Posted by: Bill von Achen | January 22, 2010

Survivor’s Instinct: Keeping Valuable Employees in Tough Times

For many business owners, simply surviving in 2009 was a major accomplishment. But now that the past year is safely behind us, it’s time to remember that your employees are survivors as well. And there are steps that you take to help ensure that your most valuable employees remain committed to your business, even as an improving economy provides them with new job opportunities and options.

Writing in a recent issue of Business Week, Bill Conaty, the former head of human resources at General Electric, recounts the brutal steps that company owners and executives were forced to take during the past 12 months, from company restructurings and consolidations, to salary freezes and wage and benefit cut-backs.

But, “people have long memories,” Conaty writes. “And (when recruiters start calling again) they will judge their employer by how equitably they feel they were treated during the down market.”

What to do? For Conaty, the most powerful form of recognition is a simple pat on the back, and a direct acknowledgement of that employee’s value. “It doesn’t take long to say or cost a penny,” Conaty says, “but how many of us have ever heard those words?”

The other key for maintaining loyalty is to remain visible to your employees. “These times call for a personal touch,” Conaty writes. “Employees who get to see and hear their leaders are far more likely to buy into a future beyond the crisis.”

You can read the complete text of Conaty’s article at the Business Week web site at

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