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Employee Retention

The "Happy with my Job" Formula

By Mary M. Barefoot, HR Services Manager

There are so many competing variables as to what makes each of us happy, it seems impossible for employers to know where to focus efforts. The "happy with my job" formula is a complex mix of both tangible and intangible factors, and different for each employee. Businesses may be advised to take a holistic approach and cover as many bases as possible to keep employees engaged. Retaining talent may mean the right mix of a number of factors including compensation, training and development, mentoring, performance rewards, employee appreciation, flexible staffing, just to name a few.

Know what to pay.
Working in the compensation field, I'd like to think with the right mix of base and variable pay you could retain any employee, but we quickly realize that's not the case when our well paid talent walks out the door. However, if you don't invest in reviewing compensation and give adequate attention to fairly rewarding employees, you will certainly lose them. What and how you pay someone may be the single most important factor in retention. If you can only focus on a few key initiatives, make this one of them. Actively benchmarking and communicating about pay helps ease employee concerns and conveys the message "it is as important to us, as it is to you." It doesn't mean you have to pay the most but you shouldn't be paying the least. In order to compete with other employers for talent, 85% of U.S. companies cited higher compensation as their top strategy ( 2013-2014 U.S. Agribusiness HR Review). Thirty-percent of Canadian companies cited higher compensation as a step they take to compete against other employers (2013-2014 Canadian Agribusiness HR Review). To learn more about developing an effective compensation and retention strategy, register for the "Utilizing Compensation as a Building Block for Retention" webinar scheduled for March 21, 2014.

Show you care.
I believe another vital piece to the "retention equation" directly relates to how much managers care to retain. A large unmeasurable can be a managers own personal investment and connection to employees. If employees feel like they matter and are emotionally attached they are more likely to stay. A friendly and amiable work environment is important to 90% of agriculture employees, who agreed at some level that the relationships/friendships they have developed with their coworkers greatly impacts their satisfaction with their employer ( 2013 Total Rewards Survey.) This also speaks to company culture and as a manager you greatly influence culture. You want to be an encouraging influence and foster an environment that is productive and positive. You have to personally commit to making more connections with your employees, and provide them with support.

When in doubt ask.
Of ag companies surveyed in the 2013-2014 Ag HR Review, 40-50% conduct employee satisfaction surveys and 60% did so through internal surveys. I also recently learned about "stay interviews;" this is a different approach from employee satisfaction or exit interviews. These formal or informal surveys target engaged and committed employees that have chosen to stay with an organization. These insights help organizations identify what they are doing right, which program they should continue, and where they can focus on replicating key satisfiers.

Once you have pay resolved, are engaged with your employees, you'll be ready to receive feedback and identify themes needed to improve retention. These themes can be translated into programs customized to suit your budget and company culture. Improving the "career experience" you provide employees works to enhance their perception of all they have to gain from your organization. As you seek to improve their environment and meet their needs they will commit to stay.

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