We all understand the benefits of retaining key employees in our business. High employee turnover directly impacts the bottom line, it stifles operations and the execution of business strategy and leads to customer dissatisfaction. Herbert Kelleher, the former CEO and Chairman of Southwest Airlines probably said it best when he stated:

“The customer is not number one, the employee is number one, get it right with the employee and they will get it right with the customer.”

It should be noted that Southwest Airlines is one of the few airlines in the United States that over the past couple of decades has continued to thrive whilst most have been struggling.

I have summarised below my top 10 tips for motivating and retaining employees, including:

  1. Paying competitively;
  2. Give employees tools to do their job well;
  3. Show how roles connect with the company’s purpose & goals;
  4. Enhance career learning, development & experiences;
  5. Recognise achievements & demonstrated value;
  6. Provide transparent & honest communication;
  7. Ask and act upon feedback;
  8. Celebrate wins;
  9. Coach & challenge employees;
  10. Remove squeaky wheels.


Let’s not kid ourselves, while paying competitively is certainly one of them (and even then, I am talking about total rewards, not just base pay), I would argue that the other 9 are just as important – particularly in consideration of the different attitudes towards work held by the new generation of workers today.


Our 10 Tips to Motivate & Retain Employees

1. Pay competitively

Pay needs to be industry competitive. If you pay less than the rest of the market (particularly if you’re not making up for it in other areas), you will consistently lose talent and attract a lower quality of employee, which will be reflected in your business results.

The ideal mix, where possible, would include base remuneration, rewards and perks, short-term performance bonuses and long-term loyalty-based initiatives. But importantly, bonus and reward systems need to match the business. One size does not fit all.


2. Give them the tools they need to do their job well

Ensure that your people have everything they need to be productive and successful, that they’re well trained, can access information quickly and have minimal roadblocks in their path. It sounds simple but many employers get this wrong.

All work is done through processes and 95% of all processes in a business are repetitive. Take the time to map out your key business processes and with the input of everyone in the business ensure that you are making continuous improvement – this flows through to both the customer and employee experience.

Outdated tools and processes reduce productivity. This inefficiency results in disengagement.


3. Show how their role connects with the company’s purpose and goals

It is important that as managers we continuously show employees how their work is meaningful and contributes to the company’s mission, purpose and the overall “painted picture” – the future state of the business. Cascading goals are a great way to do this – linking individual and company objectives.

This can also extend to corporate social responsibility partnerships that are ideally aligned with your purpose – which instils pride in employees. For example, at Employment Innovations (EI), our purpose is to make employment easier. So, we have partnered with organisations like Aruma (who help people with disabilities in the workplace) and the Black Dog Institute (who help tackle mental health challenges inside and outside the workplace) in the last 12 months.



4. Enhance their career with learning, development and experiences

Employees will stay loyal to their employer (and may stay for less than they can get elsewhere) if they can enhance their career with learning, development and experiences.

Career development is less about highly structured career paths and vertical progression these days – and more about managing real work experiences across the business (like a jungle gym) and getting them involved in cross-functional team projects and activities – achievements that they can put on their CV.

Invest in formal training if it is required to support future roles in the business (succession planning) or the employee’s career aspirations. Retention clauses can be included in agreements where significant investments have been made by the employer.


5. Recognise their achievements and demonstrated values

Positively reinforce (recognise and reward) for day-to-day examples of exhibiting values and personal achievements. There’s something very powerful about personally (and publicly) thanking individuals for playing a role in either yours or the company’s success.

Our good friends at Power2Motivate have shared 10 reasons to recognise employee achievements.


6. Provide transparent and honest communication

Do not withhold or spin information – use the many channels of communication that are available to inform people what is going on.

The cost of improving transparency is almost zero but requires an ongoing dialogue between management and staff. We see an increasing number of companies using increased transparency (particularly in these more volatile times) as a weapon to attract and retain top talent.


7. Ask and act upon feedback

Gain an appreciation of what employee’s value, what is done well and what we can improve on the employee experience by collecting confidential virtual suggestions and measuring employee happiness (at least monthly).

If a business is not asking its current employees “what makes you stay?”, then it needs to re-evaluate its retention strategies. Tools such as Tinypulse and Employment Hero have built-in confidential feedback features designed for the workplace.


8. Celebrate wins

Teamwork is crucial to success. Set ambitious company goals and work hard to achieve them together as a team – and celebrate your success. This will have a huge impact on staff morale.

At EI, we have embraced quarterly themes (inspired by the Rockefeller Habits) for every 90-day period over the past 15 years. When you launch your theme for the quarter, announce how you’re going to celebrate when everyone achieves the goal. Here are 5 ways to get your employees on board with your quarterly theme.


9. Coach and challenge them (and give them autonomy/accountability)

Have genuine conversations between managers and employees (at least quarterly) to identify ways to improve performance and employee development – both personally and professionally.

Coaching and giving feedback to your team drives a high-performance culture. Sometimes it means improving them and other times it is about motivating them to keep their “heads in the game”. Importantly, it is all about them. But their success becomes yours too.

When Google researched what successful managers do as part of Project Oxygen, they identified that the number one quality was being a good coach – above all else!


10. Remove squeaky wheels

You can experience real joy in recruiting, developing, and retaining “A Players” and “B Players”. But dealing with “C Players” is painful, and many managers avoid it. Tolerating “C Players” or “squeaky wheels” in your business has a negative effect on the retention of “A Players” – who do not want to work with the “squeaky wheels”.


Lastly, intrinsic rewards are vital

While financial and lifestyle goals are key motivators for people, most of us are also substantially driven by intrinsic rewards – job satisfaction, the opportunity to rise up and meet new challenges and recognition for a job well done. So, while generous remuneration and employee incentive schemes are important, they’re just one component of what must be an integrated and satisfying work experience that will help your organisation to retain and motivate the best people over the long term.


Other articles that may interest you

How to Ensure Your Pay & Total Rewards Strategies Are Fit for Purpose

Planning a Return to the Workplace – A Guide for Employers

What Can I Do When Employees Refuse To Return To Work?

Why You Need To Hire For Workplace Culture

How Culture Plays a Role in Engaging Millennials


About Employment Innovations

Employment Innovations is one of Australia’s leading providers of employment services designed to increase productivity and ensure compliance. Its services and solutions include all the tools that every Australian small to medium sized employer needs – including workplace advicelegal servicespayroll solutionsmigrationhuman resource management and HR software.



The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact Employment Innovations for advice.