Employee retention is a major concern for businesses of all sizes. Even in organizations that aren’t facing a talent crisis, the ability to attract and retain highly skilled and motivated employees may prove invaluable for long-term business success. Simply being able to keep turnover low using employee retention techniques can help reduce the need to spend time, money, and resources on attracting and training new employees. Furthermore, retaining key employees with the company can minimize disruptions caused by sudden absences, which can also impact morale.
Effective Employee Retention Strategies for 2019
1. Focus on Improving Leadership
There’s a saying to explain one of the top causes of employee turnover: “People don’t quit their jobs—they quit their bosses.” This is one of those rare “truisms” that’s actually backed up by data. According to a Gallup study of 7,272 US adults, a shocking 50 percent of them admitted to leaving a job primarily to get away from a manager.
While things such as pay and benefits may be a factor, organizations clearly need to get the right leaders in place to avoid turnover. Gallup CEO Jim Clifton summed up the situation rather bluntly: “The single biggest decision you make in your job--bigger than all the rest--is who you name manager. When you name the wrong person manager, nothing fixes that bad decision.”
Developing managers to improve their leadership skills can help boost employee engagement and prevent excessive turnover. Some skills to focus on when developing leaders include:
- Soft Skills: So-called “soft skills” such as emotional intelligence, active listening, and building trust are critical for leaders to successfully interact with and motivate employees. Using these skills, leaders can earn commitment from employees to improve productivity and engagement.
- Flexibility: Today’s leaders need to be able to maintain efficiency while adapting to changing circumstances without adversely impacting employee morale and motivation. Mastering the characteristics of agile leadership helps managers/leaders at all levels better respond to the needs of both their direct reports and the organization as a whole.
- Leading by Example: Leaders need to model the behaviors that are consistent with the organization’s values and that employees are expected to follow. This helps to avoid the perception of a “double standard” that creates disengagement or enmity in employees.
2. Empower Employees
Another common reason for leaving an employer is the employee’s lack of empowerment or control over their work and their career path. When an employee believes that there’s no room for career advancement, or that they have no control over their own success, they can quickly become disengaged—and thus more likely to look for other organizations where they have better opportunities.
To empower employees and give them a sense of control, it is important to:
- Clearly Communicate Expectations: One of the reasons why many employees feel that they don’t have any control over their work and their careers is that they don’t know what’s expected of them. When this is the case, systems of reward and punishment can feel arbitrary. By clearly communicating expectations, it is possible to ensure that employees know what they need to do day-to-day and how they can exert some control over their career development.
- Discuss Future Plans with Employees: Having discussions with employees about where they want to be in the next few years can have a significant influence on whether or not they stay with the organization. By discussing potential career paths, employees can be shown how they may advance within the company—providing an incentive to stay as well as creating a sense of investment.
- Provide Regular Feedback: Employees need regular feedback as to how they’re performing against the company’s expectations. When feedback is frequent and comprehensive, employees are able to modify their behaviors before they pick up bad habits—and any concerns raised are less of a surprise when the feedback is immediate.
These strategies help ensure employees know that they have a path for advancement —which can make employees more invested in the company and less likely to leave.
3. Recognize Achievements
One frequently-cited complaint in exit interviews is that employees didn’t feel as though their contributions were being recognized. When people try their best to meet tough deadlines and goals, but don’t get the recognition they deserve for their efforts, they may feel they have been slighted.
Immediately following the completion of an assignment or a major accomplishment, it can help to provide recognition for the employee’s efforts—whether that recognition is a quick “thank you” to the employee or a more tangible bonus. By providing recognition, leaders can also build trust and rapport with their teams.
Additionally, providing such recognition for above-average efforts can help motivate others to be more productive, making this approach one of the more effective strategies for employee retention.
4. Address Toxic Work Environments
A toxic work environment—an environment where interpersonal conflicts or competition between workers breeds hostility and distrust—can be a major cause of employee turnover. When conditions arise that allow for gossip, cliquish behavior, and attempts to undermine coworkers, the likelihood of people quitting rises dramatically.
Some employee retention ideas that organizations can take to eliminate toxic work environments include:
- Setting Realistic Performance Expectations: If an employee is given too much work for them to reasonably meet all of their goals, they may become frustrated and disengaged. Work expectations should be based on information about both the individual’s past performance as well as the performance of others who have similar roles in the organization. By doing so, it is possible to avoid creating unrealistic expectations that result in over-working and stressing out the employee.
- Preventing Favoritism: When one employee appears to receive preferential treatment without a clear reason (such as excellent performance or having made a major contribution), it can breed contempt. Preventing such favoritism by spreading out recognition for accomplishments and making sure that all rules are consistently enforced for everyone helps minimize the risk of jealousy that affects overall morale.
Some of the employee retention ideas mentioned above, such as providing recognition for major achievements, having leaders model the behaviors others are expected to follow, and providing employees with a sense of empowerment, can also help to prevent a toxic work environment from forming and reduce turnover.
By taking steps to create a fairer workplace built upon trust and accountability, organizations can boost both engagement and talent retention. This ensures that top-performers continue to deliver results and high-potential leaders are able to develop so they can take on new challenges in the future.