Six ideas for retaining top talent
Do you have a revolving door? Are you blaming it on the Great Resignation? If your answer is yes, it could be that you have a turnover blind spot.
Here’s a great example. An external affairs manager at a local institution lost seven of 14 department members this year and only replaced one. She chalked it up to things out of her control—”the masses rethinking their priorities” and the difficulty of hiring good people in this job market.
But there’s more to the story. She told one of her six remaining employees that he has no opportunity for advancement. Another talented staffer offered to step up, rewrote his job description and was promised a quick promotion. Then the manager reneged.
Is it any wonder that each of the six is actively hunting for a new job?
Clearly, this organization is not prioritizing employee retention. If the scenario above is any indication, the enterprise is lacking effective strategies for employee engagement, workforce planning, and management training. They’re also playing by the old rules—including denying hybrid schedules for those who can do their work remotely.
As bad as this sounds, it is not uncommon.
If you are experiencing turnover that is much higher than normal, there’s likely more to the problem than the Great Resignation.
Is turnover all about dollars and cents?
Sure, people are leaving for higher-paying jobs. In a recent survey 91% of business leaders said they will hire new employees in 2023 and almost half said they will increase compensation to attract talent (Source: Paycor).
Here’s the interesting thing. When employees were asked what would keep them at their current jobs, two of the top three motivators had nothing to do with money. Company culture took the top spot and flexibility came in third (yes, compensation was second).
I was recently on a Cultivating Culture panel by JLL. Here are some data points from a recent Gallup Poll about workplace culture that we discussed: Employees who feel connected to their company culture are 3.7x more engaged at work, 55% less likely to be looking for a new job and 68% less likely to feel burned out. Culture matters. A lot.
Another study asked why people quit their jobs. Money was not a top motivator here either. Respondents said they didn’t feel valued, they left because of a bad manager, or they didn’t feel a sense of belonging (Source: McKinsey).
The bottom line is this: if you have a retention problem, you can’t just throw money at it. But you’d better do something. Here are six ideas for holding onto valuable employees.
1. First, be realistic about the cost of losing employees
Many executives downplay the disruption of employees moving on. But just think about your own recent experiences. How aggravating is it to wait 45 minutes or more for dinner at your favorite restaurant because they are short staffed? I bet you won’t be eating there again anytime soon.
Now consider your company. On average, it costs six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace them. But what about loss of institutional knowledge, customer service interruptions and reputational harm? These hidden costs are significant.
2. Change your mindset
There is no denying the seismic shift that has occurred between organizations and workers. Today’s employees are confident about finding new jobs and feel empowered to look. The balance has shifted. If your attitudes haven’t, expect that the door will continue to revolve.
3. Create a culture of belonging
Company culture has a huge impact on employees’ decisions to stay or to quit. To a large degree, culture is based on a sense of camaraderie. The leader who knows their employees’ kids or spouses’ names, the owner or manager who checks in just to hear how people are doing demonstrates that the company cares. In today’s environment, empathy goes a long way towards building loyalty.
4. Focus on two-way communication
Listening is a surefire way to improve employee allegiance. Make time for team check-ins and one-on-one conversations. This goes for performance management, too. Conversations between supervisors and employees should be deliberate, with progress reviews on a regular basis. Ask about the employee’s challenges, the skills they want to develop, where they want to go within the business and most important—what might cause them to leave. Foregoing this critical management task is a huge risk.
5. Communicate, appreciate, reward, repeat
Here’s a great example. When a local company with a customer service problem hired a consultant to fix it, employees in the department feared for their jobs and started looking. Instead of letting the rumor mill run wild, the business celebrated customer service week. It included leadership videos on the importance of customer service, certificates of appreciation sent to employees’ homes and a rewards program so business colleagues could give points to top performers. The result? Zero turnover and employees now welcome the upcoming changes.
6. Take a chance on a promising team member
Remember the professional whose director reneged on his promotion? He had filled in for his boss when she was on maternity leave. When the new mom didn’t return, the professional was told he wasn’t qualified for the job. What if instead, the company reimagined the position and filled in the gaps another way? I have no doubt that this talented individual would still be with the organization.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” — Socrates
If you have an employee retention problem, it’s time for change. Talk to the advisors at NEMR Total HR about your issues. We are ready to partner with you. Email us or chat with us here.