How to retain employees: Effective strategies for long-term success

HR 28-Sep-2023

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe… engage your employees or watch them go.

Okay, that’s an oversimplification of how things work… but you get the point. You’d never leave employee retention to chance and risk losing your star talent, would you?

With talent shortages, shifting work realities, and new employee mindsets, it’s important to keep up with the times and find fresh new ways to keep employees engaged and on board for good (or at least for a long while). Doing so won’t just make your organization a better place to work, but it’ll also make it run more successfully.

We all know that great employees are worth their weight in gold, so making sure they feel valued is also, well, golden. Their level of satisfaction stems from so much more than how engaged they are. If you want to keep them around long-term, then you need to respect and ensure that everyone has healthy work-life balance, and enjoys being part of the team.

Ready to get started? Read on to understand what employees really want at work and uncover our data-backed employee retention strategies.

Learn tried and true strategies on how to retain your employees

Understanding employee turnover and resignation: Why are employees quitting?

We first heard about the Great Resignation in May 2021. The pandemic changed the reality of work and acted as a catalyst for people to think about and re-prioritize their needs.

Flexibility played a huge role in this. People grew accustomed to working remotely and many employees left hustle culture behaviors behind in search of a better work-life balance. But flexibility wasn’t the only cause of employee turnover that led to record-breaking levels of attrition.

The current landscape of the modern workforce

Did you know? 50.5 million Americans quit their jobs in 2022, surpassing the previous record set in 2021 by 2.5 million.

McKinsey surveyed over 13,000 employees in Australia, Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States to dig deeper and fully understand the phenomenon at hand. The study found the most common reasons employees quit or thought about quitting their jobs, including:

  • Lack of career development
  • Inadequate salary and total compensation
  • Uncaring and uninspiring leaders
  • Lack of meaningful work
  • Unsustainable work expectations
Top reasons for quitting previous job, April 2021-April 2022. Source: McKinsey's 2022 Global Attrition, Great Attraction 2.0 global survey
Top reasons for quitting previous job, April 2021-April 2022. Source: McKinsey’s 2022 Global Attrition, Great Attraction 2.0 global survey

High attrition rates are bad news for businesses around the world. Not only does turnover cost a lot from the get-go, but it also leaves lingering effects that can hurt your company culture, employee morale, and profitability down the line.

The good news is that we now have access to a ton of data to help us understand how people feel at work so that we can build stronger employee retention strategies.

The business impact of high employee retention

If you (or your leaders) are still hesitant on investing in employee retention, remember this: every employee departure equals at least a third of their annual salary in replacement costs. Prioritizing employee retention doesn’t just make sense financially in the short term, though. There is a slew of benefits that come with high retention and engaged workforces.

When employees stay at an organization, they’re more likely to:

  • accumulate valuable knowledge about your business and products or services,
  • create strong and consistent processes for higher productivity and quality of work,
  • build solid, trust-based relationships with your customer base,
  • contribute to positive team dynamics,
  • and strengthen your employer brand for an easier recruitment process.

Put simply, keeping your employees on board makes your business run smoothly and efficiently. When you work towards building employee retention strategies, you’ll see employee satisfaction, productivity, and happiness soar. Keep it consistent year-round, and strong financial returns are sure to follow suit.

So, how can you make this happen?

Key considerations for improved employee retention

Recognition of the importance of work-life balance and flexibility

Everybody knows that we’re in a new work era. One that puts the spotlight on having healthy work-life balance more than ever before. The hybrid and remote work models that we’ve become accustomed to have given employees more flexibility and time to tend to their personal needs, which has essentially become non-negotiable. Employees have proven that they’re capable of balancing their time and remaining productive. That’s why acknowledging and respecting this balance has become a key factor in employee retention.

Flexible work schedules and remote work options accommodate employees’ personal needs and enable them to prioritize things that matter, like self-care and family time. Employers who provide the resources and support needed to help manage stress and promote well-being are the ones that come out on top and retain top talent. Foster a culture that values work-life balance and emphasizes the importance of personal time and it’s a win-win for both sides.

Consideration of career growth and development opportunities

While growth looks different for everyone, what remains the same is that all employees want opportunities for professional development along their career path. That’s why it’s so important to make training programs and workshops accessible, and to offer mentorship or coaching programs to support each employee’s career growth.

It’s also important to remember that no plan is ever one-size-fits-all. Take the time to create individual development plans, have conversations about career opportunities with employees, and always, always recognize and reward employees who take initiative and make notable strides in their professional growth.

Significance of a positive and inclusive work culture

There’s a lot to be said for having a workplace culture of respect, trust, and open communication. It lays the foundation for success within an organization and makes it a safe space for everyone to grow, connect, and learn. This kind of environment celebrates diversity, promotes inclusivity in all aspects of the organization, and tends to ensure equal opportunities for all employees, regardless of their unique backgrounds.

When you support this kind of inclusivity, you also encourage teamwork and collaboration, and create a sense of belonging among employees. When you have this sense of belonging, you feel more valued and embedded in the organization, which is of course a positive factor of retention. Be sure to recognize and appreciate the contributions of individuals from different backgrounds so that everyone feels valued.Boost employee engagementDiscover how

13 Employee retention tactics aligned with modern workforce needs

Employee retention can be tackled in more ways than one. We put together the following list of employee retention strategies based on the insights we’ve uncovered from industry research and our latest Officevibe Pulse Survey data. We’ve also included an example and some actionable advice for each tactic.

1. Define a clear and inspiring mission

These days, it’s rare to find people who don’t care about contributing positively to the world — even at work. We’ve gone through a series of very unfortunate events as a collective, but the silver lining is that people are prioritizing what’s really important to them, and that includes working for organizations that do good by society. This is especially true for the hyper-cognitive and purpose-driven Gen Z generation.

 “Their desire to know how their individual contributions and role in the team help support the organization’s mission differentiates them. They make career choices and purchasing choices driven by the impact these make in the world.”

Harvard Business Review

That’s why it’s so important to make your stance known by defining and communicating your mission in an inspiring way. Tap into what matters by developing a meaningful mission statement that emphasizes your company’s commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, for example.

Next step

Once you’ve talked the talk, be sure to walk the walk by regularly communicating it to employees, integrating it into company-wide initiatives, and creating opportunities for all employees to contribute to the company’s environmental goals so that everyone can do their part and feel good about it!

2. Align your strategies to your values

It’s clear that modern employees are value-oriented. They not only care that their organization’s values align with their own, but also expect companies to act in alignment with those values. Considering that 26% of employees feel their organizations do not make decisions that reflect their values, per Officevibe Pulse Survey data, there is a lot of room for improvement.

How? By making sure your values carry through into concrete, actionable strategies. For example, if one of your company’s core values is “continuous learning,” work on establishing and implementing a learning and development program that offers ongoing training and educational opportunities to all employees.

Next step

Keep it going by frequently assessing the alignment of your company policies, practices, and decision-making with the values you laid out. This makes you better able to make effective adjustments along the way, and communicate updates to your employees so that they can see the alignment in action for themselves.

👀 Are you hitting the mark on alignment? Learn to spot the signs of a misaligned team and use these 5 tips to ensure alignment and improve performance.

3. Make sure your objectives are challenging, yet realistic

Objective setting is a big part of the alignment puzzle. Challenging company objectives often lead to exciting new projects and help employees grow, pick up new skills, and gain knowledge. But big, hairy, audacious goals can quickly become demotivating when they feel too unattainable.

31% of employees do not feel their organization invests the necessary resources, people, and efforts to measure up to its ambitions.

Officevibe Pulse Survey data, August 2022

The magic happens when you break it down into more attainable, realistic goals. For example, why not set quarterly goals instead of annual goals? This stretches employees’ abilities and drives innovation, while giving consideration to the resources and capabilities available. This puts goals more within reach, which is a far more effective strategy.

Next step

Start by providing clear guidelines and assigning the right resources to support employees in smashing their objectives. Review progress on a regular basis and offer constructive feedback that can help employees navigate challenges and continue to grow.

What this all boils down to is that it’s okay, and necessary for business success, to think big. But it’s crucial to match your ambitions with the resources needed to make them realistic.

4. Show employees why their work matters

When employees can tie their daily work back to broader company objectives and outcomes, they’re more likely to understand the value they bring. Not only does this boost their confidence, but it also instills a strong sense of purpose, which we’ve already seen is an important need for younger employees.

A great way to give recognition and inspire others to do great work is to share success stories that highlight how your employees’ contributions have positively impacted your customers, organization, and even the community.

Next step

When managers have regular conversations around the broader impact of each employee’s individual tasks and projects, it helps them see the connection between the work that they do and the company’s mission and goals. After all, greater meaning makes for greater motivation!

5. Give employees access to the right tools and technology

Few things are more frustrating than feeling stuck because of a lack of resources. If you aren’t giving your team the tools and technology they need to do their job well and efficiently, you’re putting your company’s success and your employees’ job satisfaction on the line. It’s a zero-sum game. Investing in the essentials is a surefire way to ensure high levels of productivity and engagement.

One of the best things you can do is invest in project management software that streamlines workflows and enhances collaboration among team members. This helps get everyone aligned on what they need to do, and how it contributes to the big picture of each project.

Next step

Since technology is always evolving and improving, be sure to have regular technology assessments so you can identify gaps or outdated tools that are no longer serving you and your team. Whenever you implement a new tool, it’s important to provide proper training and support to your employees to ensure they’re proficient in using the tools effectively. We can’t simply assume that everyone will be able to pick it up and run with it, so remember that a little guidance goes a long way.

6. Offer a fair and competitive compensation package

In times of economic uncertainty, compensation matters. And considering that salary is the main reason people look for new jobs, your compensation strategy shouldn’t be neglected. But you don’t have to dish out salaries your company cannot afford to make a difference. What matters most to employees is that they are compensated fairly.

39% of employees do not feel they are paid fairly when taking their responsibilities, skills, and experience into account.

Officevibe Pulse Survey data, August 2022

The best approach to navigating fair compensation is to conduct salary benchmarking research to ensure that your company’s salaries align with industry standards, while also considering additional benefits like performance bonuses or profit-sharing.

Next step

What’s important to note here is that this should be an ongoing practice. As time goes on and the market changes, keep up with reviewing and adjusting your compensation packages in order to remain competitive. It’s also a good idea to be transparent with your employees about the factors considered in determining their salaries (which we’ll elaborate on next).

To keep them happy, be sure to assess the total compensation package and make sure you’re fairly in line with the rest of the job market.

7. Be transparent about compensation

Transparency is key when it comes to money talk. Officevibe Pulse Survey data revealed that 34% of employees do not trust that they are paid fairly compared to similar roles in other organizations. But is compensation itself truly the issue, or is it perceived unfairness? We looked at our fairness sub-metric in Officevibe and found that the root of the problem was a lack of transparency and communication.

Implementing a clear and consistent compensation structure that includes transparent criteria for salary adjustments, promotions, and bonuses is the fairest way to ensure clarity for everyone. When you get rid of the gray areas, you build trust.

Next step

This trust comes from communicating the company’s compensation structure to all employees, and giving them the opportunity to openly ask questions or seek clarification. Check in regularly to review and address any discrepancies or concerns that may pop up.

At the end of the day, employees want to understand exactly how compensation is determined and whether it is equitable. So if you have a special formula, a market baseline that you follow, and performance standards, be sure to share them with your team from the start. 

8. Provide opportunities for growth and professional development

Career growth is of utmost importance for young employees. So much so that many of them are likely to change jobs ten times between the ages of 18 and 34 in search of professional development. If you want to ensure high retention, you must support your team internally with career planning, skills mapping, and training and development.

In order to give your junior team members the support they need, it helps to establish a mentoring program where more experienced employees provide guidance. They’re a truly valuable asset in helping more junior employees grow into their role and navigate their career path and professional development.

Next step

Once again, it’s important to look at this through an individual lens. Create personal development plans that identify specific training opportunities and areas for growth, and encourage employees to attend conferences, workshops, or online courses to expand their knowledge and skills.

Setting SMART performance goals helps employees reach their full potential, while also getting your company closer to its objectives. Support your team’s performance with these 10 employee goal-setting examples.

9. Encourage employees to recognize each other

Employees are more likely to stay in an organization where they feel valued and celebrated. And people aren’t just looking to be recognized by their managers or superiors; they want their peers to do it too. Peer-to-peer recognition programs strengthen work relationships and team dynamics. A kind kudos or note of appreciation also sprinkles a little joy into a person’s day.

Help get the ball rolling by implementing a peer recognition program where employees can personally nominate and acknowledge their colleagues’ contributions. Making it simple and accessible to all is a great way to encourage employees to share kind words with one another.

Next step

Once the platform or tool is up and running, communicate the recognition program and its purpose with your employees. Beyond the personal messages, it’s also great to celebrate and highlight recognized employees in team meetings or company-wide communications so that they can really have their shine and feel valued.

🎉 Use these 6 ideas to help boost peer recognition within your team.

10. Invest in employee health and wellness

The great reprioritization highlighted that health and wellness are non-negotiable for today’s employees. But Officevibe data shows that most companies are still falling behind, and it’s likely impacting their retention rates:

  • 29% of employees do not feel their organization offers the support they need to deal with work-related stress.
  • 24% of employees do not feel their organization cares about their mental well-being.

Knowing how important work-life balance is to today’s workforce, it’s more important than ever to take the opportunity to implement health and wellness programs that people truly value. From yoga classes and meditation sessions, to access to mental health resources, there are so many ways employers can support the physical and mental health of their team.

Next step

To help take the guesswork out of figuring out what people want, conduct regular wellness surveys or focus groups to assess what your employees’ wellness needs and preferences are. The feedback you gather can help you design, shape, and implement wellness initiatives that address their specific wellness concerns. These are the first steps to showing employees your organization truly cares.

11. Pay attention to workloads and energy levels

Many employees are disengaged and choose to leave because of high-stress levels at work and unmanageable workloads.

23% of employees are not able to maintain a good level of energy at work and 34% feel negatively about their level of work related stress.

Officevibe Pulse Survey data, August 2022

Avoiding burnout starts with properly assessing your employees’ workloads to make sure they’re not overloaded and overwhelmed. Once you have a clear picture of the workloads, it’s important to take action by implementing measures to redistribute projects and provide any additional resources or support your team needs. You’ll demonstrate that you care about their wellbeing, and they’ll appreciate the extra hands on deck.

Next step

Proactivity is the only solution. Check in with employees on a regular basis in order to gauge their energy levels and workload satisfaction. Encourage them to speak up about their workload concerns, and provide flexibility in task assignments or schedules when possible. Keep on supporting proper work-life balance in every regard, and encourage them to take breaks and vacations to recharge, refresh, and come back feeling stronger.

Notice someone struggling at work? Discuss work-related stress and find solutions together before it’s too late.

12. Don’t let diversity, equity, and inclusion fall behind

To achieve true belonging and psychological safety within an organization, everyone should feel seen, supported, and heard. Workplace diversity, equity, and inclusion, or DEI for short, should be top of mind at every employee touch point and stage in the employee experience journey. All employees deserve equal opportunities. If they don’t feel accounted for and respected, modern employees won’t shy away from seeking a new job.

47% of Gen Z employees identify as BIPOC, compared to 39% of millenials, making it the most diverse generation in the job market to date.

Great Place to Work

If you want to foster a more inclusive culture, it’s a great idea to form a diversity and inclusion committee or task force with your employees. Rally people from different backgrounds to drive initiatives together.

Next step

Conduct diversity and inclusion training for all employees to raise awareness and promote understanding. You can also start at the very beginning by implementing recruitment and hiring practices that prioritize diversity and ensure equal opportunities. Take the time to assess the inclusiveness of your company policies, practices, and employee experiences so that you can spot areas for improvement. When everyone feels equal, valued, seen, and heard, great things happen.

What’s the current reality of different demographics within your organization? Send a diversity, equity, and inclusion poll using these 21 DEI survey questions to find out.

13. Prioritize culture contribution over culture fit

The idea of hiring for culture fit is passé. This mindset encourages uniformity, ignores DEI best practices, and often leads to echo chambers in the workplace. A better way to tackle company culture and make your workplace better for all is to hire people who will contribute positively to your organizational culture, instead of fitting into a predetermined mold. During the hiring process, ask yourself:

  • Does this person bring a new perspective to the table?
  • Do they have skills, hard and soft, that can complement the rest of the team?
  • Are their values in line with the organization’s values?

All of this starts at square one, during the interview process. Try focusing on assessing candidates’ potential contributions to the company’s culture, values, and goals rather than solely evaluating their fit within the existing culture. See the potential, support progression, and welcome diverse perspectives.

Next step

First, define the desired cultural attributes and values that align with your organization’s mission and strategic objectives, then incorporate behavioral-based interview questions that elicit responses related to cultural contribution. Just be sure to equip your interviewers with proper training on assessing cultural alignment and potential so that they can make the best choices for your organization.

When you take a human-generated approach to culture, you’ll see your team thrive and become the best version of itself.

How to build your employee retention strategy

If you’re starting from scratch, you can’t go wrong with building the first iteration of your retention strategy with a mix of the tactics above. However, it’s important to keep in mind that no single retention strategy will work for every company. The best way to boost retention is to tailor your efforts to your own people and their needs.

Here’s how you can figure out what’s most important to them (and what will make them stay in their jobs): 

  • One-on-one meetings give you insights on the individual level and can help you understand what makes each person on your team tick.
  • Regular pulse surveys take the guessing game out of receiving feedback. They provide employees with prompts they wouldn’t have otherwise thought about and they ensure you have a consistent and measurable bank of feedback at all times.
  • Anonymous feedback tools give employees the opportunity to share thoughts, feelings, suggestions, and concerns openly and honestly, without fear of repercussion. They help managers focus on the message, rather than the messenger.
  • Onboarding surveys allow new hires to share feedback specific to their first few months on the job. They help HR and managers improve employee retention from the start by nailing the onboarding process.
  • Stay interviews uncover how employees feel in their current roles, what’s keeping them engaged, and what can boost their job satisfaction.
  • Exit interviews are the last resort to collect feedback on how to boost employee retention in the long run. During these meetings, a departing employee can give you concrete insights into what led them to look for greener pastures.

Unlock your unique retention strategies with an employee engagement solution

Congrats! You just read everything you need to know to get started with your employee retention game plan. You have a better understanding of the current global context, you know why people are leaving their jobs, you can outline the business impact of employee retention, and you even have some employee retention strategy ideas to get the ball rolling.

If you want to solidify your employee retention strategies, the next step is to find the right employee feedback and engagement tools to help customize your plan according to your business’s needs.

Officevibe’s employee engagement solution can help get you there by taking the guessing game out with actionable insights on where your team is and where you want it to be.

Source: Officevibe