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How to Retain the Best Employees

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At 23, fresh out of university, I moved to Costa Rica to start a business. Along with a fellow U.S. expat, we founded an online travel agency from our apartment. Today we are the largest agency in Central America and sell high-end, customized vacation packages to Costa Rica, Panama and Nicaragua. We employ just over 100 staff and gross approximately $20MM annually.

Here's my take on the subject of top talent retention. We've learned this through a lot of painful trial-and-error.
  1. Give Them Space -- our top talent doesn't want to be micro-managed. Sure they want clear goals and expectations, but they don't want management lording over their every move.

  2. Be Encouraging -- We try to offer positive feedback on a regular basis instead of jumping all over them only when something goes wrong. We invented a system of digital "funny money" that we distribute throughout the year, whenever we see something done well. At the end of the year we hold an auction for snazzy prizes like TVs, iPads and hotel stays. This has worked wonders for keeping even our grizzled vets excited and engaged.

  3. Provide Room to Grow -- By showing our staff where the company is going next and the role they can play in it, we've been able to hold onto some key talent even after they outgrew their roles. We try to show folks that they have room to move around in the org and take on new tasks or even dramatically change roles if so desired. We don't want anybody feeling held back by the biz.