12 Ideas for Increasing Employee Retention
"The Great Resignation."
Odds are you've heard that phrase many times over the last six months during the pandemic. There's also a strong likelihood you are experiencing it yourself if you are a manager, or watching it happen around you. A lot of organizations and managers are losing both tenured talented individuals and new people joining their organization and then leaving within the first couple months. Many are also losing candidates during the interview process or seeing an increase in the declines of offers.
Why are we losing so many people? How can we help reduce turnover for top talent? How can we make the employee experience better when we are virtual or doing remote work? How can we set people up for success within their first few months so we don't lose them quickly?
A major part of the solution for employers and leaders is simply being aware that this is a real challenge, and it's impacting almost every organization, no matter big or small, the industry, etc. Awareness is step one, before you can then open a dialog internally to discuss best practices and possible solutions, and hopefully get multiple people on board with identifying and implementing recommendations, ideally a couple at a time!
Here are some suggestions that can be part of your 'Retention Recommendations for Discussion' in a team meeting with fellow leaders, Team Lead/s and others involved in interviewing/training, and key stakeholders like your Talent Acquisition team and/or Recruiting Partners so you can successfully implement and drive change where needed.
1 - Research Employee Retention Strategies
Have you taken any time to research and identify what other organizations are doing and then generate a list of ideas and best practices? When I took over a new role back in 2012 to help "be the voice of our technology contract employees and identify ways we can better support them and enhance their experience,” I remember feeling so lost that first week. Where do I even start? In one moment of clarity, I decided to get out our beloved Google and search "Trends amongst best companies to work at.” I found the list of the top 50 firms on the small, mid-size and large places to work, which outlined trends and specific health care benefits, programs, insights into culture, etc. I spent an hour a day reading through and doing some Sentiment Analysis, identifying patterns and thinking through specific ideas we could implement related to those trends/concepts. It was an incredibly beneficial exercise, and one I'd recommend for any Leader, not just those in HR/Talent Acquisition!
2 - Stronger engagement, relationship and support from management
"People don't leave companies, they leave managers.” It's a phrase I've heard many times over the years, and certainly holds true in a lot of employee turnover cases. More than ever, people want to work not just for companies who care, but managers who care about them, invest in their success, and are a consistent presence and support system. Reflect upon the following, and take action if you feel you could do more related to any of these questions:
- Do you take the time to truly get to know your new hires and their motivators when they start a new job?
- Do you have a consistent one on one cadence that is an open and meaningful conversation with your best employees vs. coming across as just a checklist of items/questions you are trying to get through?
- Is performance management, and giving positive feedback and validation on their contributions, something you are doing often?
- Do you understand their stressors/work challenges and are making an effort to alleviate where possible for engaged employees?
- Do you understand the topics and technologies they want to learn and are helping them develop a learning plan for professional development?
Bonus Resources: Quality one on one conversations is a topic we have heard many managers struggle with, so we wrote these two tips to provide more guidance in this area – 8 Best Practices for Employee One-on-Ones and 11 Topics for Effective Employee One-on-Ones!
3 - Conduct 'Stay Interviews'
One of the favorite terms and employee engagement/retention tips I've learned in the past 10 years came during a one-hour webinar we hosted on 'How to Keep Great Employees' with Gabrielle Bosche of The Millennial Solution. During the training, she stressed the importance of 'Stay Interviews' over 'Exit Interviews,' and how invaluable it is to simply ask team members in a meeting or your one-on-ones some effective open-ended questions to get some information around their current satisfaction with the role/environment and what else you can be doing to influence their satisfaction or alleviate a pain point or two so they stay. Some example questions you could include as part of periodic 'Stay Interview' type discussions/one-on-ones, which we'd suggest covering every 3-6 months, are:
- What are a couple recent highlights? What are you proud of that you've done?
- What are 2-3 ideas you have for adding more joy/enjoyment/job satisfaction to your role?
- Do you feel challenged enough? What other responsibilities could we look at to add more of the challenge/s you'd be interested in?
- Do you have what you need to be successful? What else can I/we do to ensure success with your current professional development opportunities, goals, initiatives, and/or responsibilities?
- What's your biggest pain point/stressor right now? How can we help alleviate?
- What's an idea you've heard other organizations do that you thought was really cool that we could consider?
- What can we do to help you/the team feel more recognized for your achievements? Is there anything else you've thought of that could make you work here more rewarding?
Bonus: Want to watch the one-hour 'How to Keep Great Employees' training? You can access it on-demand here!
4 - Audit your current orientation processes and programs
It's a helpful leadership exercise to periodically look at your orientation and onboarding process from the lens of a new person starting at a new organization and what you are offering your employees in the key areas that drive satisfaction, such as: challenges, committees, training and development, recognition, benefits, and philanthropy/volunteerism. Here are a couple big questions to ask during your self-audit, which we recommend at least once a year:
- Are you welcoming new team members with open arms, or do you think there's even a remote potential they could feel isolated and on an island by themselves?
- Are you providing an adequate orientation to your company, team, and giving insight into the bigger picture of projects and initiatives you all are focused on?
- To expand on the theme of the 'Stay Interview' in #2 above, are you asking new employees what else they need for a successful onboarding and to feel like they're getting to know their team members?
- Are you asking people at maybe the 3 month mark what ideas they have for a better orientation (i.e. what do they wish they had had so we can improve the process going forward?)?
- What are team members' current thoughts around what you offer, what they appreciate and potentially what's one idea they have for improving current programs/benefits or ones to consider adding/offering?
5 - Over-communicate goals/mission/impact
Are your employees still bought into the core values and/or mission statement? Do your employees understand how the work they produce fits into not only the team's goals but the overall goals of the company? Do they feel like they're making an impact? Are they still excited about the work they do every day and the mission of the company as a whole? Values and priorities may have shifted over the past two years and it's possible that some your employees are no longer aligned with the big picture, or simply aren't aware of the big picture goals/strategies and how they're making a positive impact to it.
KEY EXERCISE RECOMMENDATION: A trend in recent years has been around putting together team/group/initiative 'Impact Reports' or 'Quarterly Business/Project/Application Reviews' that showcase the impact being made. If you aren't already putting together something of that nature, it's a great report to share with senior management and with the team accomplishing the work. You can find examples online.
6 - Invest more time in orientation and training
One of the biggest "missed opportunities” we've seen with the Managers we support is around improving and expanding their orientation and onboarding for new team members. Most simply aren't investing enough time to help their new people feel welcomed, develop a relationship, provide the right tools/equipment/access and guidance, adequately welcome them to the team and acclimate them, and/or help them understand the WHY behind the group/team, project and role. A good exercise here is to take a few minutes with any of your current team members who've started in the last year and ask them a couple questions such as:
- On a scale of 1-10, how effective did you feel the orientation, onboarding and/or training was?
- What do you wish you had learned earlier on? Had access to? Had training on?
- What ideas do you have for making orientation more effective?
- What else could we do to make people feel welcome and a part of the team?
- What else could have been communicated differently, better, etc.?
7 - Work location
Many employees are now accustomed to working from home for the past year+, and various reports/studies have shown that most employees who can do their job virtually expect flexibility in when and where they work. For example, several research studies have found that the majority of technology professionals want at least a 60% work from home flexibility. We are seeing firsthand that those employers requiring their employees to be onsite 100% of the time are having issues with recruitment and retention. Again, employees want flexibility and they either a) want fully remote opportunities or b) they want a hybrid option where they can go in the office for a few days a week. If you are an organization or team that needs your folks back onsite fully for whatever reason, we could recommend doing a workplace audit and trying to identify other perks/benefits you could offer to make the position and company more appealing, such as a budget for T&D or extra PTO (paid time off). Since we spend most of our time at work, it should be an enjoyable place to be! How is the furniture, the lighting, the technology (desk, monitor, laptop setup, etc.)? Are there other benefits to being in the office such as free food, an onsite gym, or other perks? Can you be flexible in other ways, such as a flexible schedule, offering one day of WFH each week during the summer, or another idea for an employee's well-being?
8 - Evaluate communication forums
Perhaps the biggest change over the last few years is around communication tools, methods, frequency, etc. At our company, it's common for someone to send more Microsoft Teams messages than emails at this point. Our average team has not only a dedicated Teams channel, but sub-channels for areas like recognition/props, news/announcements, and Q&A. Based on your audit findings and list of suggestions, think about how you can use your communication tools to help you. Also, are there any communication forums you can create or encourage further use of? When an employee has questions or wants general advice, what virtual channels exist for them now? Adding a 'Common Q&A' sub-channel in the Teams group of our team made a huge difference, and also allowed more of the team to step up and provide answers vs. just having them primarily directed to me.
9 - Help them socialize and build peer-to-peer relationships
One thing that has not changed in our new normal is the desire for people to feel part of a team, to feel like they belong, and to still want to have relationships with the people they are working with. When we have a new individual start, we make five minutes of the next team meeting agenda an introduction to them, where they get to explain who they are and people can ask them icebreaker questions. I also encourage them to schedule 15 to 20 minute introduction calls with each of the people on their team with the only goal of getting to know each other, their responsibilities, and a nugget or two of advice for being successful in the role and working at our company! Teambuilding activities can also really influence relationships amongst the team. Every two months, we have been spending a lunch hour playing virtual games like Improv, Family Feud or Jackbox Games, which is a great team builder and also helps with stress management and work-life balance! Get more teambuilding ideas in this tip we did.
10 - Put a strong focus on recognition and accomplishments
"What are 2-3 highlights from the week?” That's one of my go-to questions during our weekly office hours/pow wows! I also encourage my direct reports to include that in a weekly recap of what they accomplished that week, their focus areas for the next week and outstanding questions/needs/concerns they have. Many of our teams have a milestones/accomplishment type committee. A lot of our teams have added things like props or shout out channels/segments to office meetings or their team newsletters or their Microsoft Teams or Slack channel! There are so many different ways we can show appreciation for our teams and recognize them. This is another area to audit and reflect on "What am I/are we doing now? Is it enough? What else can we do?”
11 - Changes to your interview process
One major reason employees leave is that they weren't that interested in the role in the first place. Do you typically have an understanding of whether a candidate will like the job prior to even describing it to them? As an interviewer/hiring manager, that should be one of your goals, i.e. knowing if they will be interested before you discuss the job! You should ask questions to understand the candidate's motivators before even discussing the job description, to ensure they'll be satisfied with the role and won't jump on another offer they get after they start or will be less likely to respond to future inquiries from Recruiters. Here are some questions to incorporate during interviews if this is a focus area for you:
- What brings you to the job market? What type of role and work environment are you interested in?
- What are you looking for that you're not getting now?
- What's the best job you've ever had any why? The best company? Best company culture or team culture?
- What were your thoughts on the job description? Or, what interested you about the job description?
- As you look back at the last couple of years/projects, what have been your favorite accomplishments? Your favorite responsibilities?
- What technologies, processes, methodologies, etc. do you want to work with?
- What benefits are really important to you?
12 - Audit & Adjust Compensation Package
What is one of the top reasons people are leaving for greener pastures? They are getting more solicitations than ever from Recruiters/Talent Acquisition professionals with compensation ranges that are too enticing to pass up! You may have exciting work and a great culture, but itís hard for your employees to completely ignore prospective offers that are substantially more money in terms of base, bonus, profit sharing, etc. If you havenít re-evaluated market rates/compensation packages for the main skill sets and levels on your team, that should move to the top of the priority list. If you donít have much wiggle room on compensation, discuss what other areas you might have more flexibility in with leadership and HR. Could you consider better bonuses? Can you contribute more to benefits like tuition reimbursement, certifications, or 401K? This article outlines a lot of additional perks you could consider - 12 tech companies with impressive employee benefits.
Our goal with any of our articles is to give you at least two ideas or exercises/actions you can easily implement!
We'd encourage you to:
- Choose the two topics/actions above that would be the most beneficial for you and your team.
- Spark a conversation with key team members and hiring/recruiting partners on this topic. Address "the elephant in the room” (i.e. your main challenges related to recruitment and retention) and explain what your goals are. Ask everyone to share their input, both on what could be contributing to any of your current challenges as well as their favorite ideas to help with those challenges.
- Take action and monitor progress.
- Stay educated by blocking off time at least once a year to do some research on top employee engagement, employee satisfaction and employee retention ideas, and then audit against what you're currently doing.
SHARE: Do you have idea/s we are missing from this article? Other suggestions on this topic, from either a management or employee standpoint? Please share in the 'Message Box.'
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Article Last Updated: 2022-02-07