Retaining Internal Staff: How to keep the best and drop the rest

teamEvery time you lose a high performer, you lose money right off your bottom line.

Whether it’s an account manager who’s established invaluable relationships with key decision makers, or a staffing coordinator with a knack for creating the perfect match, the cost of replacing a top employee extends well beyond recruiting expenses.  As every staffing owner knows, “hidden” expenses like opportunity costs, vacancy costs and knowledge loss make losing a key staffing-team member even more painful.

The high cost of turnover, combined with recent changes in our economy, make employee retention more important than ever for your staffing firm.  Use these strategies to retain your best and brightest:

Provide the rewards your top performers want.

Money is important, but it’s not the only effective motivator.  If your company can’t offer the highest pay, entice high performers to stay with you by offering these other popular rewards:

Well-defined career paths.  Take the time to discuss your company’s future with your best employees – and outline their future within it.  Help each create a five-year plan for development that aligns with your long-term business goals.

A healthy work/life balance.  The ability to leave work at work, and have quality time to spend with family, is priceless to most people.  Offer flexible work schedules, remote work (if practical) and encourage employees to take their vacation time.

Autonomy.  Avoid the temptation to micro-manage.  Your best employees should have some freedom over how they work, as long as they are hitting measurable objectives and fulfilling the needs of their internal and external customers.

Recognize their accomplishments.  Develop a formal plan to recognize both groups and individuals in your staffing firm.  Make your program consistent, timely and in-line with your company’s ideals.

Opportunities for growth and development.  One of the best ways to keep high performers within the fold is by presenting opportunities for growth and development:

    • Train your staff.  Offer cross-training, online training, classes or opportunities to earn staffing certifications – whatever you need to do to keep good people growing within your organization.
    • Mentor top performers.  In today’s fast-paced operating environment, a formal mentoring relationship can keep top employees challenged, accelerate learning, and provide opportunities for critical decision-making.

Create a culture of engagement.

Studies show that less than one-third of the nation’s workers feel actively engaged in their work – and our businesses pay dearly for that apathy.  To boot, while only 24 percent of disengaged employees intend to stay with their current employer, 59 percent of those who are fully engaged indicate the same to be true.

So how do you keep your best recruiters, account managers and staffing coordinators emotionally invested and working for you?  Obviously, you can’t force employees to be engaged, or hold a once-a-year meeting on the topic and expect any lasting results.  Engagement efforts must be an ongoing priority and part of your everyday culture.  Here is a list of initiatives you may want to tackle:

  • Hold frequent one-on-one meetings.
  • Make managers more accountable for engagement (i.e., establish short- and long-term goals for creating a culture of engagement).
  • Empower your workforce through increased training opportunities, and by creating an environment which actively encourages creativity and innovation.
  • Develop programs which encourage greater worker involvement via suggestions and/or shared leadership.  The most important thing you can give them is your time as a leader.

Hire better.

We say this to our clients, yet sometimes fail to follow our own advice.  If turnover is a problem for your staffing service, it could be because you’re hiring for skills and experience – instead of performance and culture fit.  To improve your hiring process moving forward:

  • Examine your company’s culture.  Identify the personality traits and soft skills needed to thrive in your environment.
  • Benchmark top performers.  Use their behavioral traits, performance levels and intangibles as standards when hiring future employees.
  • Validate performance.  Prior performance is the best predictor of future success.  During your screening process, conduct thorough reference checks to verify each candidate’s job performance, aptitude for learning and interpersonal skills.

Churn your talent pool.

A certain amount of turnover within your staffing firm is not only expected; it’s healthy – especially when you’re dropping “dead weight.”  So make sure you’re managing wisely.  Instead of spending 80 percent of your time coddling the bottom 20 percent of your staff, actively churn your talent pool.  Spend the majority of your time hiring, developing and retaining top performers, while simultaneously releasing below-average employees.   Over time, churning can:

  • Decrease turnover among high performers;
  • Foster employee development and minimize the potential for a future talent gap;
  • Increase your staffing firm’s performance exponentially.

Final Thoughts

If your staffing firm is falling short in any of these areas, take the time now to improve your retention strategies.  Use the suggestions outlined here to give your top employees plans for growth, the balance they need and fulfilling work.  Do this, and your staff will no longer have to look for greener pastures.  Deep down, they’ll know that they’re experiencing the best a staffing firm can offer – a place where they are valued and respected not just as workers, but as human beings.


Tammi Heaton

Tammi Heaton
Tammi Heaton is COO of PrideStaff. She can be reached at theaton (at) pridestaff (dot) com.

Tammi Heaton

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