Grow your career on

Advanced Search




How To Retain Key Employees
By Sonya Buck, Australia


We all know them, the employee who is the 'go to' person for your customers, other staff and management. Alternatively, they could be the most enthusiastic and productive member of your team or a 'fount of all knowledge' on your business, or may be both.

What would happen if they resigned tomorrow? What type of impact would this have on your customers and the overall business?

Sometimes we get very focused on the day to day running of our business, but it’s important that key employees are not taken for granted. For one thing, these workplace superstars will be in demand from other companies.

So what can you do to retain key employees?


  • Use two very important words – Thank you. Ensure you do this in person or at least by a written note, not an email. If in person, make sure you don’t speak about anything else. Back up your thank you with the reason you are grateful.

  • Ensure your workplace provides an environment where employees can provide negative or positive feedback and welcome ideas and suggestions from your team.

  • It’s important to be familiar with your staff member’s skillset. New project? Why go outside, when you may have someone with the talent and ability within the organisation. Tap into these resources, as no one wants to feel under-utilised.

  • Make sure you communicate the big picture to employees to take staff on the journey with you. Employees will be more motivated if they know what they are working towards.

  • Ask questions of your staff on improvements within the organisation. You’ll need to listen and take action, if possible. If you can’t take action because of financial constraints or something else, make sure they know why.

  • Provide professional development opportunities and offer internal or external training and the chance to attend relevant conferences.

  • Remember your staff has lives outside the workplace. Be flexible and let them attend things like their children’s school award assembly, they can always make up the time later. Be mindful children (and adults) will get sick and staff also need to take their regular leave entitlements.

  • If financially able, upgrade equipment. From a phone to a forklift you don’t want people to struggle in the workplace on a daily basis. It’s also good workplace safety practice.

  • Pause and allow your staff to interact socially, even with a weekly morning tea and an annual Christmas party. Celebrate the success of company achievements.

  • Keep an eye on pay rates and if possible, ensure your key performers are paid above the average.

  • Provide rewards, they need not be expensive but should be relevant to the person. e.g. If they love movies, provide tickets. You could show appreciation by allowing someone to go early, take a day or half a day off when it suits them.


Above all, appreciation in the workplace came in number one in Forbes magazine’s survey on workplace happiness and happy employees will be more likely to stay.