Retention Getters
PrintRetention Getters
By Ann Meyer
How to reduce employee turnover without breaking the bank.

Ask, don't tell.

Those simple words might do more for a company's retention rate than boosting compensation or adding an expensive perk, experts say.

Asking workers for their input isn't just common courtesy or common sense. It's been shown to boost employee engagement.

Retailers frequently suffer from high turnover rates, but they justify it as an industrywide problem stemming from low wages and slim margins. Even as low wages have become a hot button, with protests by Walmart workers putting a spotlight on the topic, compensation isn't the only factor contributing to turnover, experts say.

"Compensation is not what keeps people at a company, and it's not why they leave. They leave because they're not engaged, not committed," says Shawn Talley, director of human resources at NovaSom in Columbus, Md.

"Compensation is not what keeps people at a company and it's not why they leave. They leave because they're not engaged, not committed."

– Shawn Talley,


"If my supervisor is making my life hell, if he isn't being flexible, giving me an opportunity, isn't recognizing my accomplishments or the fact I worked extra hours and every Saturday and [he] didn't say thank you to me; that's why people leave companies," says Talley, a former human resources manager at Home Depot.

Given that, retailers who feel they can't afford to pay more still can work to improve retention through communication and empowerment. "You don't have to pay them more. You don't have to give them stock in the company. But you have to give them a sense of pride, a sense of ownership," says Randi Busse, president of Workforce Development Group in Long Island, N.Y.

By making a concerted effort to improve retention, retailers can reap long-term benefits. The cost of replacing an employee is generally between 75 percent and 150 percent of the position's first-year salary, Talley says.

But high turnover also has a ripple effect on other employees and customers, Busse says. It changes the workplace culture. If employees are seeing a revolving door of people leaving, they can ask themselves, "Why am I staying?" Busse says.