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Employee Retention: Keeping the People Who Keep You in Business

The retention of highly skilled knowledge workers is one of the major challenges today for all organizatons. Knowledge workers are those whose work primarily requires the use of "mental power rather than muscle power."

For example, they are the developers and caretakers of the computer networks that keep your business running. They are also the producers of the dazzling graphics presentations that help your sales force land new customers. And they are even the account reps who look into data bases to decide whether to grant a bank loan request or explain investment options to potential customers.

Knowledge workers are therefore extremely valuable because they keep the factories churning, the customers satisfied, the new products coming out the door---they are the backbone of your company. So how do you keep these highly skilled and valuable workers from jumping ship---from going to a competitor? Here are four ways to motivate this unique group of workers.

Support training and development.
What highly skilled, quality workers realize that in a fast changing world, those who snooze will soon lose their marketable skills. The latest technology, or software package, or self-development program not only can lure knowledge workers, but can also induce them to stay on board.

Provide special assignments.
Knowledge workers will more likely remain if they know they are learning new things, gaining exposure to 'hot areas' or increasing their visibility inside the company. Some examples of short-term developmental projects include leading a task force on a pressing business problem, handling negotiations with a customer,, integrating systems across units, supervising product or equipment purchase or presenting a proposal report to top management.

Rotate jobs and responsibilities.
The movement of workers to different tasks at specified intervals enables them to develop and practice new skills and determine areas in which they can best use their talents. Also, a staff that is prepared to function in a variety of capacities and to perform a variety of duties, will bring breadth and depth to your team or department As a side benefit, rotation of people to different areas can result in better communication and work relations.

Show genuine interest.
Ask your valued workers how they are doing, what's going well and what's not. Don't wait for yearly performance review time to recognize good work. Do it on a regular basis. As with most people who take pride in their work, knowledge workers value recognition, nearly as much as good pay.

The organization that is able to recruit, motivate, and retain the best workers is going to have a huge strategic advantage. Therefore, companies that offer comprehensive training with planned, on-the job experience, complemented by enlightened supervision and opportunities for ongoing professional development, will be more successful in retaining their valued and highly skilled people. In other words, give knowledge workers room to grow---or someone else will.

Marcia Zidle, the 'people smarts' coach, works with business leaders to quickly solve their people management headaches so they can concentrate on their #1 job ­ to grow and increase profits. She offers free help through Leadership Briefing, a weekly e-newsletter with practical tips on leadership style, employee motivation, recruitment and retention and relationship management. Subscribe by going to http://leadershiphooks.com/ and get the bonus report "61 Leadership Time Savers and Life Savers". Marcia is the author of the What Really Works Handbooks ­ resources for managers on the front line and the Power-by-the-Hour programs ­ fast, convenient, real life, affordable courses for leadership and staff development. She is available for media interviews, conference presentations and panel discussions on the hottest issues affecting the workplace today. Contact Marcia at 800-971-7619.

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