6 Secrets of Employee Retention: Reward Them Now, Not Later

Hand holding Post-It note that says "great job"

When it comes to employee retention, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In other words, making sure your best employees are happy and productive is far more effective than trying to address dissatisfaction after it arises.

The best way to promote a workforce that is both motivated and dedicated is to have a strategy in place that reinforces your top-performing employees’ commitment, dedication and loyalty. That’s why it’s important to make employee retention one of your ongoing goals.

In some instances, of course, even a strong employee retention strategy isn’t enough to prevent your best employee from having thoughts of moving on. And that’s why it’s also crucial to be able to recognize the warning signs that a valued staff member has one foot out the door.

Here are six tips for keeping your top employees happy — and for spotting the clues, both subtle and not-so-subtle, that one of your staff members is planning to leave

1. Reward performance with salary increases or bonuses

Losing your best employee can often be avoided with an increase in salary or a reward of an employee perk. Review the salary of your best employee and see if an increase is in order. Successful employee retention has many aspects, but never underestimate the power of monetary rewards.

Consult Robert Half’s Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance to learn more about compensation trends.

2. Discuss career development plans

Make sure your staff members know you want to help them turn their professional interests, preferences and strengths into long-term careers with your firm. Consider scheduling regular FOCUS meetings with your employees: The words that comprise the FOCUS acronym — Feedback, Objectives, Career development, Underlying motivators and Strengths — are areas that most employees are interested in discussing. These check-in meetings can be a valuable tool in assessing your employees’ attitude throughout their tenure with the firm.

3. Create an employee-friendly work environment

From alternate working hours to telecommuting options, some of the most effective employee retention strategies involve giving employees options to excel professionally while simultaneously maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Flexibility in scheduling may well prove to be the deciding factor when your best employee chooses to stay rather than bolt for another job.

4. Emphasize the company’s appreciation  

You don’t have to give your best employee a plaque or mention in the company newsletter to express your gratitude for a job well done. A sincere "thank you" can be more powerful than you realize.

5. Keep your finger on the pulse of the office

Keeping in mind that all employees have ups-and-downs, ask yourself: Are your best employees still having fun on the job? Do they still seem to be in tune with the company culture? Does your employee’s body language convey ease or strain? If your best employee used to arrive with a smile but now seems happier when leaving, for example, it could be a sign that anticipation of what lies ahead now holds more excitement than the present work environment.

6. Take your best employee to lunch  

Make an informal lunch date and see where the conversation goes. You may not learn any specifics, but you’ll likely a get a better sense of the employee’s current job satisfaction. It’s also possible the employee may take this out-of-the-office opportunity to confide in you and even ask your advice on what to do next. Be ready for whatever comes up, from lighthearted talk about entertainment or sports to a serious discussion about career moves.

When all is said and done, you can’t always prevent your best employee and other top performers from leaving, if that’s what they really want to do. But you can lessen the likelihood of that happening through a strong employee retention program and by being able to recognize signs that an employee’s enthusiasm for the job is waning.

Assess employee morale on an ongoing basis while taking proactive steps to ensure your top employees are fully aware of how much you value them. Doing so will go a long way toward retaining the talent you want to keep.

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DeLynn SennaDeLynn Senna, CPA, is the executive director of Robert Half Finance & Accounting, the world's first and largest specialized financial recruitment service. In her role, she leads Robert Half Finance & Accounting’s global operations, including defining brand positioning and working with executive and field leadership across five continents to develop growth strategies and operating processes, and to shape and promote the company’s vision internally and externally.