10 Employee Retention Tricks to Help Keep Your Top Talent

Young smiling deli workers serving customers at the counter

When an employee quits, finding and training a replacement can be costly and time consuming. That's why retaining your employees, especially high performing ones or those in hard-to-fill positions, is critical.

Here are 10 ways to help you keep your talent.

1. Promote your company's culture and an equitable workplace.

Employees who feel a strong attachment to their company's culture and values tend to be more loyal and engaged. Ask yourself if your values are clearly communicated to your employees (both at the time of hire and throughout their employment) and whether your policies and practices reflect those values.

For example, employees are more likely to be satisfied with work if they believe their workplace is fair, equitable, and inclusive. Review your policies and practices to assess diversity, equity, and inclusion at your company. Ensure that employees are paid fairly when compared with other employees in your company and verify that your pay practices don't discriminate on the basis of any protected characteristic, such as sex or race.

Additionally, take all discrimination complaints seriously and launch a prompt, fair, and thorough investigation. If an investigation reveals that a violation of your policies occurred, take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Address problems before they become severe or pervasive and administer your disciplinary action policy on a consistent basis regardless of who is involved.

2. Develop effective leaders.

Employees often leave a job because of a poor working relationship with their supervisor. To be effective, supervisors need proper training and guidance on performance management, communication, applying workplace rules and policies, and employee development.

Managers should also receive initial and ongoing training on:

  • Leadership skills
  • Holding effective meetings
  • Time management
  • Interviewing and hiring
  • Promoting a fair and inclusive work environment
  • Motivating and recognizing employees, goal setting, providing constructive feedback, and conducting performance reviews
  • Recognizing and responding to sexual harassment (required in several states and local jurisdictions) and other misconduct
  • Understanding and avoiding retaliation
  • Managing leave and other employee requests
  • Soliciting feedback from employees
  • Discipline and termination

3. Create an attractive compensation package.

An attractive compensation package can put your company ahead of its competitors. The right mix of direct compensation (wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses) and indirect compensation (health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, etc.) is key.

Develop a total compensation plan that balances attracting and retaining top talent with keeping labor costs under control. For instance, even if you're unable to afford increasing employee wages, which will affect your bottom line for as long as the employee is with you, perhaps you could offer one-time retention and/or performance bonuses.

4. Pay attention to your top performers.

Top performers are typically harder and more expensive to replace. Consider performance-based bonuses or greater autonomy and responsibilities to recognize and encourage exceptional work.

5. Offer challenging work and empower employees.

Many employees seek challenging and varied work, two factors that can keep employees engaged. Where possible, design jobs with a range of tasks and allow top performers to work on new or high-profile projects. To help avoid monotony, allow employees to use different skills or cross-train employees on new responsibilities.

To the extent possible, give employees the autonomy to make decisions about their work and encourage employees to share their knowledge and skills. Ask employees for ideas for tackling projects and challenges and give them the tools and resources they need to do their jobs effectively.

6. Provide flexibility.

Employees who have flexible work arrangements tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, are more likely to be productive, and have higher attendance rates than those lacking a work-life balance.

Consider offering employees flexibility around when and/or where they perform their work, such as work-from-home arrangements, compressed workweek schedules (such as four 10-hour workdays per week), or flextime (early arrival and departure).

If you offer compressed workweeks, keep your overtime obligations in mind. Some states (and certain industries), including Alaska, California, Colorado and Nevada, require overtime pay when nonexempt employees work more than a certain number of hours in a workday. However, some states may allow employers to adopt alternative schedules (eliminating the daily overtime requirement) if certain conditions are met. Check your specific law to ensure compliance.

7. Recognize and reward employees.

Recognition is a simple, low-cost way to motivate and retain employees by showing appreciation for a job well done. The positive feedback demonstrates that you value the employee's contributions and that you encourage their continued efforts.

While recognizing top performance is important, think about other behaviors you want to reinforce. For instance, you can recognize employees who submit suggestions for improving workplace safety. Effective recognition can come from the employer, the manager, fellow employees, and customers, and can be given publicly or privately.

Regardless of whether recognition is given publicly or privately, be specific about why the employee is being recognized. For instance, instead of just saying something to the effect of "good job on that project," be specific about what you appreciated about their effort, such as "You took ownership of the project from the beginning, stayed late to make sure you finished it on time and corrected a problem that saved the company time and money. Thank you for your dedication."

8. Offer training to develop their skillsets.

Provide employees with training and development opportunities to promote retention and commitment. Even if there aren't a lot of opportunities to move upward, you can still help employees develop skills and knowledge that will serve them in the future. Engage employees on a regular basis to determine their training needs and career development interests. Consider internal and external training opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, cross-training, and professional development classes.

9. Communicate effectively.

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, distrust, reduced performance, and other negative consequences that can increase turnover. Communicate openly with employees about the company's goals and business results and give employees multiple ways to provide you with feedback, such as regular staff meetings, an employee suggestion program, and employee satisfaction surveys.

10. Conduct stay and exit interviews.

"Stay interviews" can help you gain insight into how you can retain employees. Ask current employees questions that address both why they're loyal to the company (an indication of what you should keep doing) and why they may consider leaving (an indication of what changes may need to be made).

These stay interviews typically include questions about what the employee likes most and least about their job, what the employer/supervisor can do to support them in the challenging aspects of their job, whether they believe their talents are being fully utilized, and what would make them consider leaving.

If you do receive notice from any employee that they're leaving, conduct an exit interview with them to find out why they resigned. Exit interviews can help you identify your company's weaknesses, so they can be addressed before the next employee leaves, and they can help transfer knowledge to a successor or replacement.


To help limit turnover, understand what motivates your employees and develop programs accordingly. Investing in your current employees can ultimately help your bottom line while creating a positive, productive work environment.

Learn more

Having accurate data and a comprehensive picture of what is happening in the market, the organization, and with employees is the first step in creating an effective retention strategy. Download our report: Getting Your Retention Strategy Right

This article was originally published as an "ADP HR Tip of the Week" which is a communication created for ADP's small business clients.