Monday, August 13, 2001

The Success Coach

Respect, not money, best at keeping workers

By Michael Crom
Gannett News Service

        Question: I own a small store in Connecticut. I try to pay fair and competitive salaries, and I offer good benefits to all my employees. Clearly, I can't compete with the larger organizations, but I feel that I offer a good working environment.

        The problem is that I can't seem to keep new employees. My longtime staff is loyal, but it seems that as soon as we hire someone, they leave us for a higher-paying job. It happens both in the managerial level and at sales clerk. This is really hurting my business. We can't expand our product line because I don't have the staff to cover the work I currently have. Even more important, quality suffers and so does customer service. Any advice?

        Answer: You might be surprised to learn that you already have the most important factor employees look for: respect. I say that because it's unlikely even your long-term employees would be loyal without that key ingredient.

        My advice is to emphasize the respect and caring — the family atmosphere you talk about. You can do this by:

        • Begin with praise and honest appreciation. Yes, maybe they're just doing what you're paying them to do, but they can still be praised for their hard work, their commitment, their attention to quality. Remind them constantly that you truly appreciate what they are doing for you and for the company.

        • Sincerely make them feel important every day. Today's employees know how valuable their time and skills are but too often once we hire someone, we forget to remind them how valuable they are to the company. Walk through the office or the plant and tell them how their performance means you are satisfying a large client.

        • Be sympathetic with their ideas and desires. Every individual has unique goals and dreams. Find out about those desires and do what you can to help the employee meet them. A younger employee might be saving to buy a house; offer him an hour with your personal investment adviser as a service anniversary present. Other employees might want more time with their children; encourage supervisors to look into flexible work schedules, including more part-time positions.

        • Talk in terms of their interests. How do you discuss the company's future? Many company presidents call employee meetings to talk about growth and profits, assuming the employees value these things. Many employees, however, leave these meetings with the feeling that if they work harder, other people see the benefits, not them. Instead, talk about the company's future in terms of the employees. More earnings might open up more opportunities for training or other desirable benefits. Expansion means more people will be getting promoted.

        I can't guarantee that this will completely solve your problem, especially in the near term — young people especially haven't had enough life experience to realize how much more important respect is than a few extra dollars on the paycheck. However, I can tell you that the companies with the best employee retention records diligently follow these strategies.

        Michael Crom is executive vice president, Dale Carnegie Training. If you have any business-related questions or would like advice on other workplace issues, visit our Web site at or e-mail us at


First Firestone trial slated today
Wireless Internet is ripe for hacking
Doctors say focus on eyestrain
ECKBERG: Troops at the front rewarded
Raises aren't in slowdown
- Respect, not money, best at keeping workers
Morning Memo
Promotions & new on the job
Bonne Bell finds force with older labor
Micrsoft, Kodak agree on digital camera software link