This week we introduce Visionary Ventures, a monthly column written by the staff of Silicon Couloir, a nonprofit whose mission is to nurture entrepreneurship in the region. Visionary Ventures will run the third Wednesday of every month, exploring topics relevant to new and long-standing businesses. — Eds.

There’s an old business adage that says: “Employees do just enough not to get fired and get paid just enough not to quit.” While it’s meant to be funny, is there some truth here, and what’s the remedy?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been an employee or a boss, and likely both. Most of us have had jobs that paid the bills but ultimately, did not create joy or fulfillment. Employees who merely go through the motions rarely add much value for their employer either, and the end result typically finds the employee moving on and the employer looking to hire yet again.

The average American spends a third of their life working. Shouldn’t that life energy be spent in a manner that serves our growth and development and contributes to the greater good?

Eighty-seven percent of employers say that improving employee retention is a top priority, according to Fortune Magazine. Seventy-five percent of the time the cause of employee turnover is preventable, based on studies by HR Drive. And, perhaps most significantly, the cost of a lost employee can often exceed 150% of his or her annual salary.

So how do we remedy a situation in which dissatisfied employees quit at a significant cost to the company and the greater productivity of a community?

It may be easy for employers in the Teton region to chalk turnover up to a seasonal workforce of unambitious ski bums. Here at Silicon Couloir we’re pushing back against that narrative. We see and nurture a significant segment of workers and entrepreneurs who are well-educated, ambitious and dedicated to our community. The Teton region has grown and evolved. So how do local companies honor that evolution and create a win-win business culture that has a committed, creative and collaborative team at its core?

We think the answer is consciously striving to build a workplace that supports employee empowerment, appreciation and opportunity. Every business, no matter how small, can incorporate these values into daily operations and wider strategy. We have some suggestions that will undoubtedly result in greater job satisfaction, increased productivity and progress, no matter if you run a food truck or a multimillion-dollar firm.

1. Be clear about expectations.

This is the communications piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked. Assumptions are made about individual roles, goals and responsibilities. Often the result is inefficiency, disappointment and resentment.

Clearly identify who is to do what by when and for what purpose. Regular team meetings with open and honest dialogue are essential. As a staff member be ready to share ideas for improvement in products or services. As a boss be open to feedback and strive for constant improvement.

The good news is that technology can enhance your ability to improve this feedback loop. Platforms such as Slack or Asana can be a helpful tool to promote communication and expectations.

2. Nurture your employees’ strengths.

Everyone brings different abilities and talents, and good leaders notice, cultivate and incorporate these strengths into the larger company goals. Creating projects that challenge and provide growth opportunities leads to greater job satisfaction and retention.

No one wants to just go through the motions. Employees who buy into what they are doing will stay and develop. This very column you’re reading is a case in point: It’s a new, creative means for Silicon Couloir staff to share their experience.

3. Build a company culture based on values.

Every company needs to have core values, no matter what the service or product. For employees, feeling good about what they do and achieve is a massive motivational force.

If you’re an employer, ask yourself how you can bring more meaning and value to your company. Business can and should be a force for good. Perhaps it’s using locally-sourced products or donating a portion of proceeds to a worthy cause. DMOS Collective recently pivoted all warehouse, fulfillment, service, R&D and development to its new headquarters in Alpine to create more local jobs.

When you try to do good things for others, everyone in the organization benefits as well.

4. Show appreciation with benefits and compensation.

Paying staff well and providing benefits is an obvious way to increase satisfaction and retention. Think of your company as part of employees’ career, not just a job, and they will do the same.

What if your business is just starting out and barely making ends meet? Consider other lifestyle benefits you can offer such as work flexibility (think powder days), time off, remote work or opportunities to socialize and bond as a group.

Your team is your greatest strength. Ending the cycle of employee turnover that hinders so many businesses is one of the keys to unlocking success. If you can bring creative thinking to this problem, you might find that the ability to retain employees becomes one of your most valuable assets.

Rebecca Reimers is marketing and events coordinator for Silicon Couloir. She can be reached at

Jennifer Dorsey is chief copy editor for the News&Guide and one of the editors for local articles printed in the Jackson Hole Daily.

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