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Our 7 steps for retaining good employees

By Caroline Okello | May 6th 2020

Employee retention is a challenge all businesses face. As a small business owner, it can be painful to spend time and money training employees only to see them go.

This is a challenge Diana Ogendi and Eddie Ogendi, the husband and wife duo who own and run Lady Luck --a shapewear business they started six years ago in one of their bedrooms and is now a thriving business with two stores at 680 Hotel and Sarit Centre--have faced.

Before Lady Luck, the couple dabbled in other businesses for 10 years that always failed. With failure came lessons. They share their best tips on how to retain employees.

Hire right

Some of the mistakes they made when hiring were recruiting under pressure, casting a narrow net and failing to verify credentials. Even so, Eddie admits that hiring mistakes are sometimes inevitable because the interview process is not enough to make good judgement. “Most of the time you really get to judge behaviour and competence is when someone is actually on the job,” Eddie says. To make sure you get as close as possible to getting the best candidate, cast your net wide when recruiting and take your time.

“Don’t hire someone because they are family or a friend of a friend. Hire because someone is qualified for the job and would be a good fit in your company and fit in with the other employees,” Diana says. They also try to match jobs with personality. “When the employee does what is in line with their personality, they will be happy and exude positive energy and also stay longer. We have learnt to pair jobs with personalities and sometimes we even shift roles to suit the person,” Diana adds.

Train well

Most business owners have a trust problem and have trouble letting go, says Eddie. This leads them to micromanage and that is one of the surest ways to have your employees out the door. “Train and trust,” Eddie says. “If you train someone—and training is always a continuous process—you’ll be able to trust them to do the work.

And if you let them do the work, they feel responsible and enjoy doing it and most importantly they feel respected.” And even as you let go, be available for when they might need help. “You’ll not always be present when they need help, so make sure you’re approachable. Your employees need to feel like they can call you anytime,” Diana adds.

Recognise and reward good performance

“The reward doesn’t have to be monetary all the time. Saying ‘thank-you’ or ‘well done’ goes a long way,” says Diana. “We recognise and reward publicly, and correct privately,” says Eddie, a principle they learnt from one of the books by business magnate Richard Branson.

“You obviously reward performance that impacts the bottom line, which is profitability of the business. Good team work and good character should be recognised. We correct privately, but sometimes publicly if it is something that touches on the culture—such as an unethical value—or if it is something that has been repeated over and over,” Eddie says.

The purpose of correcting, Diana emphasises, is not to shame but to help employees improve. Be firm, not harsh. Harshness doesn’t make your employees respect you – it merely breeds fear and resentment.

“The biggest blunder business people with high turnover make is they are overly harsh with their employees. They yell at them in front of others or use vulgar language. Even I wouldn’t stay in that workplace if you treated me like that,” Eddie says.

Provide a good working environment

A good working environment is as simple as making sure the lighting is right, the chairs are comfortable, and employees have decent coffee and tea. Diana and Eddie say they always put themselves in their employees’ shoes, and that way they are able to provide what they would want provided for them.

They believe that everyone should look forward to going to their workplace every day. “As Christians, we also do our best to have a godly environment. We emphasise virtues such as honesty, kindness, humility, joy, sisterhood, and brotherhood. It keeps people longer because they feel part of a family,” says Diana.

Be fair and just

Being fair goes beyond resolving issues fairly. If for instance, says Diana, an employee or your team performs a task well and you take full credit for it or don’t recognise their part in it, they won’t respect you. A lack of respect is a ticket out. “If there is any time someone feels like their superior is being unfair, it is never a good working environment,” says Diana.

Practise what you preach

This is an age-old advice that transcends all spheres of life – from parenting to management. “If you’re mean to your employees and at the same time tell them to be kind to your clients, that won’t work. Culture always trickles down to the customer,” Diana says. In fact, the best way to judge how good or bad management is, watch how employees treat customers.

“Whenever I visit any business premise and staff are cheerful and happy to serve clients and have a good vibe with each other, I know they have a good boss or manager. But if they are rude or don’t care about clients, that tells me something about management. Your customer will get what you project to your employees,” Eddie says.  

Have fun

Work occupies most of our lives. We spend more hours at work than at home. And Eddie and Diana have ensured a friendly working environment and have fun at work. “We laugh a lot with our employees.

We are not formal. Remember, retention is a two-way thing and we are blessed to have good people with us. They give us positive energy and we always give it back to them.” Every quarter they have outside-work activities such as dinner together, playing board games and motor sports.  

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