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Retaining Top Talent: Overhaul Your Retention Programs

By Bridget McCrea

In Part I of this series, we looked at how difficult it can be to hang onto top-tier employees in today’s recovering economic conditions and improving job market. With Bloomberg expecting companies across the U.S. to face key challenges filling positions in 2014, and jobless rates hovering in the 5.2 percent to 5.6 percent level nationally, now is the time for distributors to dust off and revamp their employee retention programs.

According to employsecure.com , the cost to recruit, hire, and train a new employee ranges from $4,000 to $50,000, depending on the profession and industry. For this and other reasons, it’s important that distributors not only attract but also retain employees that contribute to the success of the organization. Here are five success strategies that you can put in place today to ensure that your distributorship’s best employees are still onboard and productive tomorrow:

  1. Break out of the “hire and dump” mentality. “You can’t expect to hire employees, throw them into the fray, and then expect them to perform up to your standards,” warns Billie Blair, an organizational psychologist, author, and president/CEO of the international management consulting firm, Change Strategists, Inc., in Los Angeles. “Assuming that these folks will ‘learn by doing’ is the wrong approach.” Millennial workers that are currently entering the workforce, for example, require a fairly high degree of direction, attention, and support during the early stages of employment. “They thrive on feedback,” says Blair, who encourages distributors to create feedback-oriented programs designed to keep managers in the loop on how their new employees are performing. Use the same program to the keep the new hire informed on his or her progress, and to help guide that person in the new position. “Create a continuous feedback loop,” says Blair, “that goes beyond the ‘hire and dump’ to truly cultivate employees to success.”
  2. Establish a new employee orientation program. If you don’t already have an orientation program in place – or, if the one you’re using is outdated – it’s time to set up a better approach. Use the orientation program to introduce employees to the company and help them get acclimated to their new jobs. Manage this step correctly and the chances that your new hires will thrive in their new positions will increase exponentially. “Ignore this step,” says Blair, and it may not be long before that great recently hired person is filling out job applications for new positions online. Blair tells distributors to put their top leaders in charge of the orientation (versus the human resources manager and/or department). Have them discuss their own experiences with the firm, talk about how they rose up through the ranks, explain what their current roles are, and so forth. 
  3. Pair up new hires with veteran mentors. Orientation sessions are also good venues for matching new workers up with mentors, or those existing/veteran workers who can offer additional support to the new recruits over time. The mentors don’t necessarily have to come from within a specific department or have a certain job title, says Blair, who urges distributors to consider different organizational departments (sales, customer service, warehouse, etc.) for good mentoring candidates. “Your primary goal should be to pair up individuals who have a natural affinity to one another,” says Blair, “and who work well together.”
  4. Focus on relationship building over teaching. Keith Rollag, an associate professor of management at Babson College in Babson Park, Ma., says distributors in search of the most efficient employee training model should explore their online and offline options. “Much of the technical information that new hires need to know can often be done more efficiently and effectively online,” says Rollag, “or even outsourced to companies specializing in online learning.” What can’t be handled online, Rollag points out, is the formation of relationships among new hires, teammates, company veterans, and leaders. In fact, he says simply introducing new hires to each of the three latter factions can go a long way in making the newbie feel welcome and invited. “Introductions are often the most critical factor in rapid onboarding,” says Rollag, who adds that over 50 percent of new hires he’s worked with have been “unhappy with the quantity and quality of manager interviews they’ve received.”
  5. Give new hires important responsibilities. One of the best ways to make a new employee feel welcome and at home is by having him or her serve as a mentor or “buddy” for your next new hire. Take this step, says Rollag, and you’ll be setting up a chain of success across your organization. “If people feel like they have a responsibility to help new workers get on board, it sets in motion a very supportive, nurturing culture,” says Rollag, “where people will want to stick around for the long term.”

McCrea is a Florida-based writer who covers business, industrial, and educational topics for a variety of magazines and journals. You can reach her at bridgetmc@earthlink.net or visit her website at www.expertghostwriter.net.

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