In the last several months and years, the labor market has seen many big swings in employment from massive layoffs to the ‘Great Resignation’. One thing that has always held steady is employers looking for ways to attract and retain top talent. A recent survey from Robert Half found that in the second half of 2022, 41% of respondents were looking or planning to look for a new role. In order to retain top talent, employers need to understand what drives employees to leave and how to utilize this info to get them to stay.
Why do people leave?
Interestingly, the number one reason people leave is perfectly mirrored by the number one reason people stay. 50% of people who resigned from their positions said they did it to get away from their managers, not the job itself. Contrast this with the fact that most people stay in their jobs until they feel forced to leave by some external force.
Some other major company “sins” that can cause an exodus of exceptional talent include too much work, inadequate salary and benefits, a lack of recognition, broken commitments, no work flexibility, no opportunities to advance, micromanagement, lack of clear direction, company’s financial situation, and overall company culture.
While company culture can be a major reason people leave, interestingly, it isn’t that important for people to stay. Personal goals and values are more important in determining employee willingness to stay in their jobs.
What can we do to retain our exceptional employees?
Onboarding and Training
Initial training for success is incredibly important for every new employee, both in person and virtual. They should learn everything they need to do their job well and feel supported as they continue to learn and grow in the position. Providing continuous feedback on performance and giving them opportunities to learn new skills is very important in an industry that is constantly advancing with new technology. Prioritize employees’ professional development by giving them time to attend conferences and continue their education. Providing tuition reimbursement or simply paying for further education will produce more competent, confident employees.
In addition, providing a new employee with one-on-one support in the form of a mentor can greatly increase your onboarding efficiency, especially for your remote workers. They can take more time to offer a humanizing element to the process, giving guidance and feedback as required. This benefits both the new employee and the experienced one in creating team connections and overall job satisfaction. If you haven’t already, consider starting a formal mentoring program that bridges the gap between mentors and mentees.
Leadership and Communication
It is a well-known fact that even if a person has their dream job, they will leave it if they have a terrible boss. That is why it is absolutely essential to constantly be training and evaluating your leadership staff. Performance reviews and mentoring from more experienced senior members of staff can go a long way in shaping your company’s management style, especially for first-time leaders.
Creating a culture of open communication between leadership and employees is also extremely important to get the best out of both. Employees should feel like they can come to their superiors at any time with ideas, questions, or concerns. Facilitating these conversations on a regular basis, particularly when your workforce is hybrid or fully remote, is important for creating a sense of teamwork and job satisfaction. Leadership should regularly be asking their teams “what can I take off of your plate” or “what can I do to help you succeed at your job”. This makes people feel heard and opens up a dialogue.
Beyond that, in moments of crisis or large-scale changes, employees look to their managers for guidance and reassurance, so it is imperative that leadership is as transparent and forthright with information as possible. Clarity of direction and intention will help to calm fears and potentially prevent the loss of your best employees.
Feedback and Recognition
In a time where the median tenure of workers in the private sector is 3.7 years, a once-a-year annual review is too infrequent. Continuous feedback on an employee’s performance throughout the year in one-on-one meetings, allows them to also provide their own feedback, and gives you both the opportunity to see where they are at on a more regular basis. Asking them about their long-term and short-term goals will help you to develop a plan for potential career development and help them to visualize their future with your company.
As part of this feedback process, it is important to acknowledge employee achievements and reward them accordingly. Everyone wants to be appreciated and in the world of hybrid/remote work, it is easy to become disconnected and feel undervalued by your employer. Finding ways to highlight achievements and milestones, from surpassing a sales goal to employment anniversaries, shows an employer’s gratitude and vested interest in their employees. Virtual meeting celebrations or even a formal reward system will incentivize your workforce to go the extra mile and add to feelings of job satisfaction.
Compensation, Benefits, and Perks
It should go without saying, but still must be emphasized, that you need to provide your employees with competitive compensation. Between inflation and the shift in the labor market, a competitive wage is in a constant state of flux. Employers need to keep abreast of these changes and regularly adjust employee salaries accordingly. If you cannot increase their pay, consider offering bonuses or additional monetary benefits such as ESOPs or profit-sharing. The latter two are more likely to incentivize your employees to work harder, as they will also benefit as the business continues to grow. Things like health care, retirement packages, and paid leave can sweeten the pot and can make all the difference in an employee’s decision to stay or leave.
Perks are special, typically non-monetary, benefits that can attract or re-engage talent and raise company morale. These are NOT to be confused with actual compensation and benefits, and should not be considered a replacement for competitive compensation. Team-building activities and workcations are fun and build camaraderie, but they do not put food on the table or a roof over an employee’s head. That being said, they may still offer you an advantage as an employer over your industry competition. Offering things like hybrid/remote work options, flexible schedules, paid parental leave, wellness programs, strong work-life balance, employee assistance, and paid volunteer opportunities can push you to the front for potential employees and cement a current employee’s decision to remain with your company.
Post-COVID, work-life balance has moved to the forefront of people’s minds. Now popularized as the concept of “quiet quitting”, people are devoting themselves to only doing what is required of them in the time they are paid for and nothing more. While it seems cliche, the concept of a healthy work-life balance actually leads to more job satisfaction and thus better employee retention. Burnout is now another leading cause of employee voluntary resignation and the result of a work culture that has promoted the concept of rise and grind. Acknowledging your staff are human beings and have a life outside of their jobs is paramount if you wish to retain their talent.
If employees work from home, remind them to set boundaries on their time and to take vacations. If they have to work late a few nights for a project, make sure to compensate them with time off. Or have you considered switching to a four-day workweek? A recent trial of the four-day workweek conducted in the UK found that there was a drop in the likelihood of employees quitting or calling out sick, down 57 percent and 65 percent respectively, from the year before.
The concept of a sabbatical program is another great way to show your appreciation for your employee’s efforts, particularly rewarding those who have a longer tenure. Sabbatical leaves can last six weeks or more, according to the company’s leave policy. Even something as simple as mental health days can go a long way to establishing a more positive, human-centered work environment.
Flexibility and Hybrid/Remote Work
While there has been a recent pushback by several employers to get their employees to return to the office full-time, many companies have learned that their staff are not interested. A Robert Half survey found up to one-third of employees currently working from home said they would resign if they were forced to return to working in an office full-time.
Not all jobs can be done remotely, but employers should still strive to have as many hybrid and remote options as possible. This will give you access to more talent geographically. Having certain days of the week when employees should come to the office, or a compressed work week are both solid options when being fully remote is not an option and are likely to increase employee retention.
Employee retention is an active effort. You need to stay abreast of current market standards for salaries and benefits and make changes as employees express their needs. Keeping on top of your employee’s feelings of engagement and job satisfaction will help keep them committed to your company for years to come.
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