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Sarah was in shock.

Sarah was in shock. She tried to focus.

Her CFO, Sophia, repeated herself. "Sarah, did you hear what I said?"

Sarah nodded blankly. "You're resigning. But what... what if we offered you more money?" Sarah asked, desperation creeping into her voice.

Sophia hesitated before answering. "I've been offered double the salary," she said, her voice softening. "I just can't turn it down. I'm sorry."

Sarah felt her heart sink. There was no way they could pay Sophia anywhere near double her current salary. She racked her brain. There must be something she could say to change Sophia's mind?

Sarah looked up quickly and leaned forward, "If anything was possible, what would you want?"

Sophia looked at Sarah skeptically. "I don't think that's relevant," she said. "I just need to do what's best for me and my family."

But Sarah was undeterred. "No, really, tell me," she urged. "What would you want in an ideal world? If anything was possible. Come on, Sophia. I've never asked you that. Tell me."

Sophia paused for a moment, then took a deep breath. "Well, my family and I have always dreamed of living in the Pacific Northwest. Somewhere like Portland, Oregon. And I've always wanted to work remotely... but I know that's not possible," she admitted.

Sarah felt a spark of hope. "Why not make it possible?" she suggested. "What if we were to set up a remote office for you in Portland? That way, you could live where you want and work remotely, but still be part of the team."

Sophia looked at Sarah in disbelief. "Do you really think that's possible?" she asked, her voice filled with hope.

Sarah nodded. "Absolutely. If it means keeping you on the team. Then I will MAKE it happen," she said with determination.

What about you and your team? Who is YOUR Sophia? Someone you would be devastated to lose?

Have you had a conversation with them about what they want? Long-term? In an ideal world?

In the past few weeks, I've chatted with leaders about this topic more than ever before:

How can you retain your best people?

Like Sarah, you may not be able to compete on salary with competitors or options outside of your industry. So, it's time to think outside of the box.

Here are 10 out-of-the-box ideas to improve your employee retention:

1. Sabbaticals and extended breaks

Offer sabbaticals or extended breaks to employees who have been with the company for a certain amount of time. This could be an opportunity for them to recharge and come back to work with renewed energy and motivation.

2. Mentorship program

Create a mentorship program that pairs high-performing employees with senior executives or industry leaders. This can provide valuable career guidance and exposure to new ideas and ways of thinking.

3. Host hackathons

Host regular brainstorming sessions or "hackathons" where employees from different departments can come together to work on new projects or solve business challenges.

4. Work-life integration

Create a flexible work environment that supports work-life integration. This could include offering remote work options, flexible schedules, or unlimited vacation time.

6. Creative rewards and recognition

Create a recognition and rewards program that celebrates both individual and team successes. This could include bonuses, stock options, or other incentives.

7. Personalized development

Offer personalized development opportunities that align with individual career goals and interests. This could include training programs, mentorship opportunities, or educational stipends.

8. Purpose-driven volunteer work

Provide opportunities for employees to give back to their communities through volunteer work or charitable giving programs. This can help foster a sense of purpose and connection to the company's mission.

9. Invest in employee wellbeing

Invest in employee wellness programs, such as on-site fitness classes, healthy food options, or mindfulness training. This can help promote physical and mental well-being, and create a positive work environment.

10. Build a failure friendly culture

Encourage employees to take risks and try new things. Create a safe space where failure is seen as a learning opportunity rather than a setback.

Here are two more traditional employee retention ideas:

1. Company wide team building

Host company-wide team-building events or off-site retreats that promote collaboration, communication, and creativity.

2. Transparent staff culture

Foster an open and transparent company culture where employees feel comfortable sharing their ideas and concerns. Encourage and reward creative thinking.

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