Attrition can get the best of any business, but there are plenty of ways to make sure the people you hire remain faithful to your company or department. Some methods of employee retention don’t even require you to spend a single penny of your IT budget.

And here’s the thing. Going the extra mile to ensure employee retention, in and of itself, will go a long way toward showing your employees you mean business when it comes to keeping them in your business. How can you create and maintain an environment that will encourage your staff to stick around? Let’s take a look at 10 possible steps you can take.

1: Allow a modicum of freedom

Locking down your employees so that they feel they have no freedoms will see those employees bailing. But don’t think you have to just open the flood gates to freedom. Instead, choose what you want to allow. Maybe it’s more freedom for dress code or not blocking social networking for your IT staff. Always remember one thing: Your IT staff is smart. If you block networks, most likely (and hopefully) they can figure a way around that block. If you’re uncomfortable allowing your staff free rein of your network, give them their own subnet to play on.

2: Encourage growth

Your staff needs to grow. If you allow them to stagnate, they will feel like they aren’t going anywhere. IT pros must always feel challenged, so encourage those challenges by allowing those staff members to take classes. You could even have qualified staff members teach internal classes. If it’s within your means, offer to compensate staff for taking classes on their own dime. The education your staff gains will ultimately benefit you and your company.

3: Listen to your employees

Your staff is the heartbeat of your department. If they aren’t happy, the department will not run smoothly. But the idea of listening to your staff does not end at complaints. The members of your IT department will always have ideas on how to run your systems, improve your network, and maybe even better manage your infrastructure. Don’t shoot those ideas (and thus employees) down before you even hear them out.

4: Sponsor team-building outings

It sounds corny, but team-building exercises can actually help improve morale. These outings can be as simple as a weekly or monthly lunch (on the company dime) where all members of the IT department can go off the clock and just enjoy an hour or two of camaraderie. Not only will this help your employees get to know one another, it will help them see that you are on their side and have their best interests in mind.

5: Extend company pricing

Companies often get special pricing on computers and other IT-related hardware. Extend that pricing to your department so that they can enjoy new tech. Having your department members running the best hardware at home will help keep them up to date with technology and help keep them on your good side. It’s not a bribe — though you could even offer some sort of incentive program within your department to further reduce the cost of hardware.

6: Run contests

Along with the company pricing, you can run contests throughout the year where employees can win prizes. Give away tablets, days off, etc. The contests can even be work-related (who gets the most end-user compliments or which employee solved the most complicated issue this quarter). Just make sure these contests are fair and that it doesn’t look like you’re playing favorites with certain members of the staff.

7: Offer positive encouragement

If you constantly berate your employees, they will begin to fill with resentment and anger. Although you don’t want to create an environment where “Everyone gets a trophy,” you certainly want to make sure you voice praise — not only privately, but publicly. Staff meetings are a great time to pat employees on the back.

8: Establish clear systems and guidelines

If you run your department with a chaotic rule, that chaos will come back to bite you. Although there are (as always) exceptions to the rule, people need boundaries. But you can’t just have these boundaries seem random or favor certain employees. Make sure your rules and regulations are fair and consistent. When employees see the guidelines are clear cut (and equitable) they will more easily follow them. Neglect those rules and chaos will reign.

9: Have their backs

There may be times when employees go up against upper management or even end users. When this happens (and when the situation warrants), make sure your employees know you have their backs. If you sit idly by while an employee is unfairly called on the carpet, that employee will quickly resent you and see you as a weak leader. This doesn’t mean you should stick your neck out to the point where your own head could get lopped off. Do this intelligently, and your employees will show you the same loyalty in return.

10: Hand out consistent promotions

Promotions are a crucial aspect of employee retention. Without the hope that there is something to shoot for, employees simply won’t shoot for anything. Promotions can come in many forms: monetary raises, vacation days, an office, management of a small group, etc. What is critical with promotions is that there are clear-cut guidelines for them. Otherwise, it may appear that favoritism is in play.

Other approaches?

It doesn’t really take all that much to ensure your employees remain loyal to you and your department/company. Just taking one or more of the steps above will do more than you can imagine to raise retention. Ignore these types of strategies and you might find yourself having to search out new staff more often than you care for.

How do you attract, retain, and motivate employees? Share your suggestions and experiences with fellow TechRepublic members.