There’s little doubt the Great Resignation has been costly for businesses. Research from Gallup shows that American companies leave a trillion dollars on the table when they fail to use employee retention strategies. In the past two years, the monthly quit rate has reached record numbers—as much as three percent in some months. From these numbers, it’s clear that employee retention is a problem.
Turnover at this rate creates a vicious cycle of losing great employees who help businesses profit. With the wrong employee retention strategies, great team players won’t stick around since they’re in high demand. Having a proactive retention strategy helps companies thrive rather than scramble to find new team players who they hope are good hires. Additionally, hiring more people just puts a bandage on a cracking dam. Good employees leave businesses that aren’t interested in serving them well.
When an organization is always stuck offboarding and onboarding employees, leaders never make much headway on their vision and mission. It’s a sign that the business is inefficient and ineffective, indicating employee retention methods must change for the better or the company will fail.
To keep your best workers, employee retention has to be built into your company culture and business strategies. This secures your best workers and allows you to allocate resources that get you closer to your business goals.
Prevent your employees from leaving by learning which strategies can help them find more fulfillment in their jobs and stay engaged as they grow in their careers.
- 43 percent of workers would be open to leaving their current jobs if another job offered a 10 percent pay increase.
- 40 percent of departing employees indicate a lack of future career development was a key driver in choosing to leave.
- Communication is key when staying in tune with what your employees are feeling.
- Employees need to know the goals, mission, and vision of the company.
- Recognition and appreciation go a long way toward keeping workers loyal to their organization.
Why Employees Quit and Find Work Elsewhere
Employees aren’t quitting en masse just because they feel like it. All business leaders need to look at the reasons revealed through recent surveys for why workers leave their jobs, even during a time of economic difficulty. In this way, they can evaluate their own companies to see where they might improve in employee retention. While not a comprehensive list, the following reasons provide a good representation of why employees are so dissatisfied with their jobs.
- Too low wages
- Feelings of being disrespected while on the job
- Little to no recognition for the work they do
- No advancement or professional development opportunities are available
- A general lack of communication among their colleagues
- Unsatisfactory benefits
- A sense of boredom with their daily tasks
- Low amount of schedule flexibility
- Lack of support in their jobs
- Working too few or too many hours (poor work-life balance)
- Better opportunities with other companies
- Unhappiness with the company culture
- Coworkers with poor emotional intelligence at work
What Keeps Team Members Engaged, Motivated, and Happy
Company leaders may understand why employees feel dissatisfied with their jobs, but it takes another level of evaluation to identify what can improve employee engagement and help with staff retention. It isn’t an easy problem to figure out, and many businesses go for surface-level solutions or quick fixes that do nothing to address the underlying issues.
Some companies seem to think an employee retention plan involves giving workers cool perks like a cereal bar or a ping pong table in the break room. While there’s nothing wrong with these things, they miss the point. A survey from Framery found 35 percent of workers saw things like communal games as their least wanted perk. Framery founder and CEO Samu Hällfors said of the survey, “The findings should put a final nail in the coffin of the ping pong tables, beer kegs, scooters, and other artifacts of ‘mandatory fun’ office culture.” In reality, employees want only a few basic things. You can provide all the ping pong tables in the world, but if workers don’t have better pay or benefits, it won’t make a difference.
Here’s what employees really want when it comes to staying with a company:
This item should be the easiest to understand. Workers want to have improved pay, and they’re willing to look elsewhere to find it. According to a report from TINYpulse, 43 percent of workers would be open to leaving their current jobs if another job offered a 10 percent increase to their salary. Employees want to be paid what they think is a fair wage for the work they put in. Over time, they expect pay to increase not just to keep up with the cost of living increases but to accurately reflect their growing experience and skill development. Without this, they’ll feel like they’re being taken advantage of and search for a job that provides better pay.
Salary is only part of the equation. Benefits play a significant role as well. Employees want benefits that will complement their pay. A recent report from MetLife discovered that a significant number of employees found certain benefits to be must-haves.
Those benefits include:
- Health insurance
- A retirement plan
- Paid leave
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance
- Health savings account
Healthy Company Culture
Unlike salary and benefits, business culture is not so easily quantifiable. A good company culture promotes respect between colleagues, creating a healthy work environment where people feel comfortable. Poor cultures can drive away good workers. A survey from Hays discovered that of the people actively looking for a new job, nearly half of them named company culture as the top reason. If a company doesn’t have a good culture, it can often find talent retention a challenging prospect.
Clear Path for Career Advancement
People don’t want to be stuck in the same job for years on end. They want clear progression—a path they can follow and count on as a way to advance their careers within the same organization. Employees want to grow and develop, and when the companies they work for don’t provide that, they’re bound to begin a job search. A report from Global Talent Monitor shows that 40 percent of departing employees said that a lack of future career development was a key driver in their decision to leave. Changing jobs isn’t easy, and many employees only do it if they feel like they have no other choice. A company that values its employees’ growth and autonomy will make sure to provide it for them.
Regular Recognition and Appreciation
Besides promotions and salary, employees also enjoy receiving recognition and appreciation for all the hard work they do. Don’t overlook the importance of recognizing employees. Researchers from WorldatWork and Maritz Motivation found that 79 percent of workers among Gen Z and millennials would be more loyal to their employers if recognition increased. Another survey from Xexec showed that employees considered “public recognition” as the second most popular thing that would help them feel more loved at work.
10 Tips for Employee Retention That Work
1. Regularly Check for Gaps in Communication
When figuring out how to retain employees, leaders can start by focusing on communication and support. For example, in a report on employee loyalty, TINYpulse found that “high performers rate the level of support they receive at an 8/10, low performers rate it at a 6.8/10.” When business owners and executives spend more time bridging gaps and offering help, team members feel more engaged and happier at work.
Bridge communication issues by:
- Asking an employee questions about what might be causing conflict or underperformance.
- Actively listening and trying to understand a team member’s point of view.
- Working through problem-solving together.
When leaders open lines of communication, they can solve issues as they occur rather than allowing them to become large-scale problems.
2. Provide Feedback and Recognition
Having the right approach when providing feedback is a great team retention strategy. For example, it can make a significant difference in motivation and productivity. Research from Gallup shows employees who receive positive feedback “are 3.9 times more likely to be engaged than employees who felt hurt.” A recognized employee is a retained employee.
When giving feedback, first recognize what is positive about the employee. Too much criticism all at once can make people feel withdrawn, upset, and defensive. Rather than showing up for an annual performance review with a long list of grievances, have weekly conversations with employees about places they can adjust or improve. Increasing communication helps team members feel more connected and comfortable with their leaders. As a result, they’re more likely to express problems, concerns, or requests for help.
3. Create Space for Weekly Meetings
Leaders who clear time on their schedule for individual meetings with their employees show them they’re a top priority. Not only does this help foster a stronger team culture by providing one-on-one support, but it also stops problems from festering. Meetings are a great time for discovering the causes of underperformance or disengagement. Regular conversations are a key element of the employee engagement equation for both new hires and long-time employees.
During weekly meetings, leaders can also offer regular mentorship. As people rise within the organization, they need the developmental opportunities a consistent mentor provides. These sessions can boost morale and help a person gain clarity on their responsibilities. Start by carving out 15–30 minutes of talking space with team members each week to discuss goals, growth, and room for improvement.
4. Discuss Expectations
A common pitfall of leadership is poor communication of expectations. In an article for Gallup, work-management scientist Jim Harter found only half of employees know what their managers’ expectations are. Discussing expectations around goals, roles, and responsibilities with team members is critical because it provides clarity around what a job well-done looks like.
Another employee retention strategy is discussing timelines and goals with the leadership team. As experts in their individual fields, they’ll provide more insight into developing realistic expectations for employees. For example, C-suite executives might not understand the intricate details that go into completing a task or project.
5. Review KPIs or OKRs
Another part of establishing clear goals and expectations is having key performance indicators (KPIs) or objectives and key results (OKRs) in place. This means ensuring any goals must be measurable and challenging, but attainable. Creating unrealistic goals only sets team members up for failure, frustration, and increased stress.
When reviewing the fairness of goals and expectations, ask yourself:
- “Are the timelines set for meeting their goals realistic?”
- “What is driving these goals and timelines? Fear? Scarcity? Logical reasoning?”
- “Are there any roadblocks that might keep them from excelling?”
- “In what ways can they be better supported in meeting these objectives?”
If the objectives set regularly require miracles, then the goals are too high. Failing time and time again leads to decreased morale and isn’t conducive to employee retention. Instead, rethink the objectives and develop a more sustainable course of action for team members.
6. Communicate Pivots
Change can be a frustrating, mentally draining experience for your team if not managed properly. For example, if an employee spent three months putting their heart and soul into a project that was canceled with no explanation, this person might feel confused and upset by the pivot. Take the time to provide clarity and reasoning for shifts that affect the team. As researcher and best-selling author Brené Brown writes in Dare To Lead, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.”
When shifting gears, also listen to any concerns the employee might have. Additionally, practice empathy by imagining how the other person feels. In doing so, leaders build trusting, safe environments where people can respectfully express how they feel without fear.
7. Connect Strategy to Purpose
Employee engagement is a critical element in retaining employees, your team needs to understand why their work matters. In a white paper for IBM Cloud Video, researchers found that 72 percent of workers don’t comprehend their organization’s strategy. Avoid this mistake by explaining initiatives and company goals in a way that fulfills a collective purpose.
During weekly one-on-one meetings, ask employees what they feel their mission in life is. Find ways to connect the business with the impact they desire to make in the world. Even if the employee is underperforming, work with them, and be patient. Discovering ways to help a person experience breakthroughs in growth is one of the most important leadership qualities in executives.
8. Check Morale
When working on employee retention strategies, conduct regular morale checks. Whether it’s unresolved conflict, issues with management, or lack of opportunities, low morale contributes to employee turnover. Proactively set aside time for going on the offensive when it comes to gauging how team members are feeling.
During morale checks, discuss:
- What drives the employee to succeed.
- Goals and areas where the employee desires growth and development.
- What team members like about their job.
- How they’re helping fulfill the company’s mission.
- Areas the company could improve.
- How team members’ work-life balance is.
9. Show Recognition and Appreciation
According to an Achievers survey, lack of recognition contributed to 44 percent of employee turnover. Additionally, 69 percent of respondents said recognition and rewards are factors that contribute to employee retention. To combat turnover, leaders can use weekly check-ins as a chance for providing appreciation and gratitude. In doing so, business owners, executives, and managers can openly communicate gratitude for their team’s hard work.
Expressing gratitude includes:
- Thanking an employee privately.
- Commending an employee in front of the team.
- Adding vacation days.
- Providing a bonus.
- Giving a deserving person a promotion.
- Honoring the ways individual employees want recognition.
10. Create Paths for Growth
Employees don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. They may put up with it for a time, but eventually, they’ll want to do more. Make sure to lay out a path they can follow that shows how they can grow and advance. Detail exactly what that path looks like including salary ranges, added benefits, and more.
Doing this lets people know what they’re working toward. If someone feels like they’re stuck in a dead-end job, they won’t feel motivated to work harder. Providing that path means providing a clear, defined goal. At the same time, always give a raise when it is deserved, not before a competing business can snag your employee away. When you reward employees for their excellent work, such as a higher salary or benefits like unlimited PTO, they’ll feel more loyalty toward you.
Follow Through on Decreasing Turnover
Serving as a business owner, executive, or manager means developing an environment where people can attain their full potential. When working to retain employees, be honest about areas that require improvement, but also offer support and show a readiness to help.
Check-up during weekly meetings by:
- Asking about the fulfillment of goals.
- Recognizing progress and showing appreciation for hard work.
- Imparting words of motivation and inspiration.
- Leaving each meeting by establishing action steps for building momentum.
A high employee turnover rate can result in diminished morale and loss of profitability. Instead, play a proactive game with the employee retention strategies listed. They keep great employees on the team and help struggling employees improve over time through additional support. As a result, this decision potentially saves business owners thousands of dollars worth of losses and strengthens the bonds of the team.
Learn more about growing a strong team culture as a leader by checking out this article:
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- Harter, Jim. “Obsolete Annual Reviews: Gallup’s Advice.” Gallup, 28 Sept. 2015, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236567/obsolete-annual-reviews-gallup-advice.aspx.
- Dvorak, Cheyna. “Why Employees Are Fed Up With Feedback.” Gallup, 11 Oct. 2019, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/267251/why-employees-fed-feedback.aspx.
- Alderton, Matt. “Survey: Employees Want Rewards That Are Spontaneous, Performance-Related, Personalized | Northstar Meetings Group.” Northstar Meetings Group, 16 Mar. 2018, https://www.northstarmeetingsgroup.com/Incentive/Strategy/Employees-Want-Spontaneous-Personalized-Rewards-xexec.
- “US Workers Willing to Compromise on Salary for the Right Benefits, Company Culture, and Career Growth Opportunities.” Hays USA, https://www.hays.com/press-release-do-not-use-/content/us-workers-willing-to-compromise-on-salary-for-the-right-benefits-company-culture-and-career-growth-opportunities.
- “The Rise of the Whole Employee.” MetLife, https://www.metlife.com/employee-benefit-trends/2022-employee-benefit-trends/.
- Wigert, Shane. “This Fixable Problem Costs U.S. Businesses $1 Trillion.” Gallup, 13 Mar. 2019, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/247391/fixable-problem-costs-businesses-trillion.aspx.
- Lack Of Career Development Drives Employee Attrition. (n.d.). Gartner. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/lack-of-career-development-drives-employee-attrition
- Parker, K., & Horowitz, J. M. (2022, March 10). Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected. Pew Research Center. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2022/03/09/majority-of-workers-who-quit-a-job-in-2021-cite-low-pay-no-opportunities-for-advancement-feeling-disrespected/
- Survey Finds Without Recognition, Expect Employee Attrition in 2018. (2022, January 21). Achievers. https://www.achievers.com/press/achievers-survey-finds-without-recognition-expect-employee-attrition-2018/
- Survey: Small acts of recognition help younger workers feel fulfilled at work. (2019, September 9). HR Dive. https://www.hrdive.com/news/survey-small-acts-of-recognition-help-younger-workers-feel-fulfilled-at-wo/562393/