As you march along attempting to hold your company together in this economic downturn who is paying for the discomfort?  You would probably pick yourself first and foremost.  After all you took the risk to start the business (entrepreneurs only!) and have had to make difficult decisions the past year or so…what to cut, who to cut, how much, how often.  You still guaranty the company’s line of credit.  Heck, you may even have had to take a pay cut yourself.

So…are you paying any attention to your employees, especially the key ones?  And I don’t mean just your direct reports.  I mean people who do things that are important and if you lost them they would be tough to replace.  It might be someone in accounting, or sales support, or service, or the warehouse.  I bet if you made a list of the people who would have a serious impact on your operation if they left it would be 30%-40% of your staff.

What Is My Risk?

Some experts’ feel that anywhere between 50%-80% of a company’s employees are intending to leave their current company when the economy turns positive.  And don’t be so naïve to think that your company doesn’t fall into this category.

Think about what you have subjected your employees to these past two years.  Most took pay cuts for the good of the company and to keep their job.  This was probably after a round or two of layoffs which saw some of their friends terminated.  And what did they get in return?  The work that used to be done by the people let go plus their current job.  Sure the volume of work is less but in many cases people are being asked to do 1½ to 2 times the work they were doing.  And how are you showing your appreciation?  You may not because you had to drop into tactical mode yourself and have no time to appreciate.  This is the reason people are readying their resumes.  They don’t feel appreciated.  And your reaction is…the ungrateful so and so’s.

What Can I Do To Keep Them?

First identify all your key players.  Don’t focus on your higher level employees or the ones who have been around the longest.  The key is to analyze each employee two ways:  what impact would their leaving have on my business and how likely are they to leave.  And don’t be naïve in your assessment.  Having one-to-one conversations with your higher risk people will be important.  Reach out to them.  How are they doing?  How can you help?  What career path do they see for themselves in the company?  Find out what motivates them.  Then develop a retention package specific to each individual consisting of financial and nonfinancial incentives.

A 2009 McKinsey Quarterly survey found that executives, managers and employees rate the following five nonfinancial incentives to be among the most important to them:  attention from leaders; praise from one’s manager; frequent promotions; opportunities to lead projects; and chances to participate in fast-track management programs.

As is so often the case in a company’s success…communicate.  Keeping your people informed as to how the company is doing, where you want to take it and what their role is to help make it successful.

Take action before it is too late.

Consider Reading This

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful by Marshall Goldsmith.  Goldsmith is an executive coach to Fortune 500 CEOs and executives.  He identifies twenty bad habits that keep people from being as successful as they can be.  Learn from a master.