is going on. Have quarterly meetings so everyone sees the big picture. Define your employees’ career path, and if there isn’t one, help them get the skills they need to get for their next opportunity. Employees quit. It happens. The key to success is making sure that those you value feel valued.

David Leto, Executive Vice President Palmer Group:

Most often, people link employee turnover to poor pay or benefits, when neither is the No. 1 reason people leave jobs.

In our profession, we see individuals leaving their positions too often simply because they do not genuinely feel appreciated and do not feel like they are working toward something meaningful. It is human nature to want to feel like you are making an impact and to feel appreciated for what you do. A simple “thank you” or “job well done” will go farther in the long run than just throwing money at your employees. Don’t get me wrong, you need to fairly compensate your employees, but it goes much deeper than the financial reward that keeps employees engaged.

We all have busy schedules to keep, but business leaders need to slow down and remember to recognize the contributions of each of their employees. Truly appreciating your employees and remembering to say thank you will create a culture and environment they will want to continue working in.  

This is something simple that every employer should do on a regular basis. It will create a culture of appreciation; you will build stronger relationships with your employees; you will have a happier and more dedicated workforce; and you will increase your retention rate.

Craig Jackman, President Paragon IT Professionals:

You might think “salary increase” is the obvious answer. Having recruited information technology professionals for 16 years, I can tell you that money is rarely the main motivating factor. Typically they’re looking at more than salary and benefits. They’re asking themselves whether the job will challenge them, expose them to new technologies, or allow them to grow their career.

They won’t leave a company where they feel their contribution is key to the company’s success. Successful companies keep employees engaged, perhaps by creating opportunities where they can grow their skills or simply take their talent to a new project or team.

I believe many of us, particularly those who have chosen a career in technology, are entrepreneurial in nature. Companies that have a good retention rate understand the traits of these employees and provide an outlet for them. It might be something similar to a 150-year-old company adopting the corporate policies of a startup. 

One of our retention tactics is freedom. We don’t want our jobs to be an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. means to an end. I want our team members to have a sense of purpose. Giving them the freedom and latitude to reach their goals on their own accord is what we’ve adopted. And it has worked.