When it comes to long-term employee retention, loyalty is the name of the game. Lest you not forget that loyalty—which is defined as a strong feeling of support or allegiance—is a two-way street. If you want an employee to stay with you for a long time, they need to feel like you’ve got their back.
Loyalty from an employer takes many different forms and certainly varies among industries and companies, but there are a few hallmarks of retention that ring true everywhere:
- Good, competitive pay and benefits
- A culture of candid, transparent, two-way communication
- A defined path to career advancement & opportunities for professional development
- Competent leadership
When these company characteristics ring loud and true, an employee will no doubt feel supported and strategically aligned with their employer. And when that’s the case, why would they even need to consider looking for a new job?
Just to make sure, we posed this question to 10 consultants, advisors and business coaches in blue-collar industries to see what they think the best approach is to long-term employee retention. Here’s what they had to say:
Scott Molchan, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Million Dollar Landscaper)
Pay and benefits are always great for retention. Involving employees in the business, and asking for and respecting their opinions are great ways to keep even your veteran employees engaged in the business. “What’s dumb around here?” meetings are one way to do this. It provides employees a safe place to provide feedback and add value to the company.
Jeffrey Scott, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Jeffrey Scott Consulting, Inc.)
Assuming they have been with you for years, long-term employees have the company colors in their blood, but to keep things fresh I advocate for "treating employees like prospects, and prospects like employees." This means engaging with them with open ears, even as the years go on, to make sure that as their skills, needs and home environment changes, that you are aware and keeping things relevant for them.
When tenured staff leave, it is because their company has taken them for granted, so keep offering your people growth in their skills and career ladder. Make sure they are being paid market rate for their skills, and get them involved in the strategic decisions that affect their department or team.
Jack Jostes, host of The Landscaper’s Guide Podcast and CEO of Ramblin Jackson
Focusing on regular employee appreciation and career path opportunities are two ways to increase long-term retention. Not everyone wants to become a manager at your company, but is there a career path for them as a highly skilled specialist? For employee appreciation, I have several clients who have games—and some even with their own branded culture coin currency—for acknowledging employees who are living the company core values.
Randy Goruk, Construction Industry Consultant (Leaders Edge 360)
Long-term retention happens when an enjoyable work environment exists, an atmosphere of trust is present and the employees see that their job makes a difference. Employees will also stay with organizations that offer professional development and career advancement opportunities through mentoring, coaching or training. Consistency of leadership and company culture are also important; therefore, succession planning can help with retention, too.
Long-term employees will stay engaged if they experience competent management—that is, managers who demonstrate they care about the employee as a person, listen to the ideas and opinions of their employees, communicate effectively, provide and receive feedback, and hold others (and themselves) accountable for performance and behaviors.
Bahaa Moukadam, Business Coach (SeeMetrics Partners)
High performers need to be continuously challenged and contributing at a high level. They want to make an impact. To retain them, you must let them know that they are appreciated while at the same time giving them the opportunity to tackle new challenging projects, assignments and a high level of expectation. To avoid restlessness, high performers should be given the opportunity to move to new and different roles within the organization whenever possible.
In the current environment of talent shortage, compensation is becoming a more significant factor than ever. For all my clients I am advising, we are doing much more frequent compensation reviews and adjustments than the previously typical annual cycles.
Neal Glatt, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Grow the Bench)
No matter the tenure of employees, meeting weekly is the only way to know the other person. Professional and personal priorities change often throughout life, so no employee can ever be ignored just because they have worked somewhere for years.
Joe Policastro, Landscaping Industry Consultant (Cycle CPA)
Employees will stay as long as they feel appreciated and are compensated fairly. Great companies to work with often have great leaders that ensure both of these principles are being followed.
Bart Gragg, Construction Industry Consultant (Blue Collar University)
Employee engagement is the single most important aspect of long-term retention, and it begins with making it safe for people to speak up. Some examples of productive engagement are the ability to question and pose ideas and feel supported, disagree with management and feel heard, and disagree with co-workers while feeling respected.
I’ve found that supporting work on pet projects makes long-term employees feel valued, and some of those projects led to innovation that changed the efficiency and increased the safety factor of a process. They added value to the company and led to huge wins.
The payoff for employee engagement is more than keeping an employee happy. Engagement feeds the organization’s long-term objectives and the bottom line.
Gloria Strauthers, Cleaning Industry Consultant (Exodus Management and Consulting)
One overlooked long-term retention plan is to "Watch Your HiPos," or what we call High Performing Individuals. Two-thirds of employees leave their organizations due to the lack of training and advancement opportunities with clear pathways. Frequently, organizations fail to see flight patterns as they focus on those who left. By utilizing exit interview data and internal surveys, you not only identify but also neutralize potential flight risks early on with your High Performing Individuals.
My advice for engaging employees who have been with the company for a substantial amount of time is to reward their loyalty consistently. Always pinpoint their contributions and how they have directly contributed to your organization’s success. Be very clear on how you factor them into the company's succession plan. By having ongoing conversations about their professional goals and providing them with a structured development plan, they can visualize the endgame as either retirement or promotion.
Ernie Coutermarsh, Distribution Industry Consultant (EC Consulting)
When you have a loyal employee base, you’re always going to have tenured employees who are moving into retirement, so you have to always be bringing on new talent and developing people to move into those positions as they become vacant. Doing that in a very public way acknowledges the loyalty of the people who stayed while also showing that you’re developing people who join the company and are opening the door for more new people to join. The folks moving into new positions and retirement represent fulfillment of the promise you’re making to the new people you’re onboarding; they don’t just have to take your word for it.
Ernie makes a good point: you can’t forget about the new folks at your organization, either. Read what our experts had to say about new employee engagement here, or sign up for our email newsletter to have more hiring & retention insights like these delivered directly to your inbox.