How HR can help improve employee retention

As the work world struggles to get back to normal (whatever that means these days!), you’ve probably heard about The Great Resignation. As the lore goes, employees have been galvanized by the pandemic’s changes, and have decided to quit their jobs in the hopes of finding one that aligns with their post-pandemic lives better than the old job did. The first waves started in industries like hospitality and food service, but people across the board have been re-evaluating whether they really want to keep their status quo jobs.

For HR professionals, who already work so hard to make sure that they’re maximizing employee retention, it’s an extra challenge in an already complicated workplace. You and your team have probably experienced firsthand the professional pain of watching great talent walk out the door, and know the dread of having to fill an overwhelming number of positions. Employee turnover is time-consuming and costly for any organization: a recent study put employee replacement costs at about 30% of the person’s salary.

If you think the Great Resignation might be coming to your organization, there are things you can do to help now, before you start losing your talent to other opportunities.

Make your compensation and benefits more competitive

One of the biggest reasons for employee flight (no matter what the general social or economic circumstances) is wanting more money or better benefits. Even if you think your compensation packages are competitive, it’s time to look at what you offer with fresh eyes, and do your research. Thanks to online feedback sites like Glassdoor, there are no secrets in this area anymore. How do your benefits stack up against your competitors? What kind of healthcare plans do they offer? Do they offer more bonuses or other incentives? Do they offer programs that you don’t, like retirement plan matching, education reimbursement, extra paid family leave, etc.?

Even if higher salaries aren’t feasible for your company’s bottom line right now, it’s important to look at other areas that you might be able to increase your offerings, and be an appealing option when going up against your industry peers when it comes to luring talent.

Recruit for retention

Before making a job offer, obviously, you can’t tell for sure who’s going to be a long-termer and who might jump after a year or two, but you can start screening more heavily for good retention signs, like longevity at previous jobs. It’s also important to go beyond the resumes you review. Do they share values and an outlook with your company? Initial screenings and interviews can help give you a sense of whether a candidate is on board with your mission and goals, and thus more likely to be content and productive with your organization long-term.

Bulk up your onboarding and training

Most organizations provide robust training and mentoring for new employees, but don’t invest the same level of training resources in existing employees. In reality, everyone benefits from ongoing training, whether it’s training on internal systems or processes, or the opportunity to learn how other parts of the company function.

Training sessions open to new and existing employees can also help current employees develop skills they can use to advance or give them refreshers to bump up their expertise. People who feel like they have all the tools and skills to do their job well tend to be more satisfied and productive in their roles.

Promote from within

If employees don’t feel like they’ll have opportunities to grow or move up in the organization, they’re not likely to commit. You want your employees to feel like they can grow comfortably in your role, and have opportunities without having to seek them elsewhere. When there are job openings, make sure they’re well-publicized to internal candidates, and encourage people to look for opportunities within the company.

Mentorship programs are also a great way to help develop talent internally. They require few resources (beyond employee time) and can help junior employees get to know more about other groups in the company or see what the next phase of their career at the company might look like.

Build a positive culture that celebrates wins

Morale is a huge employee retention booster. Happy employees stick around; ones who feel unsure or overlooked leave. It’s essential to make sure employees feel supported and celebrated for what they achieve for the company. Feeling underappreciated is cited in study after study of why employees leave.

Acknowledgment is key. Large company meetings can start with a “kudos” section, where recent victories or major accomplishments throughout the company are shouted out (like a successful campaign, a new system onboarded, a sales goal reached, etc.).

It’s also important to recognize the “smaller,” day-to-day, wins as well. Encourage managers to give regular positive feedback to their reports. You can also set up a digital bulletin board or email list where employees at every level are encouraged to post thanks, shout-outs, or highlights for other team members.

Be clear about roles and expectations

One of the biggest Great Resignation drivers over the past year has been people feeling unsure about what their role at work is, as well as expectations for a new work environment (like remote work). Make sure managers meet regularly with reports to talk about goals and tasks, and that they’re clear on performance expectations.

Encourage a proper work-life balance

Burnout is very real. A lack of work-life balance can push frustrated employees to the brink and lead them to choose another path over the stress of their current job. On an organizational level, you can encourage that people to set after-work-hours boundaries—no email after a certain point as a rule, or no meetings after a certain point in the day, for example. Wellness and emotional health initiatives are also a good way to support employee well-being, and emphasize that it’s not just the bottom line that defines the workday.

Make flexible work arrangements a permanent option

After a year of working at home (and all of the Zoom-bombing pets/kids and “can everyone hear me?” entailed therein), many workers have decided that they’d like to keep having a commute-free work life instead of going back to a traditional office. Or on the flip side, some employees want to go back to that in-person structure, even if their company is going all-remote. Both types want the opportunity to work how they feel most comfortable and productive.

Now that companies are more fluent in how to work remotely, offer employees flexibility on how they work. Many organizations were hesitant before to offer remote work options, worrying about productivity and the loss of in-person collaboration. Now we know better than ever that there are ways to keep productivity up, including remote work and meeting tools that let people meet and collaborate from miles away.

If an employee’s work doesn’t have a significant in-person component (like direct customer service or having to be physically present somewhere), your flexibility on how they work can help keep them a valued part of your company.

If someone is leaving your company to pursue a lifelong dream of becoming a beekeeper, well, there’s probably not much you can do about that. But if you have other employees who are thinking that they might jump ship for a better environment or more flexible work options, you have the chance now to intervene and keep your top talent in-house. Your team is your best resource, and it’s in everyone’s best interest to keep them around for the long run.

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