The past few years have been unprecedented for business leaders in many ways. From a shift to remote work, added emphasis on mental wellbeing in the office, and many consumers shifting their demands to virtual solutions, many business leaders have had to be flexible and adaptable to the changing tides.
But among the many changes in business is a trend of employee advocacy and self-empowerment that some have dubbed The Great Reshuffle or The Great Resignation, as many employees have quit their positions to find something with better benefits or to pursue self-interest.
Employee retention should be a goal for every manager. But how can you keep your workforce engaged and, more importantly, on board? We asked business leaders which employee retention strategies they use to keep their workforce happy.
Why Do Employees Leave?
Various factors have tested employee loyalty in the past few years. And we’ve seen that, when tested, the employee almost always opts to leave. A few reasons why good employees might walk include:
- Lack of flexibility
- Poor communication
- Better benefits at other companies
- Lack of diversity
- No growth opportunities
- No physical or mental health perks
- No connection with management
The Great Resignation and Reshuffle by the Numbers
The so-called “Great Resignation” has seen employees leaving their positions in record numbers. But how many people are truly scouring job boards for a new gig? We’ve rounded up some statistics:
- 4.53 million Americans left their jobs in November 2021. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Roughly 33 million Americans left their jobs from April 2021 to November 2021 — about one-fifth of the U.S. workforce. (FRED)
- The industries with the highest quit rates are food services and health care. (The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- 500,000 people decided to become their own boss during the pandemic. (Wall Street Journal)
- There have been about 2.4 million excess retirements due to COVID-19. (The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis)
18 Effective Employee Retention Strategies
Amid record turnover, employers may be searching for ways to keep their employees happy and working. These employee retention strategies can help you cater to your current workforce and set your business up for success.
1. Provide Competitive Salaries and Benefits
Perhaps the most obvious is also one of the most important: Employees around the world want competitive wages and benefits as part of their global compensation package. And if they can’t find it at your company, they’ll move on to a place where they can. Conduct market research to gauge the industry standard for salaries in your market, then look at innovative benefits like paid mental health days, child care stipends, or gym memberships in addition to health care plans.
Gergo Vari, Founder and CEO of Lensa, said employees are putting increased focus on benefits: “If you want people to keep working for you they need competitive salaries and benefits or they will look elsewhere. I have seen people take a pay cut just to have benefits.”
Tip: Benefits don’t always have to cost your company a lot of money — things like catered lunches, flexible start times, and quarterly mental health days can go a long way.
2. Be Flexible With Remote or Hybrid Work
The pandemic has given rise to new employee expectations. For many, this includes the desire to work at their own pace, home, or schedule. A hybrid or remote work model allows employees to split time between the office and home or work from home altogether. What results is a workforce where each member can work when and where they are going to be most productive.
Teresha Aird, Co-Founder of Offices.net, said her company adopted a hybrid work model out of necessity: “Employees are craving the flexibility and autonomy to control their own work habits, something which was provided out of necessity throughout the pandemic. If we wanted to retain our talent, we needed to evolve with changing attitudes and pivot to accommodate these new expectations.”
Tip: In addition to remote work, consider offering access to flexible workspaces and allow employees to flex their starting hours so each employee can work when and where it's best for them.
3. Create a Mentorship Program
Starting at a new company — especially as a remote worker, who may not see their coworkers face-to-face — can be intimidating. If employees aren’t made to feel like a welcome part of the team when they arrive, they may start to look for a more friendly office.
A mentorship program can give new hires a person to go to with questions or regular check-ins. Setting them up with a go-to person on the team can make the job feel more welcoming while also providing a space for them to learn more about their new role.
Scott McKinney, Marketing Head of Debt Bombshell, says his office has implemented a mentorship program. “Make them feel capable and comfortable. Setting new hires with mentors is a great way to do this as this allows them to have someone available to answer any questions they may have. It also helps build social connections and ensures that no employees are left behind.”
Tip: If your team is remote, try to set up mentors who live in the same area so they can meet for coffee or a working lunch.
4. Do Good for the Community
Millennial workers especially are interested in working for companies that have a positive community or environmental impact. Even if your company doesn’t explicitly deal with community or environmental sustainability, you can still do good by hosting volunteer days or making donations to good causes.
Sarah Walker, Editor of Respect Caregivers, said their company makes donations in their employees’ names at the end of each year. On behalf of its employees, Respect Caregivers has contributed money to a creek rejuvenation project in Canada, installation of park equipment in Dublin, Ireland, and the building of a cricket pitch in Jaipur, India.
Tip: Scouting out local volunteer opportunities can be a good team-building exercise and make employees feel like they’re having an impact on their community.
5. Create a Culture of Respect
Everyone who works for your company should feel like a valued member of the team, no matter where they land on the corporate ladder. The culture of respect starts from the top. Teach managers who show respect for those above and below them and your workforce will feel overall more valued.
Corey Tyner, Founder of Buy Yo Dirt, makes respect a daily practice: “Employees want to be respected and valued at work. Managers who make it a daily priority to show outward respect for their employees will build a long-lasting and robust company culture.”
Tip: Respect can mean everything from common courtesy like saying “please” and “thank you” to practicing active listening, being meaningful in work delegations, and taking constructive criticism without getting angry.
6. Build Trust Through Team Building and Recognition
Employees may be enticed to stay at a workplace where they feel they have a community. Building trust amongst your team with team-building exercises can help eliminate competitiveness among your workforce and make your office a more welcoming and friendly place.
Tyner believes that benefits should extend beyond the financial and include recognition and team building. “In addition to financial compensation, your employee incentives should cover their emotional needs,” he said. “Recognition in front of the company, company and department parties, service projects, lunch with the CEO, branded clothing, handwritten letters, and other activities contributes to developing a positive workplace culture.“
Tip: Team building can be small acts like office-wide coffee breaks as well as larger ones like after-work parties.
7. Build Emotional Intelligence
While workplace dramas might be fun to watch on television, no one actually wants to work for a company that feels like one. So when training yourself and your employees, be sure to prioritize emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the practice of perceiving and controlling emotions. This is especially important for managers who may need to handle emotional workplace interactions.
Mike Grossman, CEO of GoodHire, said empathy goes a long way in-office. “So much of successful leadership demands a high level of emotional intelligence, trust around your people, and an ability to develop meaningful relationships. This can be easily summarized in one word: empathy. By making the team the most important focus, and leading with empathy all throughout, you can cultivate a tight-knit culture that employees truly want to be a part of. And with that, they're far more likely to stick around.”
Tip: Spanning more than just in-person interactions, emotional intelligence means refraining from anger in email or chat responses.
8. Optimize Your Recruitment
If your new hires are consistently leaving within a year, this could indicate that something is awry with your hiring funnel. And if you ignore your hiring plan and start trying to hire quickly to replace departing employees instead of putting emphasis on finding the right fit, this could only compound your problem and make matters worse.
You can start by making sure hires will be happy and successful during the recruitment process. Adam Ng, CEO and Founder of Trusted Malaysia, said HR professionals should educate during recruitment. “HR professionals should aim to go beyond just teaching a new employee about what the job entails. They should also try to provide a clear view of company culture and how new employees can flourish in it. Keeping employees is often harder than hiring them. But employees are a valuable (and steep) investment for your company and the future of your business. So hiring the right people and keeping them for the long haul is crucial to building a successful business.”
Tip: Making an introductory video for your careers page can help prospective employees see what your culture is like before they even decide to apply.
9. Practice Gratitude and Shout Out Good Work
When employees do good work, they should feel appreciated. Practicing gratitude can make employees feel like a valuable member of the team and motivate them to work harder and stay on board. More than likely, employee productivity will wane and could eventually lead to a resignation if they feel like their effort is going unnoticed or unappreciated.
McKinney said gratitude should be specific and personal. “It goes without saying that employees who feel appreciated and seen tend to work harder and stay longer at their respective companies,” McKinney said. “Keep in mind that building a culture of recognition for your employees means frequent and specific acknowledgement. It doesn't mean just recognizing people every once in a while and calling it a day.”
Tip: Shout employees out via chat or email when they produce a particularly notable result or go above and beyond to help out.
10. Emphasize Work-Life Balance
With more and more focus being put on employee physical and mental health, work-life balance should be at the forefront of managers’ minds. A strong work-life balance means your employees are able to log off and won’t have to worry about responding to messages or calls late at night.
Beau Pent, Sales Manager at GoCo, said his company’s emphasis on work-life balance has strongly impacted retention. “I have had people refuse offers of higher compensation from our competitors because we have provided them with an unbeatable work-life balance,” he said. “You really can't put a price on downtime.”
Tip: If your employees work across different time zones, keep track of when people will be logged on so you don’t message them outside of work hours.
11. Get Employees Engaged
Disengaged employees can not only make your office an unhappy place to work, but it can also be a costly burden. Some estimates report that a single disengaged employee can cost your company $16,000 per year.
To boost employee happiness (and profits), focus on employee engagement. This means working on team-building activities and conducting regular check-ins, but also giving employees the space to give feedback and share their opinions.
Jeroen van Gils, Founder and CEO of LiFi, said engagement starts with making employees feel heard. “Company culture will always play an essential role in keeping your employees engaged. And the key here is to create a culture of trust where everyone has the freedom to say whatever they want whenever they want and be heard. You need to give your employees the voice they need. But it's crucial to not just listen to them but act and do something about their concerns as well.”
Tip: Skip-level meetings can give employees an opportunity to share their opinions and feel like they’re having an impact.
12. Take a Customer Service Approach to Complaints
Voicing a complaint to a manager can feel vulnerable. So if an employee comes forward with feedback, make sure they feel supported. The longer you let employee needs go unresolved, the more resignation letters will appear in your inbox.
Erik Hansen, Consultant Manager at Right People Group, says employers should treat employee complaints just like client ones. “You should be taking a customer service approach to employee complaints if you want to increase retention. You will lose people if you don't take their complaints seriously, plain and simple. Don't brush them off or write their concerns off as unimportant. They matter, and you need to acknowledge that they exist and, where possible, try and solve them as you would for a client.“
Tip: Even if you can’t address the concern right away, hold a meeting with the employee to discuss their concerns and let them know they’re being heard.
13. Train Management With Compassion
Bad management is a huge reason why people leave their companies. And one surefire way to reduce the number of manager vs. employee mishaps is to retrain your managers to not only be stronger bosses but also to lead with empathy and compassion. Make sure they not only are up to date on company processes and how to do their jobs, but also that they’re honing softer skills like active listening, accountability, and respect.
Lattice Hudson, Founder of Lattice & Co., said retraining her managers made a world of difference in her retention efforts. “I found a crucial aspect of my employee retention strategy was actually training my managers better,” she said. “This ensured they were able to successfully assist my company in worker development and the retention of the workers they supervised.”
Tip: Hold mindfulness workshops with your management team to teach them about gratitude and how to stay cool in the face of conflict.
14. Conduct Stay Interviews
By the time you’re conducting an exit interview, it means it’s too late and the employee has decided to leave. Get ahead of this by conducting a stay interview where you ask your current employees what would make them consider leaving and perks they’re looking for to make them stay for a long time.
Abe Breuer, CEO of VIP To Go, said stay interviews have led to big changes, like implementing a wellness program, and smaller ones, like removing single-use plastics from the lunchroom. “Stay interviews are a powerful technique for increasing engagement and retention,” Breuer said. “You can improve your work environment and retain excellent employees by spotting pain points before they become full-fledged problems.”
Tip: Your employees should be doing most of the talking during their stay interview — take the time to listen, take notes, and learn!
15. Provide Growth Opportunities
If the job starts to feel like climbing up a never-ending ladder with no progress, employees will most likely start looking elsewhere for more opportunities. Growth tracks are crucial to keep employees happy and working toward something new. Without them, people will most likely go where they can advance.
Eden Cheng, Co-Founder of PeopleFinderFree, makes sure that employees know about growth opportunities. “Employees who perform well will always want to move up the corporate ladder, so if they aren't seeing growth opportunities at your organization, it's no surprise that they'll be inclined to start looking elsewhere. It is for this reason that we prioritize implementing internal job training programs and succession programs, which can help our staff members to develop their skills and knowledge, while also motivating them to stay and progress.”
Tip: Each time someone is promoted, send all employees your growth tracks that they can reference and use to benchmark their own progress.
16. Learn From Exit Interviews
Exit interviews are conducted during an employee’s last week to figure out why they’re leaving and collect any constructive feedback they have for the company. It’s not enough to simply perform these interviews — you need to learn from them!
Take thorough notes about what employees are saying as they leave and turn that into an actionable plan for change.
Matt Campbell, CFO of Budgetable, said exit interviews are a valuable tool: “Exit interviews will provide your business valuable information on why employees are leaving. When performing exit interviews, employers should ask questions around company culture, employee pay, and overall job happiness. This will help pinpoint trends among employees who are leaving.”
Tip: Consider making a spreadsheet with exit interview responses and data so you can identify any trends among departing employees.
17. Develop a Strong Onboarding Plan
Effective onboarding is key to many different aspects of your business, whether you’re in person or virtual. The onboarding process gives employees the foundation on which they’ll build their career at your company. So you want to make sure it’s strong.
Make your onboarding a thorough, in-depth process in which the employee will learn the ins and outs of their job, who to contact when needed, and how to be independent. Also, ensure your process includes onboarding best practices that keep new hires engaged and motivated.
Yazan Sehwail, Co-Founder of Userpilot, said onboarding helps employees prepare for growth: “By providing a quality training program, we get our employees off on the right foot and get them started on a path to success. Once the employee completes the onboarding, comfortably enters our workforce, and has a successful career with us, we are confident they will feel well set up to grow within the company.”
Tip: A good onboarding process will balance training videos and shadow sessions with actually doing the job to get used to it.
18. Give All Employees a Voice
All employees, from entry-level to C-suite, want to feel involved and heard. Giving everyone space to air grievances, present ideas, and discuss the company can increase engagement and make your employees feel like valued team members.
Though the employee retention plan at CocoDoc is multifaceted, Co-Founder Alina Clark said she makes sure to listen to employees. “There's nothing more unnerving and disturbing than a business that doesn't give its employees a voice in the workplace. Giving the employees a chance to contribute to the decision-making process of the company allows them to buy into the future plans of the company. Besides, the employees feel better when they see their ideas being put into action.”
Tip: Check-ins via feedback forms or email questionnaires can help even the most quiet employees feel heard.
Keep Your Workforce Satisfied
Employee retention comes down to listening to and focusing on employee needs. It also comes down to hiring the right people and keeping them engaged. If you’re running a global business, this could be a challenge. Velocity Global can help build and manage your global workforce to make sure your employees don’t add to those in the Great Resignation.
For more information on how to retain your employees, check out the following infographic.