Some businesses go through employees quickly, looking at them as workers filling a role. If the roles are properly-defined and not too challenging to manage, employees can be replaced with little loss in production or efficiency. Fast food restaurants certainly fit this model, but for most businesses, high training costs and specialized skills make employee turnover expensive and bad for the organization.

At Kona Impact, we’ve had remarkably low employee loss. I can count on one hand the number of people who have worked here in nearly 15 years. Granted, we’re not a big shop.

While I have no genius answers, here’s what I believe has worked for us:

  1. Understand that every day your employees think about their work and if they want to continue working. They have a choice; they are people with goals and feelings; they can, if conditions force them to, leave.
  2. Every day I can make Kona Impact a place where people want to work. My words, management, and the work environment are in my control, and I can make them things that contribute to an enjoyable workplace.Or not.
  3. Gimmicks, like giving a Christmas ham every year, do not replace day-to-day work conditions. You can’t be a jerk year-round and think a ham or turkey will replace the negativity you have fostered the other 364 days.
  4. Don’t scrimp when it comes to worker comforts. My employees can have any work chair, monitor, or tools they desire. A $700 chair or is nothing in the big picture, especially if the employee is sitting in it 30 hours a week. Free coffee, snacks, a water cooler and a fridge, are not consequential to the budget, but they do create happier employees.
  5. Make sure you explicitly recognize good work. You did a great job on XYZ. I love your ideas on XYZ. Go for it—great attention to detail on this. The customer was very happy with the project. I just want you to know that I recognize your efforts. Don’t be afraid to sit down, look people in the eyes, and acknowledge their work.
  6. Random employee lunches out of the office are always appreciated.
  7. Avoid micromanaging. Trusting an employee to do good work, correcting when it’s not, is essential. The employee might do something different than you, but if the result if fine, let it go.
  8. Compensating your employees well is part of the picture, but that alone will not keep them. I’m a big fan of solid base pay plus substantial quarterly bonuses based on its performance. 
  9. Show leadership and direction for the business. We all want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, that we are contributing to the team. It’s the boss’s job to set the tone and direction.
  10. Be open to change. Listen more, talk less. Be willing to adjust how you run the business and how you support and related to employees.