5 tips to improve employee retention at work

Since the pandemic employees seem to be switching or leaving their jobs in crowds which some economists along with the BBC has dubbed as the ‘Great Resignation’. 

This suggests that holding onto your talent is becoming more important than ever. To put a number to the cost implications of staff turnover, large businesses in the US lose around $1 trillion a year due to employee churn.

There are other implications as well. The more talent churn you experience, the more you can suffer from a financial, productivity, and even employee engagement perspective. Unsurprisingly, employee retention is becoming a lot more difficult, especially due to increased economic activities and the brewing war for talent.

As companies try to return to normal in 2021, we see a number of economic trends emerging. The demand for talent is increasing, with unemployment rates falling to 4.7% in June for the UK, while annual growth in average wages improved by 7.4%. In the US, there were 13% more job openings in March compared to the same time last year, and far fewer people to fill the vacancies.

How is employee retention changing post-pandemic?

Studies consistently prove that higher-performing companies don’t just have loyal customers – they have committed employees too. Without a dedicated team of engaged professionals, you can’t hope to offer your clients the most competitive experiences.

Today, organisations realise that talent experience influences the levels of service that workers provide to customers, and in turn their profitability. Companies that have higher employee engagement experience 16% greater profitability.

The earlier mentioned surge in available job vacancies brings with it changing employee expectations that require companies and HR professionals to adjust their focus too. We are heading towards a talent war and keeping critical skills.

Our own global research highlights an increase in the number of employees who feel that their organisation no longer meets their personal changing needs. With 42% of HR leaders agreeing churn has gone up since restrictions eased, and another 30% of employees saying they feel more likely to leave their job after the pandemic.

The best weapon for winning that talent war is creating an irresistible employer brand. But for that to materialise we need to look at what matters the most to our employees.

Most common causes of employee churn

Employees may decide to leave a company for a variety of reasons. Some are unhappy with the kind of management support they receive, while others feel like they don’t belong within the company’s culture. The most common causes of churn include:

  • Lack of growth and progression opportunities: If employees don’t get the support they need to grow they won’t see a future in your business.
  • Being overworked: In times of trouble, such as the pandemic, it’s common for companies to place additional pressure on their teams. Unfortunately, this pressure can prompt burnout and push employees out of the company.
  • Lack of recognition or feedback: if you avoid giving feedback, you’re not giving employees the recognition and support they need. Feedback helps to tackle problems before issues take root and enables employees to course correct, whilst recognition and awards can act as positive motivators.
  • Lack of ownership: If you micromanage your employees and never give them the opportunity to make decisions for themselves, they won’t feel like a trusted part of the team and may feel stifled.
  • Poor employee selection: If you don’t have the right alignment between your people and your new recruit, they’re going to have a hard time melding with the rest of your team. No clarity around your employer brand, culture and not using analytics and reporting tools can all contribute towards misguided hiring decisions.
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5 Tips to Help Retain Your Top Talent

At a time when companies simply can’t afford to lose their top talent, it’s never been more important to have the right retention strategy in place. The following tips can help to preserve the staff members you need to keep around.

1.    Focus on Employee Experiences

How we do things post-pandemic is quickly becoming defined by employee experience: how your organization shapes the way people work and live, from productivity to flexibility, wellbeing, health, and everything in between. Geographical restrictions diminishing due to remote working the main way for businesses to attract and retain talent is by creating an irresistible organization.

As such, employee experience should become the core of any company’s employer brand going forward.

Josh Bersin and his researchers studied the importance of employee experience following the pandemic. The study looked at 83 practices and programs, 24 dimensions, and 6 elements responsible for driving better experiences. Based on this research, the 6 factors that have the biggest impact on business outcomes are all related to a sense of belonging, trust, and transparency in the workplace.

Bersin recommends the following actions to create better employee experiences:

1. Focus on trust, transparency, inclusion, and care.

2. Implement a supportive culture for all team members.

3. Deliver equitable rewards and build communities at work.

4. Ensure consistent, mission-first people investments

5. Use employee experience excellence to improve business outcomes.

6. Access HR capabilities and the right technologies.

What matters most in employee experience is fostering trust, a culture of helping others, caring for each other, creating a sense of belonging and equity, investing in people regardless of the surrounding economic challenges.

2.    Use People Analytics and Data to Prevent and Pre-Empt

According to some studies, the pandemic has accelerated digital transformation by approximately about 7 years. Today’s companies are now using more technology than ever before to enable employees, from video conferencing tools to cloud-based communications. The good news is that more technology also paves the way for accessing valuable data.

People analytics can give you useful insights into which employees are demonstrating the lowest engagement levels, and which are having trouble with consistent performance. AI analytics can even pinpoint potential churn risks in your team and alert HR or supervisors for insights into what to do next.

AI can analyze anonymous employee sentiment and help you better understand employees behaviours and responses to various initiatives. It can help to pinpoint breakages in workflows and identify which offices or business units are most productive, most engaged etc.

3.    Engage Your Workforce

An engaged workforce will always be more likely to remain with your business. But it is important to define what employee engagement really is. According to Deloitte “employee engagement refers to the emotional commitment an employee has to their organisation and its employees, vision and goals. It is NOT about employee satisfaction, high salaries or thanking an employee after a long day of work.” So, how do you engage your staff?

Deloitte suggests 3 key steps that can help.

Take a supportive management approach
Adopting a coaching approach where your managers find a way to manage their team regardless of location is key. Equally important for employee engagement is for an organisation to have a culture of recognition, to drive engagement.

Create a positive work environment
The flexible work environment pushed on by the pandemic has changed the way we think about work-life balance. Being able to switch between work-related and non-work-related activities made managers realise that employees can maintain a balance between the two without any negative consequences on productivity. By offering initiatives that cater for your employee’s personal needs you are strengthening the emotional connection to the organization.

Inspire trust in leadership
Covid-19 being such an uncertain time employees looked to their leaders to make the right decisions and take the right direction. Frequent check-ins and open conversations between leaders, managers and employees is proven to make employees feel included, whilst transparency around organizational decisions reduces anxiety and uncertainty.

4.    Listen to Your Team Members

Accessing tools for feedback and surveys can give your staff members a voice, allowing them to share what they like and dislike about working as part of your team. Extensive employee listening strategies allow you to determine potential issues in the employee lifecycle. You can track everything from whether onboarding techniques are extensive enough to support all your staff to what kind of issues cause employees to think about leaving.

Companies like Microsoft already initiate daily pulse surveys with a random subset of employees each day, to help access more meaningful insights into problems leadership might need to address.

Research consistently shows listening is an important factor of good employee experience, yet most companies struggle to keep their finger on the pulse of their team’s feelings and sentiment. Implementing a more consistent and aligned strategy for gathering feedback could help you reduce the risk of missing issues that could send your team members running to other employers.

Implement bots to collect information from team members about their experiences and what kind of issues they’d like to fix. Have regular meetings where everyone can make suggestions about improving the workplace and allow people to make anonymous suggestions when necessary.

Crucially, don’t just show your employees you’re listening to them – demonstrate how much you value their feedback by acting on their suggestions. Team members who feel as though they have a say about the growth of a business are likely to feel more engaged and committed to the brand.

5.    Lead with your Mission and Values

Finally, remember that an excellent employee experience and strong retention strategies start with having the right team full of employees aligned towards the same vision. Having a strong focus on what the values and goals of your company are and sharing that vision with your team members will help to keep everyone on the same page.

A strong vision motivates your employees while providing them with a purpose, creates meaning. It’s also a valuable way to ensure you’re attracting and hiring the people most likely to your team. If your values are clear to everyone who encounters your company, you’re more likely to appeal to candidates who share your goals.

Your company’s vision should go beyond just making a huge profit or being the most successful business in your industry. Today’s employees want to work for businesses that are making a meaningful difference to the world. Show you care about your community, the planet, and other important factors, and help your team members to feel like they’re making the world a better place.

The bottom line

To improve retention, you need to build an image for yourself as an irresistible employer – the company most capable of giving your exceptional employee experiences. Don’t just focus on “engagement” then try to stop people from leaving. Start focusing on how you can truly serve and support your team, while attracting and inspiring the right people with a comprehensive, fulfilling work experience.