Employees are the lifeblood of any company, which makes employee retention a critical component of success, regardless of industry. A potential reversing of the current employee’s market will not render top talent inessential, nor will the increasing pervasiveness of technology.
Competitors know who your best employees are and will attempt to poach them, even those who are not actively seeking new employment. Transparency is at an all time high, making clear the exact shade of grass found on the other side of the fence.
Smaller companies are particularly vulnerable as they lack some of the financial tools possessed by larger organizations. Retaining your employees means identifying who’s most valuable, understanding their wants, and assessing the competitive salary landscape. Creativity can increase competitiveness so it is critical to have a plan!
Career Opportunities Are Major Motivator
According to a workplace survey conducted by 3P Partners the opportunity for career advancement can trump monetary compensation, particularly amongst more experienced candidates. Special projects and expanded responsibilities are excellent ways to identify and foster talent. Flexibility is among the highest ranked factors. Above all, clarity of expectations is paramount. Establishing these expectations is a matter of good communications, running all the way from the job description to regular feedback with staff. Reward structures should be in line with desired behaviors.
Opportunities for staff development may come in the form of training, mentorships, or simply allowing people to take on new roles at work.
Michael Burdeny is President at Challenge Dairy Products, a California-based cream and butter company that has operated since 1911. He finds value in providing staff with opportunities to pursue growth.
“We encourage folks to try different things out, to explore their passions, and to really lean into areas that might provide them the next step in their career path,” he says. (1)
Companies that offer this type of internal development will not only find their staff more motivated but may be able to solve a tough opening through internal promotion.
Compensation, Pensions, and Golden Handcuffs
Monetary compensation, of course, remains an important factor in both recruitment and retention. For this reason, it’s important to understand what your competitors are offering. While this may feel like something of an arm’s race, there is room for strategy with regards to pay structure.
So-called “golden handcuffs” can be effective. These annually funded compensation structures can be targeted at specific individuals or groups, making them a fine instrument for retaining key employees.
“Because the receipt of benefits depends on the executive’s continued employment with the entity, golden handcuffs can serve as a long-term incentive plan designed to encourage the loyalty of your most valued key executives,” says Corporate Strategist Martin Levy. (2)
Joe Diglio, President and CEO at Michigan Milk Producers Association, is a proponent of offering pensions to employees. Not only are pensions a mechanism to reward longevity, but they can be seen as a real differentiator, particularly in the agricultural space.
“I’ve found that we’ve been really successful when we needed to hire mid managers and above,” says Diglio. “It’s helped us secure quite a few of the resources that are here today.” (3)
Work Life Balance, Remote Work, and Company Culture
It’s no secret that the pandemic caused many in the workforce to re-examine the way that their lives are structured, particularly in regard to their careers. ‘Work-life balance’ is the rallying call, with increased emphasis being placed upon both physical and mental well-being.
Remote or hybrid work arrangements, once a true needle-mover, have come to be seen as table stakes for those hoping to recruit or retain top talent. Such arrangements, however, are not always practical or even possible, particularly for on-farm workers. What’s important is for companies to examine each role carefully, and study competitors in order to identify ways that work-life balance can be achieved.
It’s worth noting that remote work arrangements need not be equated with a loss of productivity. Managers must nurture relationships and foster a culture of accountability in order to ensure the experience is optimized. Doing so is a matter of process and innate managerial style.
Staying Current with Employee Benefits Trends
Benefits have also evolved in recent years. Creativity in this regard allows organizations to show that they understand the challenges being faced by their employees, building deeper bonds, and improving retention in the process.
Health care coverage remains essential, particularly as people grapple with Covid-19, or finally undertake procedures deferred during the height of the pandemic. Voluntary opt-in benefits such as group financial counseling or healthy lifestyle programs align nicely with the aforementioned emphasis on overall wellbeing. Mental health programs are being valued as well.
The takeaway is that employee retention must remain an ongoing, proactive concern as opposed to an afterthought to be addressed during times of need. Regular communication with employees, benchmarking of the competitive landscape, and careful strategizing will allow companies to remain competitive, even when they can’t go dollar for dollar with larger rivals.
1 Personal communication with Michael Burdeny.
2 Marty Levy, CLU/RHU / May 3. “Retaining Your Top Performers: CSQ: C-Suite Quarterly.” CSQ, May 3, 2019. https://csq.com/2019/05/martin-levy-retaining-your-top-performers/#.YzHJIy1b01g.
3 Personal communication with Joe Diglio.