6 Tips For Keeping Great Employees

We’ve written about the importance of hiring help to get the support you need to push your business forward while maintaining a sustainable work/life balance. We’ve talked about finding and hiring the right people for the job. But equally important is doing what it takes to keep good people when you find them. Employee turnover costs time and money and causes a great deal of stress. So taking good care of the good ones is worth the effort.

Here are six things you can do to hold on to your valued employees.

1. Make It Clear
Even the best employees can’t be expected to read minds. Don’t make it a mystery how to be a model employee. Nobody should be left to guess what you’re looking for. Give new hires a list of review points on day one, and spell out in that document exactly what success for each review item looks like. Your employees should know what is expected of them and what to strive for.

And cut down on confusion by keeping expected tasks clear. Provide detailed protocols to follow for jobs like greeting clients, returning emails, answering the phone, cleaning kennels, moving dogs into and out of playgroups, etc. When employees know what’s expected of them they can more easily settle successfully and comfortably into their roles.

2. Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce
So important it’s worth repeating. You use R+ to get the best out of the dogs, and of course positive reinforcement works on people as well. We all like to know we’re doing a good job. Build opportunities into your schedule to see your employees in action. When you catch one making a good decision with a dog, let them know. When you see them land a new client or soothe an angry one, thank them. Employees feel a great investment in the business when they know their efforts contribute it its success.

Be specific when you reinforce—just like when coaching a training client, tell employees exactly what they did well and why you like it. “Great job!” is always nice to hear, but “I love how you noticed that Spot was getting nervous and cheerfully called him away from the other dogs to get him out of the situation. That was great proactive thinking!” is much more informative and likely to impact future action.

3. Make Room For Growth
Few of us are only singularly talented. With good communication and an open mind, you may discover your daycare attendant is a skilled writer, or your training assistant has a flair for social media. Let your team members try on different hats, and the results could surprise you. Surveys have shown that career development trumps pay or benefits when employees consider staying with a job. So keep the job interesting by adding new responsibilities or projects, particularly for employees who enjoy being creative, learning new things, or being relied on. And encourage employees to pursue continuing education, just as you do.

4. Be Flexible And Open
Be flexible where you can about schedules, particularly if you’re unable to provide a full-time position. And openly welcome suggestions and ideas from your staff about how everything you do might be improved. Keeping ego out of the picture and valuing employee suggestions can keep everyone feeling engaged and part of a team—and lead to great innovations for your business as well. A sharp employee may see an opportunity to increase efficiency, save money, or introduce a successful new service.

5. Walk The Walk
With every action, you influence team morale and model the behavior your employees will repeat. If you want them to treat clients well, you must treat your employees well. If you want them to handle challenges and setbacks smoothly, you have to tackle the same with calm and cheerful resolve. Create a culture where your business values are reflected in your day-to-day actions. Engage your team frequently in dialogue and leave room for their feedback. Of course you’ll make mistakes. But an authentic apology can earn you even greater respect and loyalty.

6. Let The Bad Ones Go
Sometimes an employee just doesn’t work out. We’ve noticed in our consulting work that dog pros will often let the bad ones linger too long, hoping they’ll turn around or wanting to give them another chance. Or you may be tempted to hold on because of a particular skill set an employee brings to the table, or just a lack of time to find a replacement. Whatever the reason, keeping difficult employees is never good for business. Resentments build, morale sours, clients flee.

We believe in the adage, “Slow to hire, quick to fire.” Take your time during the hiring process and you’ll encounter fewer problems later on. But when problems do arise despite your best efforts at training and communication, make a sober assessment. Is the employee damaging your business with poor customer service or a difficult attitude that’s negatively impacting the morale of other employees? Are there too many missed days, mistakes, excuses? Don’t risk losing good people by putting off the hard task of letting a bad apple go. Do it respectfully but firmly, and give yourself what you deserve: the chance to find, care for, and keep the right kind of help—the kind that will help your business grow.