February 16, 2024

Unlock the Secret Sauce: Cracking the Code to Employee Retention

Finding and keeping talented employees is crucial for the success and growth of any organization. Employee retention is multi-faceted. You not only need to attract and hire the right employees, but you also have to retain them. If you get this one part of your business correct, it will increase your bottom line more significantly than just about any marketing campaign. The first step is to select the right people. Are you attracting and hiring rockstars?  

As Baby Boomers are exiting the workforce into retirement, many management and ownership roles are being assumed by Gen X. Millennials and Gen Z (teens to early 40s) are making up the bulk of the workforce and likely the ages you are hiring (and marketing to). These two generations currently comprise 44.7% of the US workforce, and in the next six years, Gen Z will add about 24%. This is a substantial demographic shift. It may be time to look at your business and see if you adapt appropriately. Your culture, management style, and technology must adapt to attract and retain the best talent. These generations are different and have a much different focus and priorities than the previous generations. 

In general, Millennials and Gen Z are typically digitally fluent and tech-savvy. They are multi-taskers who get bored if you don’t challenge them. They have a short attention span because they are adept at quickly processing and absorbing information. They are naturally social and like to interact with people. They are creators and collaborators and are future-focused. They value independence, equality, and diversity in the workplace and strongly desire to do good. 93% of Gen Z say that the organization’s impact on society affects their decision to work there. They value work-life balance and opportunities for career growth. Here are some tips for working with Millennials and Gen Z. 

Utilize their skill sets. Let them help you attract their peers to your facility. They may know technology and popular apps you don’t and know how to reach your audience.

  • Communicate with images, short videos, and text. Focus on employee collaboration. Create an environment that promotes openness, cooperation, and teamwork. Create an environment that is open to change and growth.
  • Focus on technology – they will see your business and company as “dated” and “old-fashioned” if you are not utilizing the latest technology. Try to stay current on tech trends.

In many markets, employers must now compete for the best talent, and you can bet that if you have some stars on your staff and you need to invest the time and money to keep them, other businesses will. When looking for rockstar employees, one idea is to create unique business cards that you can hand out to employees at different companies who offer you an excellent experience. It’s simply a business card that lets them know that you recognize that they are delivering exceptional service and should contact you if they are ever out looking for additional or different opportunities. Also, be aware that other companies do the same with your employees. If you are not working to keep your employees happy after they are hired, they WILL leave. 

After you find, recruit, and hire the best employees, your job doesn’t stop there. Now, you have to retain that talent. A good wage and benefits may attract candidates to apply for a job, but that is not why they will stay. Employee retention will have more to do with the culture you create than the pay scale. 

Job satisfaction will increase your retention rate. Here are a few things you can do to improve that retention rate with your rockstar employees.

Make your employees feel like an asset to your company.

Don’t make them feel like a number or an expense. Get to know your employees personally and greet them by their names when you see them. Let them understand that you know who they are and how they contribute to your company. Treat your team how YOU would want to be treated, not necessarily how you WERE treated when you had your first job. Just because you walked uphill to school doesn’t mean your employees should live the same experience.  

  • Give compliments – Take advantage of an opportunity to give a compliment and lift the spirits of your team. Ensure it’s sincere, but don’t hesitate to compliment an accomplishment, new hairstyle, etc.
  • Smile – A smile can go a long way and costs you nothing. This can set the mood and remind them to smile when talking with your guests. 
  • Say “Thank You” – genuinely. Remember, they have a choice and choose to work for you. They pick their attitude. They decide how to treat your guests. Thank them for their time and effort in choosing to work for you. Show appreciation and gratitude. Look them in the eye and even shake their hand.
  • Choose your attitude – Your energy and attitude are contagious. As a leader, you set the tone for the day. If you come to work in a bad mood, the likelihood that your team will have a bad day is pretty high. Come to work with high energy, positivity, and excitement; everyone will follow suit.
  • Give high fives – Not only give your team high fives, but encourage them to give guests high fives. Human touch is known to have a positive effect on attitude.
  • Be a good listener & make eye contact – Nothing shows respect like a good listener. When talking with your team, show genuine interest in what they are discussing. Ask questions and show interest in the answers. 
  • Mingle – Take time to make your rounds. Visit your team. Make sure not all of your visits are negative. Avoid this time to micromanage or criticize. You don’t want your team to cringe when you come over because they think you will only criticize them.   
  • Offer to help – Often, employees will bring personal issues from home. Sometimes, they need someone to talk to; other times, you can make a meaningful impact. Did they lose their apartment, and you may know of someone who needs a roommate? Make a connection. Refer them to someone who can help. Listen to them. 

Communicate expectations and goals clearly.

Most employees want to please their employer. Set out and explain the vision of the company and your expectations of the employee. Don’t talk AT them, but talk with them about this. Take time to define the “why”. A few extra minutes to help them understand the reason “why” you are asking them to do something will make a massive difference in your outcome. If performance changes need to be made, don’t expect this to happen via osmosis. Coach your team. Find out if they truly understand what is expected and why they are asked to do these things. It’s YOUR job to motivate them, not just boss them around.   

  • Be on time – This shows that you respect the time of others, including your team and vendors. Lead by example. If you expect your team to be on time, make sure you are setting the bar. 
  • Show, Teach, and Live Integrity – Discuss what integrity means – doing the right thing even when no one is looking. Lead by example and show integrity all of the time. An employee finds $10 on the ground in the arcade, and they come to tell you about it and ask you what they should do with it. What do you tell them? Integrity lessons come up daily that allow you to set an example and teach what integrity is all about. 

Create an open and honest work environment.

Open and honest conversations and communication must happen between you and your employees. Give them honest feedback. Be open to and try new ideas. Get their input and listen to them. Seek out and accept suggestions for solving problems. Ask them about rules or changes they feel need to be made and listen to them. Encourage goal-setting and let them create their own choices as often as possible. Don’t always insist on the process to the outcome “the way it’s always been done.” Give them the expected result for a task and allow them to figure out how to get there. Afterward, discuss how it went. The more employees feel ownership in their actions, the more loyalty you create.   

  • Get in the trenches – Do some basic tasks. Nothing will gain your team’s respect quicker than watching their boss scrub toilets or remove trash. 
  • Go above and beyond – Set an example. Make sure your staff sees you go above and beyond to assist guests, fix problems, and help fellow team members, and they will do the same. Remember, they are always watching you and following you. Make sure you are walking the line you want them to walk because you are leading them, and they are watching each of your footsteps.
  • Deal with trials & tribulations with grace – Knowing how to lead people through hard times is a skill. Don’t sugar-coat difficulties. Feel free to communicate unpleasant news or information about problems or setbacks. Keep your team informed. Trust in your team to help you. Be transparent and honest, but be encouraging and optimistic as well.

Provide growth and learning opportunities.

Nobody wants to be in a stagnant job where they don’t feel like there is a path for growth. Some entry-level jobs in our industry may have limited growth, but there are things you can do to provide challenging and stimulating work. Look for an individual’s passions and try to tap into those areas. Find out what they enjoy and focus their energy on those things. If you have someone who loves photography, recruit them to help you with some marketing efforts and have them capture some great photos. If you have someone on your staff who loves social media, help guide them into social media for business and get their help with your social media marketing efforts.       

  • Certifications – Offer various levels of certification on tasks. Create basic and advanced certifications. These could be skills like attraction operations, money handling, POS operation, floor management, etc. Create a written and practical test for each certification level. Employees with basic certifications could earn a certificate and be “certified” to operate or work in that area. Advanced or master certification would get them something special, like a unique pin or something to collect. This gamifies the job skills for team members, who like earning recognition and gives them something to work towards. 
  •  Tuition – Consider offering tuition assistance for continuing education classes. 

Recognize and reward your employees.

Of course, monetary bonuses are always nice, but we can only sometimes afford them, and is it always the most motivating reward? Sometimes, a small monetary bonus would diminish the recognition if the value turns out to be less than they believe the effort was worth. It’s hard to determine when and how much money would be appropriate. Recognition of a job well done can be something other than monetary. A “good job!” goes a long way. Employees who feel undervalued or unappreciated tend to seek other employment, so you must get this right to retain the best talent. Give sincere feedback and praise to your employees when they deserve it. 

  • Create a “brag board” where employees are publicly recognized for various things. Each brag could also earn a ticket, which they could save and put in for a quarterly drawing for cool prizes. The more “brags” they earn, the better their chance of winning a prize. 
  • Scratch Tickets – Hand out scratch tickets that have various prizes.     
  • Make coffee and deliver it to your staff – Get to know your employees’ coffee preferences and go the extra mile to make a pot of coffee and provide a cup to them. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way. 
  • Leave a note – Leave a note on the company whiteboard, corkboard, or any employee area. Leave something inspirational, fun, or funny. Make sure not all of the notes you leave are about work details. Sometimes, you must show your fun side and encourage your team to do the same.

Choose candidates that best fit your business culture and values to recruit and retain the best talent. Understand what is important to employees to keep them. Create a development and coaching culture. Foster an environment of open and honest communication. Long gone are the days of annual employee evaluations. Millennials and Gen Z require shorter-term goals with checkpoints and more communication throughout the year. Above all, many are driven by how things “feel.” They need to feel that their job serves a purpose that is more than increasing the bottom line. They need to know “why” they are doing what they are doing, and the reasons must be compelling. Monetary gain is not a sufficient reason. Make sure that your vision and mission in your business not only spells out a deeper meaning and reason for “why” but that your company culture also reflects that reason. If you can provide that environment, you will attract and retain fantastic team members, who, in turn, will increase the bottom line.

Employee retention doesn’t have to be expensive. There are little things you can do to boost morale and, in turn, increase productivity that will cost you very little. Your employees are the driving force of your business, and if they aren’t happy and aren’t enjoying their jobs, that will directly affect your customers. These things directly affect customer service and satisfaction, but you will save money in reduced turnover.

While everything listed here will impact your team, the impact will be harmful/positive or non-existent if you are sincere and genuine in your approach. Be a servant leader. Continually strive to be trustworthy, humble, caring, and empowering. See yourself as a listener, leader, and coach. These are just a few things you can do that will push your company to the next level. Inspire and lead your team; give them the tools, and they will do the heavy lifting for you and drive sales. Steve Jobs once said, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Hire right, build a fantastic foundation, coach and encourage, and let your employees take you and your business to the next level. 

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Amber Lambert

Amber Lambert is the Regional Sales Representative for Betson Enterprises. She began her career in the amusement industry 12 years ago when she started her own family entertainment center, which she built from the ground up. She also managed a corporate-owned family entertainment center, held a sales role with an industry supplier, and is active in industry associations.