How can you put a price on the loss of a valued team member? It’s true, everyone is replaceable, but at what cost? Aside from the time and money you’ll spend on recruiting, onboarding and training, you have the intangible costs – the “brain drain” of institutional knowledge and experience, as well as the psychological toll on the team. In fact, Inc. reports that some estimates put the cost of replacing an employee at 45,000 to $150,000.

As to why employees leave, it’s not typically because of money. Rather, it’s due to lack of engagement, with poor communication, under-recognition, failure to listen, and lack of a shared vision and/or meaningful work all acting as contributing factors. According to a Gallup poll, only 32 percent of employees are engaged, and 51 percent are actively looking for a new job or watching for new job openings.

Furthermore, research conducted by Franchise Business Review shows that nearly half of employees at franchise companies believe they are under compensated, and nearly a third also feel under-recognized for a job well done.

It all starts with culture.

Culture is a hot topic in franchising these days. And for good reason. Brands with a positive culture experience increased engagement, increased performance, and are more likely to have compliance and consistent behavior across the organization.

Franchise leaders who “get it” survey their franchisees regularly, and include questions about the culture of the system, but far fewer have a strategy in place to cultivate a positive culture among corporate staff, and even fewer make it a KPI.

Make employee engagement a priority.

To retain your top employees – and attract the best new employees – leaders and managers need to set the expectation that meeting the needs of staff, developing their potential, and creating a environment that emphasizes passion and teamwork is of the utmost priority. But just saying it in a staff meeting, putting a ping pong table in the office, or offering free bagels isn’t enough – you have to show your employees you mean it.

Fortunately, it’s not hard! It just takes a commitment to putting your people first and remembering that the little things matter. These six simple ideas can help you show your employees you care, and increase their enthusiasm and engagement.

1. Say thank you (and mean it). It seems so obvious, but everyone likes to be recognized for a job well done or going above and beyond. One company thanked a customer service team member in a staff meeting with a call out and presented him with a gift card for jumping in to help clean up a flooded bathroom. It was obviously not part of his job – and something no one wants to do – but he never hesitated to pitch in.

2. Create an environment of learning. Providing employees with opportunities to learn demonstrates you care about their growth and development. It’s great and highly valuable to send employees to a conference, pay for membership in an association, or cover the cost of a professional certification, but equally important is creating an environment where employees can stretch their minds. Provide opportunities to cross-train, test new products, or be part of a committee that recognizes and utilizes their talents.

Wild Birds Unlimited has a “How did I do?” culture that promotes ongoing learning and improvement, both at the employee level and the organization level. Amy Moore, Director of Retail Operations, describes it like this, “We’re constantly saying, ‘How did I do?’, whether it was a presentation we gave to our franchisees, or it was a site visit. It could also be internally, me with my team. ‘What can I do better? How did I do with that piece of it? Could I have handled it differently?’”

3. Support a cause that matters to your employees. Encourage employees to give back and provide opportunities to make it easy. Consider giving employees paid days off to volunteer; do service projects as a team, for example, the United Way’s Day of Caring; or find a cause that has a personal connection. FBR supports Team Trevor, a group dedicated to finding a cure for a rare form of cystic fibrosis that affects the family of a local Dunkin’ franchisee. Another company recognizes the tenth work anniversary of each of their employees by donating $1,000 to the charity of the employee’s choice.

4. Write a note. We give this advice to franchisors all the time when it comes to making your franchisees feel loved. Why not do the same for your corporate employees? A handwritten note of thanks from the CEO or a manager is much more personal than an email. Think about sending cards with a note inside for birthdays, anniversaries, and other important events.

5. Allow for flexibility. Flexibility can have varying degrees, and you’ll have to decide what works for your business, but most employees today expect at least to be able to work remotely on occasion or adjust their schedules to fit in other commitments – whether that’s working from home when they have a sick child, leaving early on occasion to catch their kid’s soccer game or dance recital, or taking a longer lunch to fit in a yoga class. When employees feel their employer cares about their lives outside the office and trusts them to manage their work commitments without being at their desk eight hours a day, they are more likely to be engaged and loyal.

6. Ask for feedback. This is something that everyone knows, but it can feel overwhelming when it comes time to execute. Most likely, you have some sort of annual review process for each individual employee where you give feedback on their performance (and hopefully) ask for feedback from them. That type of feedback is valuable, but there are several issues. One, employees may not be comfortable being totally honest in a face-to-face situation, and two, the feedback may not make it back to leadership, especially in a larger organization. Finally, there’s no way to benchmark your progress year over year, or against other franchise systems.

Implementing a formal employee engagement survey enables you to gather feedback across your system. Just like franchisee satisfaction surveys, you’ll be able to identify areas of risk, quantify employee engagement, and understand what you need to work on in order to improve retention and minimize costs to your business.

Franchise Business Review conducts employee engagement surveys for franchise companies as well as industry-wide research on employee engagement and compensation among franchise professionals. Contact us to learn more about survey tools to measure employee engagement and ideas on building engagement within your organization.

Related Content: eBook

The CEO’s Guide to Creating and Maintaining a Positive Culture in Franchising

Despite its critical importance, culture is frequently overlooked by leadership. This eBook provides practical advice for franchise leadership teams for creating and  maintaining a culture that leads to greater productivity and profitability.