How to Retain Your Best Team Members

rebecca-headshot-roundThis article is by Rebecca Livermore. Rebecca is the content manager here at and the owner of Professional Content Creation. She invites you to connect with her on LinkedIn.

Just when you thought you found the perfect team member, they quit, without warning. What went wrong? While there are multiple reasons that new team members don’t work out, there are some things you can do to retain your best team members.

6 Ways to Retain Your Best Team Members

How to Retain Your Best Team Members



#1: Put Yourself in Their Shoes

This article published on gave an interesting bit of advice that you seldom hear about: get better at your job by doing someone else's. The show, Undercover Boss, does this on a big scale. If you haven't seen it, the gist of the show is that CEOs from successful companies visit some of their store's locations, undercover. Instead of just observing what is happening from afar, they get their hands dirty, both figuratively and in some cases literally. For example, they may end up on the phone in a call center, running the cash register at a fast food place, or working on an assembly line.

Inevitably they end up finding out that the job is much harder then they previously thought. It tends to make them appreciate their employees, and it also helps them to see areas for improvement. For example, they may find out that the software the employees use is outdated and clunky, that both causes frustration and wastes time.

If you'd like to learn how to retain your best team members, a great tactic is to put yourself in their shoes.

You Don't Have to Go on a T.V. Show for This to Work

While most CEOs will never end up on a show like Undercover Boss, they can put themselves in their team members' shoes in other ways.  In this article, the writer ended up filling in in a department when the original plans to have it covered fell through. What he learned through the process helped him become a better leader.

He learned three lessons, but the one that stands out to me the most is empathy. Here's how he summed that up:

Within my first two days in this role, I was reminded of some of the difficult situations our account strategists face. Sure, on a logical level, I knew that our employees made tough calls sometimes and handled stressful interactions when necessary. But actually experiencing it all firsthand gave me a different type of empathy for our members in this role, one that’s been important for effective support and, I believe, team leadership.

If you're a CEO, manager, or in some other type of leadership position, you may want to give this a try. You'll likely end up having a better appreciation for the challenges your team members face. The resulting empathy will likely go a long way when it comes to being able to retain your best team members.

#2: Improve Your Onboarding Process

Shortly after graduating from high school, I got a job at an aerospace plant. The job title, "receptionist" sounded easy enough, but the reality was far different. On my first day on the job, I was brought to my office, and shown around. They showed me the 120 phone lines I was to answer. Next was the mail room, where I was to sort the mail, and then deliver it. I was then shown dozens of cabinets filled with blueprints. I was to find the right blueprint whenever an engineer came to one of the four windows in my office to request them.

My entire training time lasted around 10 minutes and then I was on my own. That's when the trouble began. I quickly discovered that dozens of phone lines ringing all at once was a bit overwhelming. This was especially true when four different engineers appeared at the same time, at four different windows. Even worse, when I finally broke away from the phones to try to fulfill the engineers' blueprint requests, I didn't know how to find what they needed. The file cabinets had been pointed out to me, but no one really explained to me how the blueprints were organized or what any of it meant.

Why Onboarding is So Important

The article, 6 Ways to Improve Your Onboarding Process for New Hires gives four reasons why onboarding is so important. One of the reasons is first impressions.

onboarding is the first chance your new hire has to see how your company really works. If this process is chaotic or unhelpful, you could scare them away.

In my case, the process being chaotic and unhelpful definitely scared me away. In fact, I didn't last at that job long enough to figure out how I was supposed to deliver mail throughout the building while answering phones and attempting to find blueprints. On my third day of work, I left at lunch time, and couldn't bring myself to go back. (I did call to tell them I quit.)

If you want to retain your best team members, you need to make sure to onboard them properly.

The article provides the following six steps to onboard people properly:

1. Have a documented plan.
2. Train your onboarders.
3. Start slow.
4. Don’t neglect the culture.
5. Open a dialogue.
6. Keep it consistent.

Due to my experience at the aerospace plant, number three stood out to me the most:

There’s no better way to scare someone off than by throwing them to the wolves their first day on the job.

You can read the entire article here.

#3: Be Flexible

Different people look for different things in a job. For example, for many, the primary consideration is salary, for others, benefits such as healthcare, and for still others, flexibility is a big draw. In the article Offer Millennials Flexible Work and Unlock These 6 Benefitsthe five most important factors that millennials look at when evaluating a job offer are:

  • Work-life balance (84 percent)
  • Work flexibility (82 percent)
  • Salary (80 percent)
  • Work schedule (65 percent)
  • Benefits (48 percent)

Notice that three out of the five have to do with some form of flexibility.

For many workers, including but not limited to millennials, one of the greatest forms of flexibility is the work from home option. If you offer that as an option for at least part of the workweek, you may find you are better able to retain your best team members.

If you do decide to offer some type of remote work option, you'll benefit from these two articles:

3 Ways to Help Remote Employees Grow With Your Company

How to Build a Solid Remote Team and Why Its The Future

#4: Focus on Their Development

The article How to Make Sure Employees Aren't Quitting During the First 6 Months gives five questions that managers should ask themselves. The question that stood out to me the most is:

Do you engage new hires in "How can we help you with your professional development interests?" conversations in the first two months?

Many CEOs worry that if you invest in your team members, as soon as they have a chance, they'll make a break for it and go work for someone else. But chances are, if you invest in your team members, they'll be more likely to stick with you long term.

#5: Provide Inexpensive Perks

A lot of startups are big on ideas and passion, but low on cash. If that describes your business, take heart. Many employees will stick around long term, sometimes for reasons that don't cost much, if anything. This article published on suggests instilling a casual dress code:

a simple and inexpensive way to improve employee morale is to cut the jacket and tie requirement and instill a casual dress code. By allowing employees to dress casually they gain the ability to express themselves creatively, be comfortable, save money on dry cleaning bills and lose the stress from having to dress to impress.

I started working at a nonprofit in 2005. At the time, the dress code was fairly strict, with the expectation that except for casual Fridays, business attire was expected. In 2008, along with other things in the economy tanking, donations were down, and raises were sparse. One of the ways the organization kept their best team members from quitting in the midst of no raises and other cutbacks was providing perks that didn't cost money. One perk was a relaxed dress code for anyone below director level. Another was the option put in an extra 45 minutes of work every day, and then get every other Friday off. Neither of these cost the nonprofit any money, and they were perks employees appreciated, which encouraged them to stick around.

#6: Find Out What Makes Them Tick

The article, Work-Life Balance, Integration, or Freedom? published on makes a really good point and that is that not every employee values the same things. For example, some team members may love working from home, and others may hate it. The basic point of the article is summed up in this paragraph:

Instead of focusing on work-life balance or work-life integration, which are both so personal and different for every employee, organizations should be focusing on enabling employees to choose how, when, and where they want to work. The future of work is all about giving employees the freedom to work however is best for them, as long as their work gets done.

The words that stood out to me the most were, "The future of work is all about giving employees the freedom to work however is best for them, as long as their work gets done."

This reminded me of the creative writing teacher I had in high school. He didn't care what I did during class time, as long as I turned in my assignments. He even let me go outside during class, and joked that he knew I wasn't working when he looked out the window and saw me putting on suntan lotion. While few teachers would recommend letting students sunbathe during class, it's how this particular teacher got the most work out of me. I may have goofed off during class, but at home, I locked myself in my room and wrote, sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. I still credit this teacher with my decision to become a writer, and it's all because he figured out what made me tick, and went along with it, even though it was unconventional.

When You Have Team Members You Don't Want to Retain

While you should focus on how to retain your best team members, there may be times when you need to let someone go. If so, I recommend checking out this video and article published right here on

How to Fire Someone


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