IN UNCERTAIN ECONOMIC times, everyone concentrates on the bottom line—including HR managers. Layoffs are a fact of life in the corporate world, but such tactics focus on retaining critical performers—and their hefty compensation packages. For employers willing to adopt strategies that embrace greater communication and work/life balances, there are cost-effi cient options for retaining the best.

"Minimizing employee turnover is critically important," says Elizabeth Feigin Befus, the Washington, D.C.-based National Multi Housing Council's vice president of employment policy. "Losing an employee has real implications to the bottom line."

According to NMHC's National Apartment Survey of Compensation and Benefits Practices, turnover increased for many on-site jobs in 2008. The highest turnover was among leasing consultants, up to 59.9 percent from 54.5 percent in 2007.

That kind of turnover impacts resident retention. "Some residents' feelings about a property are closely tied to the relationships they form with on-site staff and how responsive they are," Befus notes.

To keep your best, Chicago-based jobs expert John Challenger recommends instituting flex time or telecommuting versus clock punching. "This builds a culture that is friendly to your employees' needs to balance their careers and personal time."

Communication is another key. "Your employees read the papers and see what is happening around them," says Marilyn Barrera, director of human resources for Coconut Grove, Fla.-based Carlisle Development Group. "During hard times, we keep all employees in the loop with announcements via e-mail." Carlisle also uses team meetings and wikis to help employees feel informed and involved.

When it comes to holding onto the superstars, Barrera believes success is really a pretty clear formula. "If you are sincere as an employer, you'll likely gain loyalty and great work in exchange."