Employee retention is one of the biggest concerns of any HR department. Team loyalty not only reflects company culture and productivity but also affects the total costs of hiring and recruitment. Keeping employees is also cheaper and, in the long term, more productive than hiring new ones — even if the employee isn’t stellar: According to Glassdoor, the average U.S. company takes 52 days to fill an open position and spends over $4,000 on the process (that’s without including lost productivity while roles remain empty and the cost of employee training and onboarding).
At the same time, the average employee tenure at a company is approximately four years, which is generally too short a time for a company to recoup hiring and training costs. Although companies can’t eliminate turnover, there are certain steps they can take to retain quality personnel.
Do you know what’s important to your prospective and current employees? Do you work hard to meet those needs? Do you work on internal development and offer new roles and opportunities for upward advancement? Do you actively work to facilitate good communication across teams and diverse individuals? Many companies struggle to answer “yes” to these questions and face a high rate of employee turnover as a result. In fact, the average turnover rate across all industries in the U.S. is 12%–15% and about 10.9% globally.
Why employee retention is important
When you have a great employee, put in effort to keep them. High employee retention brings benefits that include:
- Cost savings – Replacing an employee costs USD $4,000 at minimum
- Performance – When an employee leaves, the performance of the whole team suffers until you recruit and train a replacement
- Competition – When you have the best talent, you have a competitive advantage
- Culture – High turnover feeds a negative workplace culture while low turnover creates a positive culture that attracts like-minded employees
You don’t want to let go of your best performers. But how do you go about keeping them and encouraging higher employee retention?
Common factors behind employee turnover
A departure is often the result of an accumulation of several problems that have compounded and left them with no choice but to look for a job elsewhere. Employees can quit their job for many reasons like moving away or changing careers.
Most circumstances or occurrences that cause employees to leave are preventable. Additionally, you can identify the warning signs that an employee is going to leave and work to address their issues. While it’s impossible to reduce employee turnover to zero, there’s a lot that you can do to boost workplace morale and help ensure the workplace encourages your team to thrive and grow, which in turn will improve employee engagement and retention.
The biggest reasons for voluntary turnover are:
- Lack of work-life balance/Burnout – People’s lives are hectic and unpredictable, which has heightened the need for flexibility in their working hours. When you hire new employees or plan schedules, keep this in mind to make sure you assign appropriate jobs to the right people and fit their needs. You might also want to consider flex work and work-from-home opportunities for roles where it makes sense.
- Poor management/work environment – People need to fit the company culture and managerial style to perform well in their roles. That includes work styles (e.g., Agile versus waterfall), how management operates, managerial styles, communication styles, etc. Other times, a manager or other senior employee is at fault and needs to be put on an improvement plan.
- Limited career advancement/Lack of recognition – People need to know there’s potential for professional growth within the company or they’ll lose their motivation. Additionally, if they feel their achievements go unrecognized, that contributes to job dissatisfaction and pushes them to seek a new position someplace where they do feel valued.
- Poor job fit – This occurs due to bad hiring practices such as not using assessments or job fit profiling as part of your recruitment strategies. Ensure your hiring process is top notch to avoid hiring people who turn out to be unsuitable for the job. For example, Profiles Asia Pacific offers the Step One Survey II, which helps organizations identify strong candidates in a quick, cost-effective manner by evaluating various work-related values including but not limited to personal integrity, reliability, and work ethic.
- Dissatisfied with pay and benefits – When people worry about their health or paying their bills, they’re unable to focus on their job. This will lead them to either perform poorly within the company or seek employment with an organization that allows them to be more financially secure. Ensure your employees earn enough to afford their expenses and feel satisfied.
- Lack of job security – Employees who feel insecure about their job will look elsewhere for more stable employment opportunities. You can work to resolve this through open communication, offering development opportunities, and maintaining transparent company policies.
All of these have a strong influence over an employee’s decision to leave a company. However, the first three deserve additional attention, as they’re common issues that require action from upper management to be resolved.
Lack of work-life balance/Burnout
Work-life balance issues are often indicative of time management issues inside the organization. Or, sometimes employees face stricter demands at home and need a job that allows for flexible hours or the ability to work from home to accommodate those circumstances.
If your employee voices concerns about their work-life balance, it might mean:
- You’re understaffed and your teams are taking on too much work
- Deadlines are too strict/employees frequently have to work late to mediate or resolve issues
- Planning and time management are inefficient
- Communication strategies are ineffective
- Employees have children or pressing commitments at home that frequently require them to leave work at odd hours (e.g., childcare, schooling, medical care, senior care)
Employees want to know your organization respects and makes time for them having lives outside of work. Increasingly, employees are looking for roles that offer opportunities to start work an hour earlier and leave an hour early so they can run errands. See if you can restructure and clarify your policies to accommodate flexible work schedules and allow people to request lighter workloads easily.
Having the right time management tools also makes it easy for you to give your team flexible hours or even the ability to work from home once or twice a week. Employees will appreciate it, and these policies will go a long way toward helping them find a work-life balance and boosting their morale.
Poor management/work environment
According to a Gallup poll of more one million U.S. employees, the number one reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor: Some 75% of workers who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their bosses rather than dissatisfaction with their position.
Regardless of how great the position is or how well paid the employees are, if your management has issues, your employees will soon be looking for another job. To retain your workers, start by investing in your management.
Measure employee turnover on a per-manager basis; this pinpoints whether individual managers are causing higher turnover rates or if the issue is organization-wide. Poor managers cancel out employers’ efforts to attract and retain the right people.
Once the problem managers have been identified, help them improve. Use assessments or other tools to discover what these managers are doing to drive employees away and then provide training to nurture them into better leaders.
Limited career advancement/Lack of recognition
A whopping 76% of employees who feel undervalued are looking for other job opportunities. People want to work in places where they add value and can advance in their careers. However, many organizations lack systems or processes to recognize when people make accomplishments. As a result, people feel their work is unappreciated. If there’s also no clear structure for upward movement, employees will feel stuck and become frustrated, further driving them away to another company.
Recognition and advancement require training opportunities, ongoing updates to tools, expressing sincere appreciation to employees, setting up one-on-one talks between management, c-suite, and employees, and adjusting salaries based on the company’s success.
How to improve employee retention and reduce turnover
It costs much more to find and train new employees than to keep those you already have happy and motivated.
While a nice salary and benefits are a key component of maintaining employees, some of the most effective employee retention strategies don’t require you to increase salaries or pay out large bonuses.
With smart HR management, you can hold on to your most valuable employees and develop a strong sense of loyalty that binds the team together for the long run.
The following tips will help increase your organization’s worker retention by improving loyalty, engagement, and hiring fit.
Benchmarking is an easy way to establish baselines for performance. In general, benchmarks should be a combination of internal and external data based on existing performance and performance standards for your industry. Your internal benchmark should be based on the following questions:
- What does performance production look like in measurable output?
- What is median performance?
- What is the minimum performance required to meet goals?
- How does that performance compare to other similarly sized organizations in your industry?
If you can draw a line in the figurative sand to indicate where performance should be, you can measure how and when people meet those expectations.
Performance models take a deeper look at what people are doing, why, and how. This allows you to judge performance and talent based on important factors beyond production, which can be a misleading measure of desired output.
These models identify other factors that contribute to organizational performance in a given role, including soft skills like communication or self-motivation. This allows you to track who’s actively contributing to future company success.
An effective performance model requires having benchmarks or performance standards already in place. Then, you can communicate expectations, establish tools and training for individuals to meet those expectations, and set up processes to monitor how closely people meet or don’t meet those standards.
Performance models include profiles of expected or quality performance, rank everyone against the expected performance, and make it easy to see who excels and how. For example, if two people excel in the same role for different reasons, you can collect that data and see how it impacts each one and their ability to perform.
Identifying top performers reveals the traits, behaviors, and qualities that allow them to succeed. You can then utilize that data in your recruitment and selection processes, in training and development, and when promoting individuals to new roles, as you’ll already know what success looks like in that position.
Also, by identifying top performers in your organization, you can reward, promote, and encourage further development in them.
Testing in the interview process is growing in popularity as recruiters are inundated with more candidates. Each job opening may get hundreds of resumes, so recruiters and HR managers need an efficient way to sort through candidates to pinpoint the best ones. Employment testing can help narrow the choices by highlighting desirable skills and traits that a regular interview would miss.
Employment testing does have its limitations, especially in terms of judging the long-term behavior of an employee, but it can reveal more about candidates in a relatively short amount of time. While there are numerous assessments and tests available, the following three are some of the most important.
Skills tests check for hard and soft skills such as typing, ability to use a machine, or proficiency in different types of code. These tests can consider job knowledge, hard skills, or soft skills like attention to detail and diligence, which will help you determine what an individual can or cannot do.
They allow you to root out candidates who may be qualified but can’t take on a new role right away, those who might be embellishing their skills, or those who may not have the conceptual knowledge necessary for a specific role.
Skills tests take time to set up and evaluate, so they’re best applied late in the hiring process when you have a small candidate pool. Once individuals complete a test, assignment, data check, or other form of employment testing, you can then compare the candidates’ capabilities and make the right choice.
Competencies often include a range of soft skills and behaviors that contribute to success in a job role. This type of employee assessment relies on existing job profiles and a competency framework to measure how candidates score and why. Competency assessments are often integrated into formal questioning in the form of structured interviews, where individuals are given a series of prepared questions designed to gauge their response, behavior, communication, stress management, etc.
You can also integrate competency assessments into assignments and tests, where candidates are asked to give input in less stressful environments, or in environments where they may have fewer prepared answers. This type of testing is important because it tells you how individuals are likely to react, if they’re good learners, whether they are self-motivated, good leaders, or any other desirable trait.
Hiring for culture is important, not just for culture-fit but also for growing organizational culture by expanding it. Culture testing can take the form of emotional intelligence tests, cognitive ability tests, or behavioral tests but often incorporates work assignments, especially in an office or physical work area. These tests are designed to check behavior, how an individual responds to various situations, the individual’s ability to fit in or contribute to a team, and more.
This type of testing allows you to identify candidates who complement your existing culture while ideally bringing in new ideas, challenging existing dynamics, or improving processes. A healthy culture requires open communication, a willingness and desire to learn, and passion for work — all of which are easy to assess in culture testing.
These and other types of assessments can help you make better hiring decisions by giving recruiters more information on candidates and their behavior. While they aren’t foolproof, good testing expands on the interview, checking for desirable and undesirable traits so you can identify promising talent and make a better investment.
Employees leave organizations at a remarkable rate: Jobvite shows 33% of employees have quit a job within 90 days of being hired. However, an effective employee onboarding process can improve new hire retention by 82%. Good onboarding policies include:
- Introducing the new hire to their team and the company
- Following up with them throughout the first month
- Ensuring they have the technology and tools they need
- Providing onboarding training and mentoring from day one
- Running a skills gap analysis and remediation training where necessary
- Ensuring full involvement in teams
The faster someone feels like a valued and competent part of your organization, the more likely they are to stick with you.
Today’s job candidates want the opportunity to develop themselves and to polish their skills, abilities, and experience continually. Invest heavily in training and employee development and encourage employees to take advantage of the programs offered. Give everyone access to training that will enhance their self-esteem, their value, and their skills. Show your employees there’s no reason to leave when they can receive training and development from within the organization.
Learning tools are abundant and easily available. However, companies need to learn how to leverage these to provide their workers with top-notch resources to further their expertise. Most employees today understand that self-development is key to remaining relevant. In addition, during labor shortages, those same employees have a choice in where they work. If you fail to offer opportunities to grow, stay relevant, and remain challenged, those employees will go somewhere that does.
Personalized and data-based learning programs are becoming more common, allowing for faster advancement and more targeted curriculums. Additionally, employees are given a choice on how to consume that educational content, such as in person, online, or through a hybrid setup.
Showing employees they have a future with your organization will help convince them to stay. That might mean mapping a career path for each employee or having coaching and development opportunities to help employees list personal goals and how to achieve them. Do this early, even during onboarding, so you know what to expect from each worker, what opportunities to offer, and how your employee wants to develop themselves. It’s also important to follow up on those goals throughout employment to ensure they remain the same.
Regular workforce analysis
Workforce analysis is the process of analyzing your employees and their capabilities to understand current abilities, future needs, and existing gaps.
Good analysis will help you determine the quantity and quality of employees you need for each task, including knowledge, skills, and experience, and if any are missing. It allows you to identify changing trends and skills so you can adapt your existing workforce, and helps you prepare as your workforce fluctuates.
However, analysis should be a two-way conversation. It’s not enough to collect data; you have to request it, analyze it, and share it as well. For example, Peakon sends frequent surveys to request data from employees and uses that information to drive change and, in the long term, boost employee retention.
Employee analysis and satisfaction surveys let you ask employees precisely what they want to gauge the health of your organization and learn what’s working and what isn’t.
Benefits of regular workforce analysis
Here’s how periodic analysis improves your organization and reduces business headaches along the way.
Close skills gaps and reduce turnover
Workforce analysis allows you to identify gaps and changing skills needs so you can offer on-the-job training to high-performing employees and boost their skill sets. This gives them the opportunity to move up in the company and you the opportunity to retain employees with valuable behaviors.
Prepare for change
Most industries fluctuate regularly, and you may find that teams, departments, output, and technology change every few years. A workforce analysis can help you determine where change will occur so you can begin preparing employees and the company structure in advance. This helps avoid delays and disruptions when change does happen.
Prevent unexpected shortages
If you know when employees are likely to leave or want to move up, you can prepare for it by either having a new employee ready to fill their shoes or offering incentives to remain with the company. For example, by checking when employees typically retire, comparing the average length of employment in specific positions, and gauging employee satisfaction, you can easily calculate when you’re likely to have employment gaps and prepare for them accordingly.
Robust workforce analysis allows you to stay on top of your workforce planning and management, from hiring to offering continuing education and advancement opportunities for existing employees. It also allows you to address issues before they become major problems, take steps to ensure employees are happy and willing to stay with the company, and teach your workforce to adapt to new technologies.
By performing a workforce analysis regularly, you can reduce problems, have more control over workforce changes, and gain a competitive advantage.
Pay your employees as much salary and provide as many benefits as you can afford from day one. The goal is to reduce turnover and retain the right people, so if you scale back the initial offer by 15%, will the savings be enough to retain the employee when another company offers more money? Probably not. Put your best foot forward from the start, and as a person moves up the ladder, their pay should be adjusted accordingly. Know what each job is worth and pay it.
One Harvard University study found that a $1 increase in pay resulted in a 2.8% increase in retention. Money matters when it comes to happy employees.
Most HR departments are aware of the importance of engagement in employee retention. Research from the Korn Ferry Group shows companies with engaged employees are up to 2.5 times more profitable than those without, highlighting this influential metric.
At the same time, engagement offers room for improvement. Whether your organization already has a relatively engaged workforce or one that looks forward to clocking out and going home, you can take steps to improve engagement and business results.
Note that employee engagement is not about perks, specific rewards, or one-time actions. Engagement only happens with consistent, long-term actions that drive change.
Link vision and strategy to daily work
Most people clock into work, perform an allotted number of tasks or work towards specific goals, then clock out and go home with no clear idea of what they’ve contributed or achieved. This can be demotivating, especially in the long term if individuals feel stagnant.
One important way to avoid this type of discouragement is to ensure everyone always knows what they’re working towards. That means linking organizational vision and strategy (or overarching goals) to smaller goals broken down based on daily work. When people understand how their work contributes to personal and organizational goals (and ideally how close that goal is), they’ll be more motivated and therefore more engaged.
Give individuals and teams accountability
Supporting employee empowerment can greatly increase engagement. Create cross-functional teams with ownership over every aspect of a project, and let people and teams work toward results in the manner of their choosing. Doing so allows employees who know how best to do their work to excel in and engage with their work.
Ownership entails one team designing a strategy for a project, then creating, refining, and launching it. They take full responsibility for its success or failure.
This does pose some risk, as not everyone will follow the same standardized processes. However, you can implement controls and general guidelines for processes to ensure everything is handled in the appropriate manner. Accountability increases engagement because people feel proud of their work and seek to improve it.
Encourage, recognize, and share creativity and passion
Give your managers the responsibility of identifying and highlighting how employees go above and beyond. Create awards for excellent performance, as this gives everyone the opportunity to be in the spotlight for doing a good job.
Other great examples of employee recognition are:
- Thank you notes
- Employee of the month awards
- Newsletter shoutouts
- Service awards
Positive recognition will lead to a more productive work environment. When you notice creativity and passion in your employees, it’s important to acknowledge and share them. Then, encourage others to follow suit through open workspaces and flatter hierarchies and creating space for individuals to fail and try again without fear of judgment or punishment.
Over time, this will improve productivity and increase employee satisfaction, both of which will cut down on turnover and produce greater business results.
Employee benefits like cash compensation and health packages are a major selling point for employees. With priorities shifting away from simply earning more toward achieving a work-life balance, office perks like flex work, daycare, and healthy lunch bars could be the little touches that convince your employees to stay.
Other benefits to consider include more individual control over work schedules, free access to food or beverages, and opportunities for learning and career advancement. Whatever perks you decide to offer, make sure they’re relevant to your employees.
In-office perks could include a company break room, a gym, or even an open bar on Friday afternoons. Providing ways for your team to unwind and relax together improves teamwork, builds camaraderie, and helps them enjoy their time at the office beyond work. In-office benefits are especially great for team members who keep long hours due to client schedules and need breaks between meetings or dedicated time to relax and focus on themselves.
Flex workspaces are becoming more common as employees demand greater workplace flexibility. According to one survey, nine out of 10 employees seek flexibility in how they work. Additionally, the rapid transition from the traditional 9-to-5 office environment to hybrid and remote work has brought new technologies and flexible workspace solutions.
Flexible workspaces are beneficial to HR managers by enabling flexible HR management, increasing employee productivity, and improving talent retention and attraction. They allow employees to go to work at any time of the day, which can lead to working more hours. Employees who are in control of their work tend to be happier and more likely to stick with their jobs.
Of course, you do need some balance. Employees still have to be online to communicate and meet face-to-face when relevant.
Remote work is on the rise as the gig economy takes off around the world — and for good reason. Giving your employees days to work from home can cut your turnover in half and drive productivity: A Stanford study showed productivity shot up 17%, and employees are half as likely to leave the company when they can work from home.
Consider allowing your team to work from home one day a week so they have less of a commute and can spend more time with their families, pets, and in the comfort of their own homes while still delivering quality work — in essence, maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Flexible hours allow your team members to take control of their schedules and manage their work-life balance within certain parameters. As long as your employees continue to deliver their work, consider letting them do it at the pace that best suits them. This will give you a leg up on your competition.
Offering work benefits is a great way to maintain your top performers and attract qualified candidates to your business.
Increase paid parental leave
Among the younger generations of workers, 62% said they would leave their current job for better benefits. Additionally, some 90% of U.S. families with children have at least one working parent, meaning a significant portion of the working population has familial responsibilities.
Taking steps to support parents at work and balance their work and home life obligations will make you a more attractive employer. For example, after Google increased paid maternity leave period from 12 weeks to 18, the rate at which new mothers quit their jobs halved. That 50% increase in benefits resulted in a massive reduction in costs for the company because they didn’t have to replace those women.
Paid parental leave for mothers and fathers is crucial to ensure new parents have adequate support to care for a child through the early periods so they can go back to work with less stress. While this will cost the organization more in terms of paid leave, it will pay off in the long run.
Support employee well-being
The logic is simple: If a company helps employees resolve their private challenges, they’ll spend less energy worrying and redirect it toward work.
This rationale goes beyond basic concern and requires a more involved approach on the part of HR professionals.
Organizations that provide their employees with adequate tools and resources to take control of their lives stand a much better chance of retaining their employees longer.
Showing appreciation to your team is one of the easiest ways to maintain morale, offer motivation, and encourage individuals to continue to excel. Although fiscal compensation is often the first choice for large organizations, you don’t have to shower employees with large cash bonuses, expensive holidays, or company cars to express your gratitude.
Other ways to offer support include giving time off for mental health days, sending periodic surveys focused on how employees are doing, and hosting meditation breaks.
Healthy company culture
Company culture largely influences peoples’ work experience. A healthy culture should be uplifting, supporting, and encouraging of personal development.
Create an environment where positive recognition is the norm. This involves open communication, an attitude of cooperation, and an atmosphere of trust. Tell your employees where the company is going, how it plans to get there, and how their jobs are key to your success. Also, instill trust in your employees; if you give people a good reputation to live up to, they’ll feel proud and be more likely to stay with you.
As a real-world example of the power of positive work culture, look at Satya Nadella, who was instrumental in turning around Microsoft’s flagging profits. His decisions on steering Microsoft products were largely based on a massive cultural shift and resulted in 27% year-over-year growth and stock tripling in value during his introduction as CEO.
Nadella stepped into a culture based around strict hierarchy, bitter competition, and one-upmanship. Within a few years though, his efforts succeeded in producing a culture of sharing, open communication, innovation, and emphasizing soft skills, which is now reflected in Microsoft’s products, internal and external policies, and work-floor culture.
But how do you turn yours around? With so much of company culture outside of your control, how do you take a poor culture and develop something powerful?
Identify your goal culture
Company culture should align with organizational strategies and goals. This means identifying which elements of culture, especially behavior, help to achieve those goals. Your behavioral framework, competency framework, or other form of soft-skill analysis will help you determine these by asking questions such as:
- What values or behaviors would help teams to achieve their objectives?
- Are those values already represented in company culture? If not, why? If so, how?
- Do employees receive clear examples of desired behaviors and culture from leadership?
- What conditions are required to introduce desired behavior? What conditions are required to change negative behavior?
Create conditions for change
An individual must consciously choose to change their behavior. You can ask them to do so, but until someone makes the choice to change how they act, their old behavioral patterns will continue. Introducing conditions for change along with information on why it’s important to change and how to go about it is the best way to institute a culture shift.
For example, Satya Nadella began his shift in company culture by handing out mandatory reading homework in the form of the book Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg, PhD. Depending on your organizational goals, you could offer workshops on communication, hard skills courses, leadership or innovation coaching, or training in emotional intelligence.
New ideas must be introduced from the top down. No one on a work floor will model behavior if leadership doesn’t follow suit. Similarly, individuals must understand the reason for change and have the opportunity to do so. If you tell employees to collaborate as a team to promote innovation while still rewarding individual performance, they’ll likely ignore you. Instead, you would want to introduce performance rewards for teams as a whole to gain buy-in from individuals.
While there are a lot of ways to build a positive workplace culture, the companies with the highest talent retention structure theirs around people, innovation, and development, with flat or open rather than top-down hierarchies. Include employee retention in the development of your company culture to put your employees first and increase the number who remain loyal to your organization.
Retention during restructure
Restructuring is often necessary for organizations that want to align new or old goals by redefining their workforce. This can take the form of introducing new work methods such as agility, but commonly involves merging and splitting teams to create a new, more dynamic company structure.
While losing some employees during times of change is inevitable, many organizations inadvertently lose top talent during a restructure simply because the process can be disheartening and demotivating.
Taking steps to maintain talent during restructuring will save your organization money and most importantly, your star performers.
Build trust before the restructure with transparency
While many organizations attempt to keep restructures on the down-low to reduce speculation and talk, this often produces the opposite effect. Employees will learn about restructuring long before it hits, and many will begin to look for new roles as they fear moving, losing their job, or difficult changes.
Being transparent and building trust with honest, authentic dialogue will help limit these concerns. Consider scheduling town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings with managers when appropriate, and regular updates for everyone affected.
Invest in employee development
Continuing to invest in employees during a restructure shows you’re still committed to your workforce.
Offering workshops and e-learning or courses to help employees develop necessary skills, creating mentoring and coaching programs, and offering direct training for new processes and software will go a long way toward reassuring employees of your investment in them.
This also means investing in employees who are being let go. Try to offer outplacement and proactive career services to move existing employees into new roles, as this will help boost the morale of those who’ll make it through the restructure.
Clearly communicate expectations for newly defined roles
Most restructuring yields change at every level of the organization. This may mean redefining roles, changing software, or creating new teams or merging existing ones that must then achieve new goals in new ways. Clearly communicating and offering training and development for change is important. Also, offer recognition, opportunities to lead or develop, and praise for adapting and meeting or exceeding new expectations.
Hold leadership accountable
Holding managers and leaders accountable for new policies and procedures is crucial to ensuring adoption and high morale throughout the rest of the organization.
You can typically achieve this by bringing leadership into specific training courses and workshops, which gives them time to adapt and learn what the restructure means for everyone before introducing it to the rest of the workforce. If you start with developing leaders, the rest of the teams will follow. Then, combining training and pairing leaders with workers at every level during later sessions will help reduce uncertainties.
While restructuring is often difficult for the entire organization, retaining top talent during the process is possible with transparency, showing appreciation for employees even when letting them go, and offering opportunities to develop in and adjust to the new structure.
Remote employee retention
Remote workers are becoming increasingly popular options for organizations of all sizes. Remote work drives convenience, reduces travel time, and sometimes lowers costs for both the organization and the employee. On the flip side, working remotely removes individuals from their organization, effectively separating them from daily contact with colleagues, a physical representation of the organization, and organizational culture. This can result in a significantly higher turnover rate as employees feel less loyal and attached to their organizations, which eventually results in higher costs for the organization.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than half of the U.S. workforce works from home. That shift has changed not only how employees view working from home and commutes, but also the perks you can offer and how you maintain high employee retention.
Although employees appreciate services as well as extra cash, you need to adapt that added value to employees who work in fully remote environments.
Developing strong managerial skills geared toward remote worker retention will help you circumvent this problem while building stronger, more productive teams. Because employee retention largely concerns culture, management strategy, and how individuals identify and get along with their colleagues, you can take clear, defined steps to reduce remote worker churn.
Build remote organizational culture
Most remote workers are at least partially disconnected from their organization and therefore have less participation in and recognition of company culture when it appears. Creating a defined and visible culture for remote employees is crucial to boosting retention for mixed and remote workers. Define your organization’s cultural values in ways that are clearly visible for everyone, such as:
- Create shared digital meeting spaces or group video/voice meetings
- Establish a high level of work and task visibility across the organization, extending to remote workers
- Host in-person events and meet employees face-to-face when possible
Whether working as part of a remote or in-office team, all employees should understand the culture and values they represent, so it’s important to define company strategy and vision and make it accessible and visible for all employees.
Share work processes and knowledge
Sharing work processes and knowledge is crucial to creating a strong team with a sense of mutual work values. Digital platforms that document work processes, make documentation and accountability transparent, and allocate tasks and responsibility are one option to achieve this, ideally accompanied by a communication element or platform.
Slack, for example, excels at allocating tasks and enabling communication, which is ideal for remote work, but it doesn’t include process management. Other tools like Asana integrate process management, but don’t function as well for online discussion and collaboration. Look at your tech stack and ensure you have all the tools and software to help remote workers stay connected to their teams.
Mentorship, training, & career development
Support and development opportunities are important, though often missing elements in remote worker retention strategies. A survey of employees from Explorance revealed moving to a higher paying job, Covid burnout, and lack of career development opportunities were the top three reasons why people quit their jobs.
To make remote employees feel valued and like an equal member of the team, offer them the same or similar development and training as you would to those working in the office. While it can be difficult to provide the same face-to-face mentorships, you can develop adjacent programs that include video coaching, digital learning, and physical classes where individuals located near enough can travel to training courses and programs.
Reducing remote worker churn needs to focus on treating them the same way you would individuals in the office, such as providing developmental opportunities, sharing information and feedback, and creating transparency in organizational operations and management. If individuals feel they’re part of decisions and can clearly contribute to teamwork, they’ll be more likely to invest in the company and commit to organizational goals and outcomes.
Host team activities
Modern teams enjoy the occasional pizza and board game night when working in the office. If you move online though, those opportunities become much more difficult to coordinate and usually fall off. To help build camaraderie in your remote workers, you can ask teams to engage in paid activities together, such as having pizza delivered to their house and playing online board games, or completing teamwork challenges and puzzles together. This strengthens everyone’s work bonds and increases their loyalty.
Support flex work hours
People working at home are more likely to have distractions and pressing matters to deal with. Offering flexible work hours is one way to demonstrate you understand life can be unpredictable and are willing to accommodate their needs.
Many organizations are also switching their focus from hours worked to productivity. When you know what employees produced in the office, you can hold them to those standards at home and not bother with strictly tracking hours.
Gather 360 feedback regularly
Tools like 360 feedback allow employees to offer regular feedback to each other and their management. This measurement reveals employee thoughts about management, processes, communication, and how they’re treated at work, as well as highlights their colleagues’ contributions. Inserting regular touchpoints to gather constructive feedback can help employees feel valued. It also helps you identify what coaching and training to offer to those who are struggling.
Consider office equipment for home use
One of the toughest shifts for many work-from-home employees is having to buy the tools and equipment necessary for their job. Offering office equipment, such as printers, laptops, or desks, can save your employee considerable costs and ease their transition. In addition, sourcing equipment from a supplier ensures everyone works with the same models and software.
Allow employees to suggest benefits
Most people know what they want. And that’s true when it comes to benefits as well. Having discussions with employees about what kinds of perks they want and why can help you to make better decisions around what those perks should be. And, allowing employees to have some influence on that can make them feel listened to, respected, and valued.
Invest in good onboarding
Onboarding is your first opportunity to touch base with your employees. It’s even more important online, where remote employees miss out on the hands-on experience. Make sure they have proper coaching, assistance with systems, and any other tools they need to integrate into their role and company processes.
Increasing employee retention involves offering a quality of life, competitive pay, and plentiful opportunities for personal and career development. Focus on building strong teams, ensuring good communication, providing perks and benefits, introducing career development, and delivering a personal and human experience, whether your employee works from home or in the office.
How exit interviews influence employee retention
An exit interview is a key component of your employee management and retention. Although it may not save a departing employee, it’s a great time to gain insight into your company’s processes and learn what works well and what can be refined. Both negative and positive responses can help the company optimize its processes and improve the overall work atmosphere, thus increasing employee satisfaction and retention.
For example, if a departing employee stresses unprofessional behavior of a certain manager, you can gather feedback about this person from current employees and conduct a few meetings with them. This way, you’ll get to the root of the problem and prevent other employees from leaving or transferring for the same reason.
Choose the right interviewer
The quality of the data collected is one of the biggest issues with exit interviews.
If an employee is dissatisfied with the company’s CEO, they’re unlikely to open up about it during the interview. All employees want good references for their next job, so most will try to leave a company on positive terms rather than be honest about their opinions. To gain valuable data, you need to choose the right person to run the interview.
An HR specialist and the CEO will probably make the departing worker feel uncomfortable, so they’ll only provide rote answers. A better choice would be to assign either an HR specialist or a mid-manager to conduct the interview; a mid-level manager is usually closer to the employees than the company’s executives and can create a sense of trust during the interview.
Choose the right time
Picking a random day for the interview and sending an RSVP invitation via Google Calendar is a poor way to start the exit process.
You want the interviewee to feel comfortable and give honest feedback, so you need to schedule a time that accommodates both your and the employee’s schedules. Two common times to hold the exit interview are:
- While the person is still in the company (before the “mental checkout” set in). This way, you speak to the employee while their thoughts are still fresh in their minds. It also increases the probability of gaining honest replies.
- A month or a few weeks after the employee leaves the company. The biggest benefit of this approach is that the employee will be settled in their new job and thus will feel more comfortable providing honest answers about their decision to leave.
Either way, it’s best to conduct an exit interview in person. This way, you can clearly show the employee you value them and are willing to dedicate your time to listening to their opinions.
Questions to ask in the interview
Did they give notice, or quit immediately?
If your employee has been speaking with you or their direct manager about changing jobs, they’ve likely thought about it for a while, and it may stem from personal desires rather than company frustrations. However, if they quit on the spot, it could indicate more serious issues. In this instance, you may want to evaluate your managers, managerial style, employees, and processes to find out why this happened.
Who did they inform directly?
If someone goes directly to HR or to the CEO to quit instead of their direct report or manager, something’s amiss with that relationship.
Take time to determine why the employee was uncomfortable telling their manager of their decision first; is there animosity? Are they afraid? Did their direct manager push all the work onto them? Identifying these issues can show you which people you need to talk to and where you need to make adjustments.
How long were they with the company before quitting?
If an employee quits in less than six months from their hiring date, chances are it was a bad fit. They may have accepted your job as an interim position and continued looking elsewhere, or they expected a different setup and received a disappointing surprise upon entering the role.
However, if your long-time employees are quitting, there’s a problem you need to fix, and quickly. These are the people who’ve stuck with your company through its ups and downs, so if they suddenly leave, something drastic may have occurred. Sometimes it’s a lifestyle change, such as them moving to a different city; other times though, it could be a poor change in management, or something else in your business operations.
Exit interviews unveil the root of business problems and help companies identify the pain points that lead to a low retention rate and employee dissatisfaction. Analyze the feedback from departing employees and make sure to implement it to keep your employees happy and your retention rate up.
A good employee retention strategy covers the full life cycle of the employee, from their date of onboarding to their final day with the company. It should ensure employees have a healthy work-life balance and opportunities to develop their careers and feel fulfilled in their work. Often, that means introducing coaching and personal development, implementing internal career paths and tracks, investing in reward systems, providing benefits that matter to employees, and fostering a culture of recognition and reward.
Of course, different people value different things. You can use surveys, assessments, and ongoing reviews of your workforce to determine what is and isn’t going well so you can take preventive measures before people decide to leave. Be proactive by putting your employees’ needs first, and you’ll produce happy, loyal employees and boost your retention rate.