Retain Workers with Personal Perks

Retain Workers with Personal Perks

When Dan Pritchett learned one of his best staff members loves fast cars –- specifically driving them -- he knew he’d discovered an employee-retention tool cash couldn’t match.

“We were just shooting the breeze one day, and [the employee] showed me a Web site…for a new race car company that lets you take a day of training and then actually drive one of their cars on the racetrack,” says Pritchett, director of marketing at Logos Research Systems. “He was just thinking about it as a cool daydream. But I knew it would be a kid-in-Disneyland experience for him.”

So Pritchett sprung for the $1,500 cost of a day his employee won’t soon forget.

“The value of knowing what will be a huge deal to your key employees cannot be underestimated,” says Pritchett, whose 16-year-old company still includes five of its original seven employees. “A $1,500 cash bonus will quickly be forgotten. But when one of your favorite hobbies is checking out fast cars, a once-in-a-lifetime trip to spend a day and race a high-end sports car on a closed track will develop a loyalty for your job that can’t be replaced or measured.”

Indeed, when you start thinking about employee-retention initiatives, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing your efforts must be complicated, expensive or both. Not so. In fact, as Pritchett and many other employers have discovered, the individual touch is what matters to most employees. And that doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive at all.

Sound intriguing? Check out these success stories and ideas.

Reflect, Then Act

For years, Mary Cantando managed 80 workers in the technology industry. She’s retained all her best employees, not through fancy retention programs, but through a combination of simple reflection and action, she says.

“On the first day of every month, I closed my door and spent about a half-hour just thinking about my staff,” says Cantando, author of The Woman’s Advantage: 20 Women Entrepreneurs Show You What It Takes to Grow Your Business and president of “I then compiled a list of the ‘Five Fantastics’ for that month. These were the five employees who, if they resigned, would cause me the most heartburn.”

Once she’d made her choices, Cantando opened her calendar and gave herself an assignment to do something personal for each of those employees in the month ahead.

Cantando’s efforts weren’t earth-shattering. Often, she merely took an employee out to lunch, gave someone an unexpected day off or bought someone tickets to a ball game. But the results were remarkable.

“In a highly competitive industry, I didn’t lose a single A player in over four years, because I had a system for taking care of [employees] that went above and beyond the standard employee reward program,” Cantando says.

Best of all, Cantando stresses, each gesture wasn’t, and didn’t have to be, a big deal.

Mow Is Better

That’s what Robert Mather discovered in his role as CEO of background-checking firm Mather focuses his own employee-retention efforts “on the family at home,” trying to pinpoint ways to make his managers’ outside lives easier.

One of his most successful initiatives: Cutting the employees’ lawns -- not himself, but by paying a lawn service to handle it.

“It sounds silly, but the majority of people mow and care for their own lawn, requiring many hours a month on the task,” says Mather. “I tell the managers that the time they would have spent mowing and weeding can [instead] be spent on other quality time or relaxation.”

It’s a great way to mow down the competition, Mather stresses, and “it’s very well-received by all -- especially the spouses.”