By Sean Conrad

In the retail industry, high employee turnover can directly impact your bottom line. It costs you in terms of recruitment and training, and impacts your ability to provide consistent, high-quality service to your clientele.

Here are several HR best practices that can significantly improve employee retention, engagement and performance.

Targeted recruiting
By identifying upfront the knowledge/skills/experience/ attitudes (known by HR as competencies) that lead to success in a position, you can more effectively recruit and hire great candidates. Using core and job specific competencies as qualifiers in the recruiting/hiring process and assessing a candidate’s past demonstration of these can be an important way to hire the right people.

Effective onboarding
A comprehensive onboarding process is critical for the success of a new employee and reducing short-term turnover. In addition to the usual paperwork, a good program includes: training on the tasks/tools important to the role, training on corporate culture/values, information on talent management programs, networking opportunities, initial goal setting and interim reviews.

Up-to-date job descriptions

An up-to-date job description is one of the best ways to communicate a new employee's job responsibilities, scope of decision-making/breadth of authority, and the competencies required for success.

Goal alignment

Every employee should have individual goals that are directly linked to higher-level organisational goals. These goals, like their job description, help to set expectations for performance, and give employees a context for their work. By linking their individual goals to corporate goals, employees understand how their day-to-day work contributes to the organisation's success and understand their value, which impacts employee engagement and retention.

Regular feedback

Giving employees, regular, ongoing feedback on their performance is the best way to encourage and acknowledge stellar performance. It also helps identify and address performance shortfalls before they become serious issues. Feedback should be accompanied by coaching, and if needed, development plans. Ongoing feedback helps establish a stronger working relationship between the employee and their manager, and boosts loyalty and retention.

Opportunities for development and progression
Giving employees opportunities for development and career progression is a proven way to increase employee retention.

Development should be targeted to address performance shortfalls or to expand knowledge/skills/abilities important to the employee's role and goals, so it has a clear context. Research has shown that up to 90 per cent of development takes place on the job, in the form of work assignments, feedback, coaching, mentoring, job shadowing, etc.; you don't have to send staff away on courses.

Succession programs help prepare high-potential and high-performing employees for progression in the organisation. The most effective programs develop pools of talent ready for advancement in all key areas of the organisation, not just leadership. They demonstrate an organisational commitment to employees that will most often be reciprocated.

Regular performance appraisals
A regular, formal performance appraisal is the best vehicle for ensuring employees are performing as expected, know and understand the competencies important to the organisation and their role, have development plans in place, and have clearly defined goals. It helps set employees up for success and addresses many of the core needs for employee engagement. Performance appraisals form the foundation for an ongoing dialogue about performance between managers and employees and should serve as the central driver for all other talent management programs.

Performance-based remuneration

To encourage high-performance, you need to directly link remuneration and rewards to performance. Without this direct link, pay rises and rewards can appear subjective or arbitrary, and discourage performance. You should reward high performance in a variety of ways – not all of them monetary. It's amazing how a simple "thank you" or "great job" can boost morale and commitment.

Sean Conrad is a certified human capital strategist and senior product analyst at Halogen Software, maker of Halogen eAppraisal software for managing employee performance. For more of his insights on talent management, read his posts on the Halogen blog