Rethink employee relationships

Departments - The Human Resource | Tips to stay compliant in a changing landscape

Try these 10 strategies to retain employees in an age of disloyalty.

January 6, 2017

Take time to regularly and frequently communicate with employees to “take the temperature of the workplace” and determine areas of improvement.

You give them the world, whether it be 401(k) plans, telecommuting options, vacation time, profit sharing, mentoring, flex time and costly insurance, but they are moving up and out as quickly as you can train them. Savvy employers recognize that the influx of Millennials has fundamentally altered the workplace and calls for new employment relationships. Still, many employers are unprepared and, worse yet, unwilling to accept that traditional retention rules do not apply.

To retain talented workers in a fluid job market, you must begin to think outside the box.

1. Treat your employees like real business partners. Promote entrepreneurial vision by allowing employees to make decisions that impact the business. Millennials gravitate toward positions that give them flexibility, freedom and control over their lives. They want to make decisions on their own and control the outcome of a situation. Control is often what brings satisfaction in work. That is why so many people start their own businesses.

2. Maximize job functions. Challenge employees constantly. Once boredom and mediocrity set in, their resume gets posted.

3. Consider innovative, meaningful benefits. The one thing many college graduates (and their parents) have in common is student debt. According to a May 2016 Wall Street Journal article, 70 percent of college graduates carry an average debt of $37,172. To enhance loyalty, consider adopting a loan assistance (repayment) program as an employee benefit. Another thing millions of workers have in common is pet ownership. Consider adding pet insurance as a voluntary benefit. And, to tap into Millennials’ sense of social responsibility, consider adding a paid day off for volunteering in the community.

4. Review your compensation program now. Total compensation must be competitive in today’s market. Gather reliable market data and update your rates and ranges, if necessary.

5. Get rid of traditional vacation and sick policies. Millennials hate to be micromanaged. If you want to attract and retain talent in today’s market, a Paid Time Off (PTO) policy is essential. PTO policies combine sick and vacation time and provide employees with flexibility to manage their time off without having to justify their whereabouts. When you upgrade your policy, ensure that the amount of PTO available is consistent with market rates. Millennials value time off far more than traditional benefits, such as insurance.


6. Provide a road map to success. Clearly define the path to professional growth and development. Create programs for internal certification or promotions. Upgrade education and training for managers and employees. Initiate people immediately upon hire by means of unique, interesting and state-of-the-art orientation.

7. Get rid of the jerks. Remember, good employees leave bad bosses, not good companies. You can create the greatest company in the world, but if one of your employees ends up working for a jerky manager, the employee will be gone faster than you can say “leadership training.” Managers who can’t respect or properly interact with their direct reports should be swiftly shown the door.

8. Promote a continuous learning curve. Think in terms of educating your employees — giving them knowledge for a lifetime versus training them, which typically amounts to teaching them skills for a narrow function. Remember, you train dogs, but you educate people. Employee development must be a never-ending process of education. If conducted properly, education becomes an asset, not a cost. Keep employees involved in industry trends and changes. The more immersed they are in the business, the more likely they are to commit.

9. Communicate unceasingly by means of an employee handbook, personal notes, frequent performance feedback and routine meetings and educational sessions. Instill culture, mission and philosophy every day. Consider an annual opinion or engagement survey to “take the temperature of the workplace” and identify gaps in quality, leadership, safety, morale and other important areas.

10. Make employees feel like part of the family. Recognize and celebrate important achievements, employment anniversaries and other significant events in their lives.

One thing is abundantly clear from studies in organizational development: Loyalty isn’t something you can buy — not for the long term, anyway. Money alone rarely keeps Millennials (or any employees) motivated and deeply committed. You must start by hiring the right person and then promote a culture of trust, flexibility, transparency, enthusiasm and challenges. Support the system with strong leadership and innovative programs, and you’re sure to build commitment and loyalty.

Jean is president of Seawright & Associates, a management consulting firm located in Winter Park, Fla. Since 1987, she has provided human resource management and compliance advice to employers across the country. She can be contacted at 407-645-2433 or