20 Strategies to Retain Employees

Friday, February 21, 2020
Catherine Morin & Christopher Sirk
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Introduction

41.4 million American employees left their jobs in 2018, according to a national study conducted by Work Institute. 

A recent report by Compdata Survey & Consulting reveals that employee turnover in America has kept increasing in recent years, rising from 15% in 2013 to 18.5% in 2017. Voluntary turnover, which occurs when employees willingly choose to leave their positions, was reported at 13.5% in 2017, compared to 9% in 2012. 

All in all, from 2010 to 2018, turnover increased a whopping 88%.

Frequent turnover has become the new normal in several industries across the country, and companies are increasingly concerned about retaining good employees. While some turnover is necessary for an organization to thrive, an excessive rate of replacement can have a negative impact on workplace productivity and atmosphere.

The rise of the millennial, employee-driven marketplace calls for executives and managers to improve retention strategies proactively. Keeping top talent from leaving organizations in search of other opportunities starts with understanding the reasons behind what drives employees to move on.

 

 

20 tips on retaining employees

1. Effective onboarding process

Day 1 is super important for every employee. It’s critical that new hires get positive vibes, respect, and clarity from their employer, right from the beginning. An effective onboarding process might include a company overview presentation, an in-depth team introduction, a team lunch, and a CEO meet-and-greet. The idea is for the employee to be integrated as quickly as possible, so they can feel connected and committed to their role.

2. Play with their strengths

It’s important to recognize an employee’s strengths and give them the opportunities to use them. Playing to strengths is far superior to the negative reinforcement that comes with cracking down on weaknesses, or staying mute altogether. Matching work to strengths drives better performance, better engagement, and significantly improves the employee-manager relationship.

3. Appreciate employees’ hard work

It may seem an elementary point, but it really is imperative to recognize the hard work of your employees. When employees receive due praise, they feel valued and engaged—in other words, they care about the work they do for your company. Going beyond monetary rewards, you might consider throwing high-performing employees a party, recognizing them at a meeting or presentation in front of the company, and/or sending them to a one-on-one lunch with the company boss.

4. Embrace remote work culture

More and more employers are embracing remote work culture, and you should too (if you haven’t already). By allowing employees to telecommute part-time or full-time, you will likely find they are more productive and more satisfied with their jobs. By lessening the conflict between their personal and work obligations, they may continue working for you despite life events (for example, a spouse moving for a job) or competing opportunities that would otherwise cause them to quit.

5. Hire ‘A’ players

Employee retention begins with the hiring process. It’s important to get the best people in the first place, aka “A players.” A players combine experience, skill, and character; they are mature individuals who value collaboration and teamwork, and want to work with other talented people who drive and inspire them. 

Hiring top talent across the board may seem expensive in the short-term, but it’s key in the long run, as A players might leave if they’re managing or delegating work to those they feel aren’t performing to their own standards.

6. Develop great managers 

“Employees don’t leave their jobs, they leave their managers”—we’ve all heard some variation on this one-liner. And while the phrase is, of course, not universally true, it does bring home just how big of a problem bad management can be for employee retention.

Managers absolutely must receive training on coaching and communication. Managers perform a mediating role between C-suite, high-level decision-makers and front line employees, so they have a huge role to play in meeting employee needs. Management should encourage top talent with one-on-one coaching sessions, and group coaching sessions for teams.

7. Set the right expectations

More often than not, employees are either unaware of the full scope of their roles and responsibilities or the goalposts are constantly shifted around; either status quo leads to frustration and lower job satisfaction. It’s important to set realistic expectations and clearly explain required work and deadlines. That way employees can avoid feeling pressured, plan their workload, tackle priority tasks, and voice any concerns ahead of time.  

8. Create a culture of embracing failures

Ironically enough, the majority of companies fail at innovating because they don’t have a culture of embracing failures. If you want to retain highly creative, talented people, take risks and make sure employees do not fear the consequences of a negative result. When people feel empowered to do new things, and learn new things, they are much more likely to stay on your team; they’re also much more likely to contribute some really good ideas that stick.

9. Develop a value-driven culture

If you want to reduce employee attrition, it’s important to build your company culture around fundamental humanistic values like trust, transparency, and happiness: These values should be actively worked into day-to-day operations, rather than simply imagined by leadership.

For example, Whole Foods upended the traditional top-down grocery store model with consensus-based decision-making at the individual store and team-level, valuing personal autonomy over hierarchy. By allowing employees to participate in higher-level decision-making processes and to “be their own person”—wearing their own clothes to work, and freely presenting with tattoos, piercings, dyed hair, etc.—the company has achieved a market-leading employee retention rate.

10. Build trust by giving extra responsibilities

Giving employees extra responsibilities can increase their engagement and emotional involvement in your organization, driving retention. 

Famed digital agency Big Spaceship offers food for thought. Employees at Big Spaceship are encouraged to operate more-or-less autonomously, as experts in their own domain. This drives them to own their responsibilities and challenge themselves, ultimately contributing to better teamwork and more concern for company bottom-line.

11. Organize team-building activities

While there’s certainly no shortage of ill-conceived team-building activities, well-done team-building can indeed break down barriers between new and current employees, improving collaboration. Socially cohesive teams work better, which has knock-on effects for job satisfaction, and individual team members are more likely to feel attached to their jobs on a deeper level.

You might consider team-building activities as simple as going out to a bar or restaurant, taking a group cooking class, karaoke, an escape room, or something community-oriented like offsite group volunteer work or starting a neighborhood garden.

12. Give timely promotions & incremental rewards

It’s important to reward good work with annual salary increases and promotions on a regular basis. Career development is important for high performers, and when your best employees can reach the next level of their career with you, they’ll stay with you. 

13. Consider employees in the decision-making process

When you include employees in important company decisions, you show that you trust them and value their input. On the other hand, when you make decisions behind closed doors, you create a barrier between management and employees that saps confidence and leaves employees questioning why they’re working with you. 

Building a socially accountable system of decision-making is absolutely key for retaining the best and brightest.

14. Invest in training & development

Many employees leave because they feel like they’re not learning anything. LinkedIn Learning’s 2018 workplace development report found that 93% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career. 

That’s why it’s important to develop a yearly budget and long-term plan for employee training and professional development. You might also invest in mentorship programs where high-performing employees engage one-on-one with management, helping them to develop their skills and setting up a clear path for internal advancement.

15. Share your values, mission with employees

Too often employees work in a vacuum, with no idea of where the company is ultimately headed. You should have a sense of mission that’s clear and accessible, with values that indicate a social conscience and sense of broader, positive purpose in the world. 

Sharing your company’s vision, and involving employees directly in its realization, provides a sense of direction. It also results in better performance and collaboration. 

16. Offer support and security

When employees feel secure, they’ll stick around. Fostering an atmosphere where employees are comfortable and respected is a big part of this. Support might take the form of a compassionate fund that helps employees facing emergency situations, or generous paid maternal and paternal leave.

Going beyond the standard practice of exit interviews, you might consider giving “stay interviews,” where you ask employees why they joined the company, why they still work there, what they would change, and what would keep them working there longer.

17. Celebrate special days & festivals

Celebrating birthdays, even in a low-key way, shows you care about an employee’s life milestones; ditto for work anniversaries. 

If there’s a major festival in town, particularly if it’s in your office’s neighborhood, you should let employees get out and attend. It’s equally as important to make sure employees (particularly those of different cultural backgrounds) don’t miss holidays or special events with their family. 

18. Offer additional benefits

Offering health insurance is key to retaining employees; it’s also well worth offering life insurance and a retirement savings plan. Apart from these life essentials, you might want to consider adding employee benefits like unlimited vacation days and tuition reimbursement or assistance, and perks like gym membership and spa gift cards.

19. Upgrade office equipment

Old computers and software slow down work in more ways than one; they show your company isn’t really interested in staying up-to-date, or enabling you to do your best work with the least friction. Investing in new tech, and new digital tools, shows that you’re committed to the future ahead; that you care about your employees and their work productivity. 

20. Be flexible with work schedules

If your employee’s role doesn’t fundamentally require a 9-5 grid, you shouldn’t be sticking them on one. Adopting a flexible work schedule has benefits for decreasing absenteeism and tardiness, and for boosting morale and loyalty. When you allow employees to start work early or late, to avoid rush hour commutes, or work at home when other life obligations arise (like taking care of a sick child)  you signal to them that you care about their work-life balance.

Consequences of high employee turnover

Employee turnover results in a major loss of trained and experienced staff that know the goals and policies of the organization and their roles in reaching these objectives. New employees need time to learn these duties, inevitably leading to production loss, which in turn equates to money loss.

 A study conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management shows that employers often spend six to nine months of an employee’s salary to find and train a substitute. For a worker making $60,000 per year, for example, that represents $30,000 to $45,000 in recruiting and training costs.

High staff turnover can also have emotional implications for the remaining workforce. Good relationships are critical to an employee’s satisfaction with their job, it can be difficult for workers to stay motivated and perform at high levels when colleagues are vanishing all around them. As friends and long-time coworkers leave, remaining employees continuously have to go through the process of getting to know new people, which can wreak havoc on morale.

Plus, a lack of trained and active workforce leads to increased workloads and responsibilities for the remaining staff. Picking up the slack for departed coworkers often results in exhaustion and frustration. 

New employees can also suffer from low morale as they struggle to learn new procedures and duties.

4 causes of high staff turnover

While many analysts link the current increase in job turnover to economic growth, there are other factors that employers can control to minimize the impacts of this trend. 

1. More opportunities

In 2008, the United States’ economy collapsed, leaving the country in its worst financial state since the Great Depression of the early 1930s. While some Americans still carry the scars from this downturn a decade later, most metrics show that the economy has recovered significantly and is still growing steadily. This expansion has opened up new job opportunities. 

According to the Labor Department, the number of job openings in the United States currently exceeds the number of unemployed Americans. Job openings rose to 6.7 million at the end of April 2018, compared with 6.3 million people who were unemployed. It is the first time such an event has happened since the US government began tracking this data in 2000.  

According to a business report conducted In July 2009, as the Great Recession was officially ending, there were on average 7 unemployed people for each job opening. Today, this ratio has narrowed to only 0.94 people per available position.

There is technically an available position for everyone who wants one ─ and more. More jobs mean more choice for workers who are looking for the right company fit.

More work could be responsible for employees feeling more confident about leaving their current positions for better ones. If an organization isn’t a good fit, it’s no longer the only option. Workers are more likely to look for other opportunities.

While changes in the economy are not under the control of employers, internal factors can also contribute to high staff turnover.

2. Bad management

A 2017 Gallup poll of more than 1 million American workers found that the main reason people leave their job is a bad manager or immediate supervisor. Nearly 75% of workers who resigned voluntarily did so because of their bosses and not the position itself.

While employees don’t have to be best friends with their boss, they do require a relationship that revolves around mutual respect. Dysfunctional relationships between supervisors and subordinates can have disastrous effects on employees’ morale. A toxic relationship in the workplace is just as bad as one in your own home.

Regardless of how good a job may be, people will quit if their relationship with their boss is unhealthy.

Good bosses know and value the unique abilities of their employees, and learn how to best integrate them into an effective action plan to maximize productivity. They define and communicate clearly specific objectives with their staff. They empower employees by delegating responsibilities and sharing knowledge.

Some bosses give overly detailed directions on how tasks should be completed and constantly try to control their employees. Lack of freedom in the workplace can be a detrimental reason for employees moving on to another job.   

How managers handle stress is a huge game-changer

Professionals need feedback on their performance and constructive advice they can use to improve their work. Recognition for a well-executed job is also critical for staff retention. Employees can quickly get frustrated and disheartened if their boss never provides positive feedback, fails to recognize their performance or takes credit for their work.

Managers who value staff retention help employees expand their abilities. They give team members the opportunity to take on new projects, discover new work tools and earn professional accreditations. Many talented employees quit because they feel there is no opportunity for advancement in their current position.

Great leaders motivate employees and help them optimize their performance. Workers should be able to come to their boss when they need support or worry that something is about to go wrong. If they feel intimidated by a manager with a short temper and an impatient attitude, they’re probably going to want to look for a new job.

While managers need to think carefully about how they treat their employees, they often experience a lot of stress themselves.

They may feel constant pressure from the higher-ups and emotionally drained from always trying to keep their staff engaged while achieving targets. Eventually that stress might be taken out on employees, which can result in steadily decreasing engagement and productivity.

Some managers worry so much about losing their position that they simply follow orders, without standing up for their team or questioning the enterprise’s policies.

Such stress-induced behaviors often point to deeper, pervasive problems in workplace culture.

3. Bad workplace culture

The concept of a workplace culture encompasses a company’s norms, values, overall mission, business plan and working environment. Business owners and executives set the pace for creating and refining the organization’s culture.

Corporate culture has a lot to do with how employees experience their professional life.

Companies with a good culture are able to meet their objectives while making their employees feel valued and satisfied with their work. These organizations tend to have a more productive workforce and lower employee turnover rates.

Businesses that cannot provide such positive environments often suffer from low employee morale, becoming undesirable places to work with a high turnover rate.

Transparency is key

Employees may like their job, but feel that the corporate culture doesn’t match their values. For example, if an organization has a culture of fear and mistrust, workers are likely to have an unpleasant daily experience going to work, despite how they feel about their own position.

Most people can agree that they appreciate a workplace in which management is accessible, communication is transparent, executives are respectable and approachable, and the objectives are clear and understood.

Employees need to feel that they are part of an effort that is larger than just their job and that they matter in the larger picture of a company. To be able to connect their work to the bigger picture, they need to understand the organization’s vision, mission, and overall plan.

Many workers want to resign because they do not see how their work contributes to the company’s advancement. To retain employees, managers must help them see that their job leads to the achievement of specific goals that make a difference.

4. Insufficient salary

Recent data from Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest employment and job review sites, reveals that 45% of recruiting managers cite salary as one of the main reasons why employees change jobs. The survey, conducted among 750 hiring decision-makers in the United States and the United Kingdom, also suggests that salary is the most influential factor for a job seeker’s decision on where to work. 

This raises the question of whether salary range information should be included in job descriptions. Even though pay can be a big motivator when applying for a  job, Glassdoor’s own research found that fewer than 1 in 10 online job listings include pay data.

“If candidates were better informed about how their pay and career could progress during the initial job search and recruiting process, they would be less likely to take a job that turns out to be a bad fit,” says Carmel Galvin, Chief Human Resources Officer at Glassdoor.

She thinks that companies could reduce employee turnover by taking the time to communicate salary with potential candidates and to ensure pay realities to meet expectations.

It is not crazy to assume that the abundance of job openings will soon give workers who do not feel well-compensated more leverage to demand pay raises. Employers should therefore regularly benchmark salaries against those of other companies in their industry to make sure they maintain a competitive pay structure.

Conclusion

Understanding the causes of staff turnover is an important first step toward retaining talented employees. While the successful economy and growing job market allow a large percentage of workers to make career moves, well-informed employers can prevent turnover by using effective management strategies. 

Turnover costs can be avoided and real, sustainable growth can begin if companies make an effort by keeping employees engaged, developing a positive corporate culture, and offering competitive wages and benefits.

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