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In a booming economy with the lowest unemployment figures in years, businesses of all sizes must devise innovative ways to attract and retain the best and brightest employees

you’re competing for employees.”

It’s one thing to win over new employees, quite another to keep them satisfied and productive year after year. It’s essential to listen to their concerns and go out of your way to stay in touch. Recognize their accomplishments, host an awards banquet or feature their efforts in the company newsletter. Look at the segments of your workforce that could benefit from special retention efforts and support their cultural differences. When possible, promote from within. For one thing, you won’t have to orient a new hire to the inner workings of your company. And you’ll boost staff morale by demonstrating firsthand that there are opportunities for advancement.

These days, employers must cultivate a can-do attitude in the workplace, or face the possibility of losing good workers. “If you have competitive salaries and a competitive work environment,” says Mays, “then what makes the difference is empowerment-the ability to say to employees, ‘You can rise as high as you want to in this company. There are no boundaries. There’s no glass ceiling.'”

When it comes to keeping good workers, keep in mind that it’s generally easier and cheaper to retain than to recruit. “We’ve estimated that it costs our company about $12,000 to train an employee,” says Johnson, who oversees a staff of 2,400. “So once you get a person on board, you really want to try to keep them there. Each time you lose someone, that $12,000 walks out the door and now you’ve got to put another $12,000 to train someone new.”

Certainly open-door policies, tailor-made perks and a voice in what goes on in the company sound great for both employees and employers, but are they good for business? Absolutely, say savvy entrepreneurs and management experts.

“You’re looking for people who are going to make a difference in your revenue stream,” says Daniel. “If you think it through, the way to promote longevity is to create an incentive to stay. When I hire my key managers today, I anticipate that, for the price I’m paying, they will be able to bring a certain dollar amount to my bottom line.”

In addition, says Mays, the ultimate payoff-long-term loyalty to the company-is well worth the price of a few extra benefits or a bit more flexibility. He cites the example of loaning an employee $2,000 for the down payment on a first home. “Most folks now pay enough in rent to be able to make a mortgage payment,” he says. “The problem is they don’t have enough for a down payment. Once they can get past that hurdle, they can move into home ownership-and that stabilizes the family. All we have to do is just make the information available to our employees and say, ‘We’re willing to work with you to help you clean up your credit, to loan you the down payment through payroll deductions so that you can pay us back.’ And the stability [that creates in the workplace] is just incredible.”

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