How to Retain A-Caliber Employees

The right hires can help a company accelerate to its next growth stage, while the wrong hires can sink the ship.  But keeping that A-level talent on board is just as important.

I recently read an interesting article on Inc. called How to Keep Your Workers Happy. The information in the article is based on Gallup researchers Tom Rath and Jim Harter’s book, Well-Being: The Five Essential Elements.

Here are a few interesting points from the book that I think expansion stage companies and their management teams should consider when evaluating their own ability to retain employees:

  • In the best workplaces, employees want to spend time working with their bosses. Rath and Harter’s research revealed that the healthiest work environments share equally healthy boss-employee work relationships. That’s because the bosses in those particular environments genuinely care about employees and their lives outside the office. The best bosses focus on their employees’ career development, too.
  • People don’t quit a company, they quit a bad manager. Are all of your managers effectively motivating their teams and creating a positive, healthy work environment? If you hear that they’re not — or witness it yourself — then what are you doing about it? One bad manager can ruin the experience of several good employees. If a company loses those employees because of that manager, it can have a drastic impact on the business.
  • Happy workers spend six hours a day socializing. That seems somewhat counterintuitive — and not very productive for the company — but Rath and Harter’s research revealed opposite results. Employees who have colleagues at work that they consider friends are more likely to be highly engaged and productive. On the flip side, employees with no friends in the office tend to be considerably less engaged. So, are you creating a collegial environment in your workplace?
  • Great managers share attributes with great teachers and parents. Just as school teachers and parents invest time in the development of their pupils and children, great managers and executives should strive to do the same with their employees. After all, they see their employees’ strengths, establish clear goals and expectations, and help them celebrate their successes. A great manager-employee mentorship will undoubtedly foster excellent employee retention rates.

Those are just four of Rath and Harter’s many excellent findings. While their book doesn’t focus simply on the workplace environment and how companies can improve it, it’s one large focal point of their holistic examination of “wellbeing.”

A great workplace environment goes a long way to improving wellbeing. If managers and executives — especially at companies in the start-up and expansion stage — work diligently to improve employee wellbeing, they’ll do a better job of both attracting and retaining top talent.

While attention to wellbeing is incredibly important for all companies, it is especially important for companies who are scaling or who are in the expansion stage. Sarah K. Yazinski offers up these facts and figures in a white paper she wrote for the University of Scranton’s graduate school of human resources management in 2009.

  • More than 50 percent of people recruited in to an organization leave within two years.
  • According to Right Management, it can cost nearly three times an employee’s salary to replace them if they leave.
  • Approximately 50 percent of organizations experience trouble retaining staff.

Those are some pretty significant numbers, providing tangible evidence that losing top talent doesn’t just cost you that person’s expertise and skill.

Rath and Harter lay out an excellent framework to follow for better management of employee wellness, but I also recommend reading this article on Human Resource Executive Online written by Mark A. Royal. As a senior consultant with Philadelphia-based global consulting firm Hay Group, Royal explores the dynamics of employee retention and lays out some fantastic strategies to follow which may help you improve it.

When a company is in its expansion stage, managers and executives have a lot on their plate. In addition to charting the company’s growth and scaling it appropriately, they often oversee sales and marketing, product development, and numerous other tasks. Although much of the focus is on the growth of the company, it’s essential that management teams not forget about the wellness of one of their most valuable assets — their people.

Photo by: Kevin Curtis

Diana Martz
Diana Martz
VP, Human Capital

Diana Martz is Vice President, Human Capital atTA Associates. She was previously the Director of Talent at OpenView.
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