One of the biggest complaints among business owners today is the inability to find good talent. We’re certainly at an all time low in many areas of the country in terms of unemployment rates.

But I tend to push back when I hear that because oftentimes executives are failing to look at the talent they already have working with them. They fail to look at developing those folks and retaining them.

We know that millennials won’t stick around if they’re not happy —they’re going to move until they find a spot that suits them. We’re already seeing this with those in Generation Z entering the workforce as well.

So it’s wise when we’re looking at talent acquisition to look at retaining the talent we already have. You’ll hear executives say things like “we want to be an employer of choice” or “we want to be one of the best places to work.”

Those are certainly nice titles to have and nice awards to sit on the shelf, but are they working? Are they drawing more talent to you and helping you retain the talent you already have?

When I think about employee retention, I think about all the things you could be doing. For me, it breaks down into two categories: peripheral level things, and “gotta have” level things.

At the peripheral level are things like having holiday parties, having a fitness facility, tuition reimbursement, casual dress days, even community service days. Those types of things are all effective retention pieces and they appeal to what younger generations in today’s workforce want (and expect) from employers.

But they’re peripheral because they don’t make or break our retention. They’re nice to have. They’re nice add-ons. But they don’t make the difference between employees staying or going.

In the second category, next level retention, you get things like:

• Your medical benefits package
• The physical surroundings. What does your office workplace look and feel like when someone comes in?
• Ancillary benefit packages. How generous is your vacation package? Do you offer flex working hours or telecommuting options? If you’re a privately held company, do you have an employee stock ownership plan?

These things are expectations for employees these days. They’re critical must-haves. If you’re not offering a solid benefits and vacation package, you’re not going to even get a glance from the best talent, and the best talent you have certainly won’t hang around.

You could even add in things like daycare services and subsidies for childcare and eldercare, 401K matches, and employee recognition programs for jobs well done.

These are all things that get to the meat of what’s really going to retain your workforce.

If you really want successful and satisfied employees, it starts with your hiring and on-boarding process.

It only takes the proverbial one bad apple to spoil the bushel. We know that employees derive a significant amount of pleasure and pride from the team they work with, so we really have to choose the best of the best.

Some of us are stuck in “warm body syndrome” when it comes to hiring— clamoring for a new person, any person, as we lose time and get behind on projects. It’s tempting to bring someone in just to have a body in that seat.

But I’m telling you, it’s one of the biggest mistakes we can make. It reminds me of a story I heard Tony Hsieh, the president of Zappos, once tell.

They had brought in a man for a VP of finance role with the organization. The company driver picked him up at the airport and back at the office, he wowed everyone. Mr. Hsieh was leaving to go on a business trip immediately following that meeting, and he talked to the driver about this man and how great he was.

The driver relayed how the man was arrogant, demeaning, and blew him off as a company driver.

Zappos so values their culture that even though he wowed everyone and was the best qualified on paper, they didn’t offer him the position.

So, ask yourself: how often, when you’re going through the talent acquisition process, are you willing to keep a stiff upper lip and hold out for a good culture fit?

Once we get the best of the best, it doesn’t stop there. Today’s employees want training and development. They want to know where their career is going.

When millennials were younger, I remember a lot of content circulating around about the older generations huffing and puffing about the millennials’ need to know what opportunities there were for them to advance.

But they just wanted to know where their career was going! We have to be willing to talk openly about career path and offer them the training and development they need to meet their career goals. If we can’t do that, they’ll find someone who will.

Finally, to have that successful and satisfied employee we have to reward them. That doesn’t have to necessarily mean offering the highest pay in the industry. When it comes to your rewards program, think of the total compensation package including:

• Pay
• Benefits
• Bonuses
• Working environment
• Training and development

To retain the best of the best, we must have an awesome total rewards package. Believe me, it’s worth the investment. Businesses will say they can’t afford to do it, and I always say, “How can you afford not to?”

People are an investment that typically represents 30% of your operating budget. It’s not about cutting costs, it’s about getting ROI. If offering higher levels of benefits, pay, and training and development aren’t giving you returns, don’t do it! But they should translate into employee retention and commitment, ultimately helping your organization hit its strategic goals.

Need help developing a rewards package that works for your organization’s goals? Contact me here and let’s talk.