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5 Steps to Retain Your Best Employees

Carl Robinson PhD
4 min readJun 12, 2018


To stay successful, companies cannot focus on constantly recruiting. Even in deep financial stress, your top employees are going to provide the most value to your company, while high turnover rates and subpar recruitment can decrease productivity and profits.

Most successful companies know that they need to keep their top employees and executives happy, and many are realizing that this goes beyond pay. Companies today must provide incentives to their top employees and executives to encourage them to stay long-term, including great pay, beautiful campuses, health benefits, stock options, referral services for childcare and legal advice, etc. These are just some of the basics that competitors are willing to offer, which means you need them to stay even with the pack.

How to retain top talent

The general consensus of retention research has shown five strategies to be the most important when it comes to attracting and keeping your best employees.

  1. Competitive compensation: The most competitive salaries include great pay and equity sharing. Surprisingly for most people, this is not the employment benefit that retains the most employees. Instead, top talent is retained by a combination of these basic five elements, with money having the least influence.
  2. Environmental factors: The “corporate culture” is what most people need and desire to feel satisfied with their work. This can include respected leaders, regard for the broader community, integrity, diversity, and fairness (i.e., being “good citizens”).
  3. Adequate support: Support includes adequate facilities, minimal red tape, top training, competent supervisors, minimal disruption and adequate intervention from managerial/executive levels.
  4. Growth opportunities: Surprisingly, the biggest incentive is an ongoing corporate structure that provides individualized learning opportunities and that supports career and personal development. This includes classes, individualized instruction, varied and challenging work, etc.
  5. Human relations: Human relations strategies are ways to develop a closer connection with employees, which allow you to understand their personal needs and desires to thus tailor your retention strategies. This is a more time-consuming task than sending an employee to a class or giving them a pay raise, which is why many employers resist it. However, this level of engagement could prove to be the biggest boon to your retention strategy!

Why these employee retention steps work

There is one fundamental truth that often gets overlooked in corporate spaces: people need to be told directly — and more frequently than we think — that they and their efforts are appreciated. In my consulting work with executives, even they often lament how alone and under-appreciated they feel. One CEO said, “I’m just a high paid quarterback who will be replaced when I stumble.”

When you develop a stronger retention strategy, that personal attention could uncover a goldmine about your employees. Let’s take, as an example, an employee who wants to develop a skill that is not listed in the onsite training offerings. This employee’s needs might better be addressed by sending him/her to an expert outside of the company. However, many employees feel hesitant to ask for things “off the menu,” which they worry will reveal a deficiency in the eyes of upper management. Developing a personal connection could facilitate trust between that employee and his or her supervisor, which would then allow the employee to ask for what they need and speak up more in general. Or your organization could ignore that employee’s interest in training and he or she could be easily convinced to find greener pastures with your competition who does provide that training.

Studies show that employees who are appreciated and feel satisfaction in their work are more productive, more motivated and more engaged with their peers and team members. They are also less likely to seek employment elsewhere, which means you not only strengthen your bottom line for today, but also for the future.

Getting creative with retention strategy

There’s one last important element to your retention strategy: connection. The more personalized our treatment of our employees, the more they will feel you and the company are an important part of their lives. It is much harder for anyone to abandon another if they have a meaningful and authentic personal relationship. Connection can be more compelling than money.

There are many other ways to creatively develop and employ retention strategies once you make the personal connections. The only limitation is your reluctance to try. Doing it takes commitment and an ongoing effort that extends beyond our personal or corporate comfort zone — but isn’t that what makes companies outstanding?



Carl Robinson PhD

Carl is a business psychologist and leadership development expert who focuses on the development of high performance leaders.