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8 real-life strategies for keeping employees on board

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in Office Management,Payroll Management

Issue: As the economy heats up, employees, yes, even yours, are wandering through the want ads and surfing job boards.

Risk: Being caught without an up-to-date retention strategy can disrupt your employer's business ... and make you appear out of touch.

Action: Pick up tips from the following employers' retention efforts, and earn kudos for your creativity.

When it comes to retaining employees, you don't need to reinvent the wheel. A good retention strategy can work just as well in a Florida factory as a California consulting firm.

Here are eight creative retention tactics that employers have succeeded with in recent years:

1. Make it easy to volunteer. A New Hampshire clothing manufacturer gave employees 40 hours of paid time off each year to perform community service. The company heavily promoted the perk as part of its community-conscious culture. Also, a Minnesota hotel chain developed an online database of volunteer opportunities that automatically notified employees of volunteer opportunities in their areas of interest.

2. Cater to traveling parents. A Vir-ginia tech firm offered a referral service to help its business travelers arrange for child care or elder care. Also, a Texas company helped traveling parents by maintaining a "Travel Well" Web site offering family-oriented tips. Finally, on a recent business trip, an employee of a Delaware manufacturer brought along her baby and her mother (who cared for the child). The company picked up the travel tab for all three.

3. Draft "expectation" pacts. Each new hire at a Kansas software firm signed an "expectation agreement" that defined what both the employee and the company really needed and expected from the job. The two-way pacts were updated about every six months and followed employees through their careers. Result: A turnover ratio far below the industry average.

4. Allow school-based schedule. A North Carolina hospital facing a nursing shortage offered to give nurses the same schedule as their school-age kids. The program was limited to 12 nurses who opted to work just nine months of the year, taking summers off to be with their children. The revised schedule brought in several new recruits and helped cut turnover.

5. Listen to new recruits. A California shipping company hosted BLT (Breakfast, Lunch and Talk) sessions. They involved company officers bringing groups of six new employees together once a quarter over breakfast or lunch to answer questions and talk about work and company goals. Separately, employees were given rolls of Lifesavers candy to give to co-workers who offer an extra hand to helping solve problems.

6. Sponsor a "Bring a friend to work" day. An insurance company hosted such a day, which included workplace tours, free food and other interactions. More than 100 employees brought friends, which helped spur referrals and build good will.

7. Create on-site laundry room. Taking your dirty laundry to work may not seem right, but a Dallas ad agency encouraged it. Two employees a day signed up for free use of a laundry room with washers and dryers. Many employees worked long hours and couldn't find laundry time at their crowded apartment machines.

8. Offer financial education. An Illinois fertilizer company provided em-ployees with basic financial education courses, seminars and one-on-one counseling. The education was organized through a local financial consulting firm. Studies show that employees' money problems spill over into the workplace, affecting productivity and attendance.

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