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What is the cost of losing an employee? Just a few years ago, with a wealth of qualified applicants to choose from, the answer to that question wouldn’t sting as much. Asking that question now means taking into consideration an unemployment rate of only 3.9 percent and that candidates are far less likely to move from one company to the next.

According to a poll from Gallup, as reported by Harvard Business Review, it hurts even more to lose top performers. A study found that losing a top performer means losing an employee that’s 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable to the business than other employees. Considering this, it makes sense that companies need to do what it takes to keep qualified, valuable employees in place.

It is a good time to think through how you can improve employee engagement and boost retention. In other words, in the spirit of the new year, here are a few of the top resolutions you can make to help keep employees happy and keep them at your company for the long haul.

#1: Value Employees by Promoting a Work-Life Balance

One of the most important steps to take as an employer is to ensure your team has the ability to balance their work life and their personal life. This doesn’t necessarily mean more vacation time, but respecting their time off, keeping business within acceptable hours, and making sure days off really are days off. Employees want to feel connected to their companies, but they also need the break to continue producing work at the highest levels.

#2: Educate Them

Encourage your employees to continue their education. A key reason why many leave one organization to move on to another is simply because they lack interest. They get bored. However, taking coursework in areas such as management, organization risk management, project management, or various other fields, benefits both the employee and the company. You gain a team member better able to do his or her job. And, that employee is learning and growing with you.

“Good companies attract good employees. If the company offers opportunities for training and development, an employee doesn’t have to look outside in order to take advantage of new skills or qualifications,” said Shawn Whisenhant, director of Post University’s Corporate Partnership.

“Investing in educational opportunities keeps your employees current in the field and also supports employee satisfaction. Participating in Post University’s Corporate Partnership program, is a terrific way to for a company to offer a perk that can make a difference in attracting and keeping employees.”

#3: Allow for Creativity

Some companies have very specific rules — and in some situations, they are necessary for safety and security. Yet, when there is an opportunity to allow for creativity, do so. Allowing an employee to be more of who he or she is encourages them to be creative, innovative, and engaged with your organization. Those creative benefits can easily become valuable to your organization by providing insight into new ways to accomplish tasks … while encouraging star staff to remain hands-on within the company.

#4: Encourage Employees to Set Goals for Themselves

Younger employees tend to be the most difficult to maintain long term. They are easily swayed by the promise of something more interesting or better down the road. Make no mistake — millennials themselves are very loyal and not likely to take a new position just for a better paycheck. But, they are very much in need of new opportunities. One key way to do this is to encourage goal setting. For example, encourage employees to advance to new positions within the company. With proper education and training, perhaps supported by the organization, you can keep them moving forward within your company.

#5: Make a Point to Thanking Employees Enough

A basic “thank you” can go a long way when it comes to creating strong relationships between employees and employers. A basic thanks, however, is not necessarily enough. Make it genuine. Make it heartfelt. Employees thrive on feeling valued and a part of the team. They recognize that the work they do day in and day out contributes to the company’s success. Shake their hand. Thank them with a personalized message based on what you know about them. Ask them about their kids. Discuss their needs. Saying thanks is not just about two seconds of gratitude. It is more important to send a message that shows just how much you value that employee. Find ways to do this throughout the year.

#6: Give More Responsibility and Take Away the Hand-holding

As noted, employees embrace educational opportunities. After taking a few courses or learning to be a leader within your organization, give that employee the ability to manage various tasks. This helps the employee to see just how valuable his or her actions are to your organization. Assign a specific task or project to an employee who has just completed a leadership course. Or, work with an employee to tackle an ongoing problem together. By providing them with responsibility, without as much oversight, you show the employee just how much you value them. That goes a long way in building relationships.

#7: Ask them How to Make It Better

Employee engagement is at the heart of every task you can take on to improve employee relations. But, how should you engage and motivate your team? Sometimes, the best route lies with achieving the goals and understanding the needs of your team, not necessarily your company. That is, take this opportunity to ask your employees at the start of the new year what they need to flourish, to become more committed, and to remain dedicated employees of your business. An engagement survey — one you act on — can be an effective manner of gathering this insight.

To keep employees, you have to focus on meeting their needs. In most organizations, this includes providing a path towards learning and growth within the company, providing opportunities to be valued, and providing ways the employee can engage. When you take the time to develop a plan that addresses these areas, you foster a better relationship with your team. And, that means they stay with you, work harder, and produce better results.

While you may be focused on productivity numbers and sales reports, this year, why not focus a bit more on what you can do to keep your already-trained, already-skilled employees working for you? It may be one of the best ways for your organization to remain competitive in a tight labor market.