Business 101: It’s cheaper to keep an employee than to hire a new one… so let’s talk about some ideas to keep your employees around and happy through strategic employee retention tactics that reduce your turnover costs.
People are in center focus when looking at the HR health of your business. Keeping these people around and happy once you’ve hired your winning team is very important. Employee retention obviously cuts turnover costs, but it is also a long-term HR strategy that can have a huge impact on your business when you create a retention plan that works. The question is, does your plan address the issues that are driving your employees to leave?
First Consider: What Really Drives Employee Retention?
Like all other challenges, start by finding the real source of the problem. This is critical when considering employee retention ideas and which programs will produce results. You could craft the most extravagant retention program based on all the best statistics; however, you could end up aiming at the wrong target if you don’t start by listening to your employees and probe to find the real root issues and identify negative patterns in your company.
Sure, you can try to create some golden handcuffs using high wages and salary levels, and the perfect incentives, but what really drives employees to come and go? The driving forces which make an employee’s eyes wander might be found at a much deeper level than typically thought. Consider whether employees feel appreciated, secure, and accomplished. Do they feel like they play a role in the company’s success? Or are they really motivated by more practical factors like less direct supervision and better benefits? We tried to cover the whole gamut of reasons with this list of ideas for addressing these driving factors.
Next: Identify Which Employee Retention Ideas Apply to Your Employees
1. Do You Know Your Retention Rate? If you don’t measure it, you will have a hard time improving it. Find out where you stand relative to your industry average.
2. Measure Performance – This may seem counter-intuitive and many employers don’t connect the dots from performance measurement to employee retention. Think about it this way: Would a student remain motivated to learn if they were never evaluated on their learning progress? Employees long to know they are succeeding; this requires that success be defined and measured. It allows the employees to feel like they are using their talents and energy to accomplish something. When a student receives an A on a test it creates a sense of meaning for the student that makes them feel like continuing forward, that they are doing what they should be doing when studying, etc. The test measures performance. In the same way an employee who feels their efforts are meeting expectations begins to feel like they fit in this role and are where they need to be.
3. Earn Loyalty – One of the best ways to retain employees is by treating them in a way that earns you loyalty. Build their trust by earning it. Keep promises you make. Respect your employees as people. Show them loyalty and they will mirror it. Show them you’re committed to them. Loyalty is something that is earned over time after they are trusted, respected, and appreciated by you.
4. Be A Winner – People want to be on the winning team. One great way to retain employees is to make sure your business has the competitive advantage. Beating your competition is actually a great way to beat turnover costs and retaining your employees. Remind your employees what sets you apart from your competitors. Let them know about your unique competitive advantages. Just like a client, if an employee is well-educated about what makes you the best and your advantages over the competition, the grass will look so green they won’t even bother looking on the other side of the fence.
5. Have a Mission – Employees never want to feel like just another pawn on a chess board. They want to feel like what they do matters and is making a difference. Create an awareness of something bigger than your company to which your employees are contributing. Communicate to them how they make a difference. Let them know how they make the world a better place through their work. Attach this to a clear company mission that you follow. Even if your business is tough to attach to a “greater good,” define a value of doing good and making a difference that goes beyond your services/products.
6. Share Ownership – People inherently love ownership. They like to be able to do things their way. No one likes to be micromanaged. We all like to feel valued as an individual. We aren’t talking about equity ownership–we mean empowerment. When your employees feel like they have ownership of an idea the buy-in is instantaneous, and the results are successful projects with employees happy to be fully behind them. This also allows employees to feel personally invested and that they have built something that is much harder to walk away from. For example, try allowing your employees to design their own work-space, and then see if they ever complain about that work-space. When people feel empowered they do their best work. When they feel like they’re doing their best work their morale goes through the roof, and retention will follow suit.
7. Improve Communication – Structure a plan to communicate to your employees that their work is making an difference. Inform employees when they contributed to a win for your business. Reaffirm that what they do has an impact. Emphasize that what they have to say is worth listening to and back it up by listening and taking action. Make sure they always have a clear picture of where their contributions fit in the big picture. Is your employment like a one-sided conversation that is easy to step away from? Strive to make your employment like a dynamic and interesting dialogue no one could step away from. Clear, authentic, and effective communication is a retention tactic that all employers can strive to improve.
8. Designate a Culture Team – Create a team that is focused on making sure people are happy. Task them to seek out what has a big impact on people’s happiness and then create teams dedicated to protecting it and ensuring it happens. By designating a team of employees to do it, you’re empowering them, showing you care, and employees are more likely to speak up when asked by other employees.
9. Break Silos – When an employee knows and is actively engaged with their fellow employees it is much harder for them to consider leaving. In contrast, an employee who operates in a silo and feels detached from the team has a very weak connection keeping them tied to the company. For example, try feeling like a part of the team while never talking with anyone on the team. It makes it pretty difficult. Create policies that get people mixing it up with other employees regularly. Get people interacting. Encourage collaboration. This creates a feeling of togetherness, cohesiveness, and being part of the team. No one likes to let down a team by leaving. Any program that keeps employees feeling more connected and informed about the company and each other will help in this battle of retaining employees. Regular use of tools like Skype, Google hangouts, or Gotomeeting video conferencing can help with employees who are not located close enough to collaborate face to face.
10. Encourage and Assist Employee Health – Wellness is essential to productivity and happy employees. Employers who support wellness support better retention. Make being healthy easier for your employees. This is not just physical–we’re talking about mental health too. Encourage a change of pace when employees feel burnt out. A 2o-minute brain break can do wonders for employee productivity, as will vacation days and making sure that employees disconnect from work while at lunch.
11. Feedback – Provide and ask for regular feedback. Makes your employees feel much more confident and productive because they are less fearful of heading in the wrong direction or doing the wrong thing. Feedback provides the guidance you both need in a more positive way. Prevent disconnects–make sure everyone feels they can provide feedback to anyone else, regardless of title. This starts with creating an environment that is SAFE for employees to share the difficult things.
12. Don’t Make Perks the “Fix All” – Nothing beats a free lunch, free health insurance, paid vacation days, or flexible hours. But these really aren’t the fix-all that many employers think they are. Important? Yes. Everything? No. An employee with the best benefits in the world who feels disconnected, confused about their goals, never gets feedback, and is terribly unhappy will leave no matter how good the perks are.
13. Ask Your Employees Why They Work For You – This strategy does two great things for you. It gives the employee a chance to remind themselves why they like working for you and reinforces this to themselves. It also provides an open door to gain more insight about what attracts people to your business. You can use these insights to fortify these reasons with current employees and/or use them to recruit by saying this is why employees like to work for us.
14. Develop Catalysts in Management Positions – Be intentional about seeking out leaders in your company. Begin by focusing on your managers. They are catalysts that can have direct impacts on the team under their direct management. Ensure that your managers are happy, trained, and educated about keeping their employees happy. Are they doing a good job of regularly checking in with their team and ensuring they have the feedback they need? Consider this saying: “people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers.” This might not be the case all the time, but it is a great example of how important this tactic is.
15. Provide Growth Opportunities – Too many times employers write this off because they know that not every employee will become a CEO someday. Every employee can build skills. Challenge your employees to grow in their positions. Support this by allowing opportunities for learning and other employee development plans. Identify paths for employees to increase pay, gain recognition, or have increased responsibility. If an employee feels that they have hit the ceiling at a company, this is a major reason they will think about leaving. Keep the ceiling high.
16. Make Moments Matter – Sometimes it really is all about the little things. Employers who make the effort of making someone feel special for a moment, like their birthday, can go a long way in making them feel important and appreciated. Think of special occasions that you can celebrate with your employees like work anniversaries, wedding anniversaries, and other events that could help employees know you care. Any gesture that shows you care and acknowledge that the moment matters–these moments go a long way in retaining employees.
17. Evaluate Your Benefits – This doesn’t always lead to increasing the benefits you offer. It may just mean you offer different benefits based on what employees really want. Find out what your employees really care about and look into a solution. You might discover simple things: for example, your employees really value having a 401k option through the company and it is a lot easier to set up than you thought. Don’t make the mistake of only considering what your senior managers want and forget about developing the 30-something employees who are dangerously close to jumping ship already.
18. A “Thank You” Goes a Long Way – One of the best and easiest retention ideas to start with is a simple thank you. If your employees do a great job, then tell them. Frequently saying thank you will do wonders for your retention rate. This supports one of the biggest retention strategies of making your employees feel rewarded, recognized, and appreciated. Anytime something involving dollars is attached to a “thank you,” it greatly elevates the impact.
The Employee Retention Ideas List Goes On – We’ve heard tons of other great ideas from our clients. What have you tried at your business?
Decrease Turnover Costs and Try These Employee Retention Ideas
It all comes down to one question: “Are my employees where they want to be?” A simple question with lots of layers of complexity that influence employees’ answers. Peel back the layers and find out what influences your employees’ answers, then use these retention ideas or come up with your own based on their answers. You and your employees will be happy that you did. Most of the time an employer really does value their employees, they just need to make sure they let them know more often. This is a much easier problem to fix.