Employee retention is critical to the overall success of a business. “Our people are our greatest asset” can be heard time and time again in the workplace, however, many companies fall short when it comes to actioning retention initiatives.
Poor rates of employee retention can be avoided with some simple but effective strategies which will make your employees feel empowered, respected and valued, giving them every reason to stay with your organisation for the long term.
Below we outline 8 key areas which you should pay close attention to if you want to improve your employee retention rates. You can skip straight to the one you want to find out more about:
- Why your first encounter with them can define their career with you…
- Why you should try to understand their different motivations…
- Why simple praise can go a long way…
- Why it pays to get to know your employees as individuals…
- Why you should always listen to what they have to say…
- Why it’s important to be flexible for different employee age groups…
- Why it is crucial to attend to your employees’ wellbeing…
- Why you should help them progress their careers...
1. Your first encounter is hugely important
The importance of first impressions should never be underestimated. In theory, retention starts from the very moment a prospective employee is invited to interview. It is of paramount importance that the interviewer recognises the skills and behaviours of the applicant. In a similar vein, it is important that the interviewee can display an appreciation and understanding of the culture of their (potential) future employer.
Even at this early stage, ensuring a good match is the first step to retaining long term.
2. Recognise the varied motivations of your employees
We all know that everyone has different motivations for working and will join (or leave) an organisation for a variety of reasons. A business that can understand this and avoid treating everyone in the same fashion will have higher tenures than others.
Once a new hire has joined, your efforts to keep them engaged must continue. This should include:
- Having structured training programmes in place to ensure skills are constantly developing
- Undertaking regular performance reviews - even if these are yearly, bi-annually or more frequent
Both of these offer clarity around career progression and if appropriate, an opportunity to review remuneration. Without this type of platform that gives greater visibility to either an employee’s career path or earnings will often drive individuals to other companies with more defined frameworks in place.
3. Place more attention on praising employees
Praising and rewarding your employees for the work they do will instantly make them feel appreciated and valued, incentivising them to carry on performing to the highest standards possible. The power of praise is underestimated; it’s one of the most effective methods for motivating employees and helping them reach their full potential.
Moreover, praise naturally encourages workers to take on more challenges in order to receive recognition again and again, resulting in improved employee wellbeing and boosted employee morale. Many studies have revealed that praising and recognising staff for the good work they do is even more powerful and rewarding than using monetary incentives.
Strong reward and recognition, a good work life balance and attractive benefits packages are key aspects of creating a high performing culture at work.
4. Get to know your team members
By getting to know your employees, you can become more mindful and empathetic of their emotions. Establishing a genuine connection with staff will build trust between manager and employee so if any issues do arise, then they won’t feel as reluctant to reach out.
Underlying this all should be a culture of openness where feedback, on an individual basis, is commonplace - this will generate a sense of appreciation as an individual in comparison to being part of a collective workforce. Whilst many can find the process of feedback unnatural, by creating an environment where this becomes the norm, it allows employees and employers to constantly seek self-improvement.
5. Listen to what your employees are saying
Though it may not always be clear if an employee is unhappy in their job, an obvious sign is a lack of motivation for their daily responsibilities, a negative attitude or a low mood. It is worth taking the time to have an informal conversation, mentioning your concerns for their welfare within the workplace so an effective solution can be found.
You may be able to help them boost morale, suggest a smarter way of working or maybe delegate some of the duties they carry out to other members of the team to take the strain off them. In support of this, it has been revealed that employees who feel like their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best.
6. Pay attention to the desires of the millennial workforce
To date, there has been a lot of research into the millennial social group, with many studies showing how this particular generation’s attitude and behaviours to work differ from preceding generations. With so many now in employment, it is imperative that you are able to adapt to this evolving mind-set within your organisation.
Generally speaking, millennials want a flexible approach to work and expect regular feedback. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised. A lot of emphasis is placed on employer brand, and the ethics by which a business operates.
Millennials need to believe that the company believes in the vision and values it portrays to its customer base.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), whilst considered a broad term, is a company’s way of describing how they can contribute to improving society in a particular way. This can be financially orientated, by simply donating money, or implementing ethical initiatives and practices.
7. Promote employee wellbeing at work
Over the course of numerous studies in recent years, it has become blindingly evident that providing an employee wellbeing scheme is vital to supporting mental and physical health. Generally, the more support you give to staff that empowers them to be happier and healthier, the less likely they are to leave.
Promoting mental health can be done through stress management activities that don’t necessarily have to be expensive or complex. For instance, you could consider offering weekly exercise classes - this non-monetary incentive could also be used as an effective team building exercise that helps colleagues to socialise - another important aspect of retention.
8. Develop internal career paths to encourage retention
A lack of career development can result in a sense of stagnation, leading to a demotivated workforce. Whether it’s a new starter or an employee who has been with you for years, it doesn’t matter, a good manager should be prepared to discuss career succession plans and be transparent on whether there will be internal progression opportunities available.
By allowing employees to develop their skills and take on new responsibilities so they can move towards a more senior title and work their way up the career ladder, you should see your retention rates improve.
Attrition is costly...and time consuming
You have to be aware of how much employee turnover costs your business. With that level of visibility, management can appreciate the importance of minimising attrition.
Whilst you may think the ideas outlined above may be unnecessary spending, just remember: Often, it is more costly to advertise, interview, and then hire someone new than it is to take logical steps towards retaining your existing employees.
This said, it is worth reminding yourself that good employees do leave. As do employees who simply do not have the will or skill to fulfil their job. By having a fair and structured performance management framework in place, businesses can offer the additional support and training needed to upskill, with the aim of changing behaviours or increasing overall levels of output.
Do you have areas that can be improved?
When employees choose to leave on their own accord, and they subsequently leave on good terms, it is worth remembering that you have still done a good job. With so many public feedback forums available, you must understand the reputational risk of bad publicity. Therefore, an employer must never take a departure personally.
Exit interviews offer opportunities to understand why people are leaving in order to improve moving forward and avoid others following. Having the right mechanism in place is critical to this, enabling those departing to effectively communicate their reasons for leaving. Typically, an HR representative would facilitate this, and not a direct manager or owner of a business.
In summary, the art of retention is the successful amalgamation of processes and beliefs that will allow businesses to create a culture that staff enjoy and want to be part of. Not all of the above may be relevant to every business, but by building a workplace where employees are respected and feel as though they operate in a transparent environment, are some basic ways of achieving long term commitment.