Retention of key employees is critical to any organization’s success, growth, and profit. Replacing valuable employees is time consuming, risky, and expensive. The first step in retaining key employees is knowing what your employees do for you. The second is knowing what they want. Do you know?

A friend recently resigned her position of five years to accept another. The new job fit her education; it was a logical step in her career. After her employer accepted her resignation, she was asked to help train her replacement. When the owner of the company reviewed her responsibilities, he said, “I didn’t know you did all this.” It’s difficult to understand what a person needs if you don’t know what they do for your business. In this case, she did many unrewarding activities outside of her job responsibilities. Her position wasn’t a good fit. When things no longer fit, we replace them.

I’ve observed leaders attempting to motivate employees by giving them what the leader thinks should motivate them. How do you find out what your employees want? First, listen. Your employees may already be telling you what motivates them. An employee who struggles with a work schedule, due to family commitments, might be motivated by schedule flexibility. Someone who continually seeks approval may be asking for more recognition. Team members who present creative ideas and plans may want a little autonomy. Open your ears and your mind.

4 Keys to Retaining Key Employees

1. Ask your employees what they want. Complete a survey, hold a meeting, and/or chat one-on-one.  Do it more than once. You will not be able to accommodate everyone or everything, but you may be surprised how many you can. Ask, listen, and act.

2. Know what your people do — every activity. Do the activities fit the organization and the individual? Can they be adapted to fit? The best coaches make plans to fit their personnel rather than attempting to make personnel fit the plan.

3. Listen to your people. They may share what they want and what motivates them.

4. Give your people what they need, whenever possible, and when their needs fit the vision of the organization.

These 4 steps will improve retention of key employees, and they’re not as time consuming or difficult as the alternative — hiring and training replacements.