Finding and retaining dedicated employees is essential to growing a business.

I spoke with Michael Silberling, chief executive officer of Affinity Gaming, to find out his company’s best practices for recruiting and maintaining a committed and passionate staff.

“We place a strong emphasis on hiring and keeping the right team,” said Silberling. “We want employees who can offer the type of service that will not only keep customers coming back, but also encourage them to recommend our properties to their family and friends.”

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Here are Silberling’s best practices for insuring employee retention:

1. Reputation

It’s important for a company to embrace their respective communities. What former employees say about your business will influence potential applicants, so it’s essential that your company is thought of as a good place to work.

“We put a lot of emphasis on developing our brand in our marketplace, not just for customers but for current and future employees,” says Silberling. “Local team members are even featured in our advertising, which is always well-received by employees and customers alike.”

2. Panel interview

A company’s overall success is directly tied to hiring the right people. It’s crucial to dedicate a fair amount of time to the hiring process.

Don’t just “interview to hire.” Find out how applicants interact with each other under less than comfortable conditions. Standardized questions that reflect your organization’s core values are a great way to do this; then finalize each hiring process with a panel interview by senior leaders.

“No one in our organization can be hired without the general manager meeting and approving each candidate,” Silberling points out.

3. Onboarding

A new employee’s experience on the first few days will dictate how they perceive the company. With this in mind, it’s always key to make sure new hires feel welcomed; they must be embraced by the leadership, and they must feel valued. The onboarding process should guide new hires into the organization with as little pressure as possible. Make it fun and interactive rather than giving them a series of lectures.

4. Train and develop

It’s critical for new employees to have someone to guide them through the maze of confusion that comes with joining a new company. Provide each new hire with a “buddy,” a peer who helps guide and mentor them for the first 90 days. Affinity Gaming also offers supervisors training and tools to be better leaders.

5. Two-way communication

A strong retention strategy includes communication from company leadership and reinforcement from management. Briefly, it means providing multiple channels for employees to communicate to leadership and vice versa.

“At Affinity, we have daily communication sessions we call 411s, which provide all employees with important information about their department, marketing promotions, our service standards, and employee recognition,” notes Silberling.

6. Celebrating successes

Finding ways to celebrate and reward employees who exceed your company’s shared vision is a must. That celebration can be both formal, such as a traditional “employee of the month” recognition, or less formal. For example, Silberling likes sending cookies when a business unit surpasses a goal or meets a major milestone.

Silberling also adds that potential and new employees must be given a realistic preview of the lifestyle that comes with working within any industry.

“We understand at Affinity that the hectic casino world where operations run 24/7 365 days a year is not for everyone,” he said. “Too many organizations do not address average employees. You need people to be passionate about their roles in order to succeed in today’s competitive environment. If you don’t have people who are passionate about their work, they need to move on.”

He cautions that making that separation should be as positive and respectful as possible.

“You want employees who leave your company, for whatever reason, to speak highly of you as an organization, even after they are gone,“ he said.

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