There are a plenty of reasons to develop the talent and expertise of your employees. It increases the value of your company's intellectual assets, it ensures that the most competent people will be ready to move into vacancies when they surface, it nurtures employee satisfaction and retention, and it helps to develop strong leaders and representatives of the company as it evolves and grows over time. It also makes your job as a manager easier!

One way to offset the high cost of employee turnover is to focus on developing your internal employees. Use the following 11 strategies to bring out the best in them and retain them on your team:

1. Come up with a new compensation plan

Pay raises often produce only temporary improvements in staff performance. Look for other forms of payment beyond salary, such as benefits, flex time, family-friendly alternatives, stock options, paid tuition, etc.

2. Redesign the job

Identify the factors that create satisfaction and dissatisfaction in a particular job. It may be possible to transfer some of the more dissatisfying duties to less critical employee segments, which frees up your superior talent for newer and better things.

3. Customize the job

A good manager will come to understand what each of his or her employees values most. Talking to employees about what their long-term goals and career aspirations are makes them feel respected and nurtured. It is possible to customize a job so that it reflects a specific individual's needs and goals and shows that you care and support them.

4. Create a career ladder

This staged approach to career development allows an employee to progressively take on more and more challenging roles and responsibilities. For example, an entry-level production assistant might move on to junior designer, then to graphic artist and finally to art director. This ladder approach is most effective when it avoids "plateaus." There should always be a perception of progress and emerging opportunity. Nothing will frustrate employees more than the belief that they are "stuck" in their current position.

5. Prioritize learning and development

Provide on-the-job opportunities for employees to learn new skills. The more challenges and responsibilities you throw in the path of energetic, proactive employees, the more engaged and interested they will be in your organization and in their jobs. In short, smarter employees make better employees.

6. Establish a mentoring program

Facilitating mentoring relationships can solidify the bond between an employee and an organization. A mentoring program conveys the message that the company cares about each employee personally. Partnering a new employee with a positive, empathizing and nurturing mentor can strengthen loyalty. Make sure the mentor is an excellent representative of the company whose commitment to the organization is high.

7. Give employees ownership

Giving your staff a greater investment in the company is what the popular phrase "employee empowerment" really means. A more participatory management style and a reduction in the layers of reporting relationships can free employees to be more autonomous and innovative. Give good employees more responsibility, and they will generally run with it.

8. Support your employees

Manager availability and support are critical to employee satisfaction. An accessible manager who helps employees through their mistakes and takes their problems and concerns seriously, develops trust and a sense of teamwork. No employee will ever respect you or your organization if the only time they ever see you is when you come out of your office to chew them out.

9. Reward a job well done

It should be a no-brainer, but there are still managers out there who believe the best way to motivate employees is through fear and anxiety. Yet over and over again, successful businesses are seeing the vital connection between creative freedom and motivation. The more autonomy and authority you give your employees, the more resourceful and eager they will be to find new and innovative ways of increasing customer satisfaction...and the more fulfilled and secure they will feel in their positions. Some tips for catalyzing potential and intiative include:

  • Set goals
  • Support and encourage
  • Listen
  • Communicate
  • Emphasize teams over individuals
  • Assess talents and weaknesses
  • Inspire
  • Create positive work environments
  • Give feedback, always highlighting areas where improvement has occurred
  • Make yourself available for assistance
  • Follow through

10. Implement an employee recognition program

As a way to motivate exemplary performance, employee recognition programs should always be tied to actions or achievements that warrant special acknowledgement. Cash substitutes (vouchers, entertainment tickets, gift certifications, etc.) are often better than a cash reward or bonus because it attaches an employee's achievement to a memory or a positive emotion.

Recognition should not be given in a glib, cursory manner or to people who have simply done their job. Make the recognition valuable to the recipient, available at all levels within the organization, and ensure that it follows clearly defined criteria. Publicizing the program through newsletters, bulletin boards, emails, the intranet, etc. ensures that the honor isn't just empty filigree.

11. Institute a team approach

When employees feel that they are a part of a team that collaborates, shares a vision, sets goals and delivers a successful product or service, they feel integral and indispensable to their company's success. When others depend and count on a team member to come through for them, there is a sense of investment and accountability that brings out the very best in people.

Although it may seem self-evident, the best way to motivate others is to get motivated yourself. Sluggish, status-quo leadership produces half-hearted, lackluster employees. Your staff will mirror what they see--from top management down to project leaders. If YOU don't care, THEY won't care. But if you are hard working, ethical, enthusiastic and committed, they will follow your lead.