Catch or Release? How to Keep Great Employees

Aunt Lucy, queen of the knitted unicorns (and other massive stuffed animals) hired the very best salesperson: Shawn Sellars.  Shawn was perfect for the job! In his first two weeks, he upsold 80% of his customers, decreased shipping times and was generally, quite pleasant to work with. Everyone loved Shawn!  Things were going perfectly, until week 4, when Shawn quit!


Why do people quit their jobs?

You might wonder why Shawn quit after 4 short weeks, especially since he seemed to like the job, the customers, and Aunt Lucy. We asked Shawn: Was it money? Was it the hours? The answer Shawn gave, may surprise you – in fact; MIT Sloan Management Review discovered the main reason individuals like Shawn were quitting their jobs in record numbers:

Toxic work environment:

Apparently, Aunt Lucy’s favorite nephew wouldn’t let Shawn take his breaks, took credit for half of Shawn’s sales and continually berated Shawn in front of other employees and customers.

In fact, employees who feel like their work environment is toxic are 10.4 times more likely to quit a job, even if their pay is higher than what they would get working in the same industry.


How do I keep good employees?

You’ve finally found and hired that dream employee! Now how do you keep them? In this example, if Aunt Lucy wants to keep Shawn, she needs to:

  • Clean up the toxic work environment: It may take some investigation, but if you talk to enough people (customers included) you’ll find the areas causing employees to flee.
    • Be open to the idea that YOU may be causing the toxic work environment. Do you yell or criticize more than praise? Are you creating a happy and safe workplace? Are you allowing your nephew to terrorize the workers?
  • Create Job Security: As we mentioned in our last blog, employees are fearful of losing their jobs. Train your employees well and create an environment of job security.
  • Recognize Accomplishments: Another reason individuals are leaving their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated. Recognize performance and create a reward system. It doesn’t need to cost a lot of money, just be certain to recognize a job well done (and recognize it often).
  • Stay Innovative: Businesses with high levels of innovation keep their employees longer. It may be time to consider that new Point of Sale system, automated shipping or new barcode system for inventory.


How to keep employees in a high turn-over industry?

If you own a small business that is part of the hospitality industry, or food services, you probably feel like you are bleeding employees. It is tough, but so are you!  You can make your small business thrive, and here are some ideas how to keep your employees, even if you are in a high turnover industry:

  • Own it: Embrace the fact that your business may be one of those that inherently has a high turnover rate. It doesn’t mean you give up, embrace the “crazy” and create a plan for it.
    • Paragus, a tech company with high turnover began to refer to departures as graduations and celebrated them with farewell parties. They redesigned their business model to significantly reduce the impact of turnover for their clients to ensure they could still provide the same amount of support. They did this by creating teams so that if one person left, the other team members could step in and even train the next new hire.
  • Get new employees off to a good start: Proper orientation can help alleviate some of the uncertainty new employees experience. Appropriate training will also help eliminate the frustrations that cause many new-hires to reconsider their job acceptance.
    • Don’t skimp on how to interact with customers. Customer service training is important, especially in this day and age when tempers seem to be short and complaints are frequent.
  • Reconsider shift schedules: Be fair when assigning shifts and take into consideration individual needs.
  • Give workers authority: Let your employees take the lead on the things they do well and back them up when they make a decision; especially in front of a customer.
  • Offer bonding opportunities: Employees love to work with friends and associates who make them feel like part of a team. Consider team building, out of office get-togethers and other opportunities to bond.


It doesn’t matter if you have 1 or 100 employees, implementing a few ideas or changes to make your company a great place to work, will attract new employees and you’ll keep the great workers you have.


For additional information regarding how you can keep the good employees that you’ve hired, or on how to attract quality workers in any business, please contact us at the Small Business Development Center – SBDC – Serving Paris area:  Lamar, Hunt, Hopkins, Delta, and Red River counties.

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