Retain your top performersWhat was your New Year’s resolution? Did you give up smoking? Are you eating healthier? Exercising more? The beginning of a new year often brings changes designed to improve your life in one way or another. Professionally, ’tis the season for employees to consider switching jobs, or even careers, in order to achieve a new level of satisfaction. As an employer, how do you retain the people that might otherwise be starting to look elsewhere?

According to the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, it costs companies an average of almost $11,000 just to fill and on-board one position. Besides the fact that you’ve invested a significant amount of time, effort, and money just getting a person in the door, the majority of them are meeting or exceeding your expectations, giving you a good ROI. Employees like this are the ones that you want to make an effort to keep.

You can do all kinds of research on retention strategies, but what it boils down to is this: find out what your employees really want. There are certain elements of the job and the company that attract candidates in the first place, but it usually takes a different set of “must-haves” to keep them satisfied. While free slushies and cappuccinos, a lax dress code, or a high base salary might draw them in, if they’re not happy, they probably won’t want to stay. In general, employees want constructive relationships with their managers, clear and realistic job expectations, legitimate opportunities for growth and advancement, a fair compensation and benefits package, a good cultural fit, a certain level of work/life balance, and high quality management and workforce.

How do you find out what your employees want? Just ask (duh!). Start with exit interviews and post-exit interviews, especially with your top-performers, to find out why they’re leaving. Obviously, you don’t want to wait ’til they’re on their way out the door to find out why they’re leaving: it’s typically too little too late, at that point. Instead, you can send out surveys to, or even have conversations with, your current employees – find out what you’re doing well and what you could do better. In the end, though, you need to be prepared to make some changes based on the information you gather. Otherwise, the employees you talk to might be on their way out, as well.