What will it be for you – the Great Resignation or Great Retention?
As an HR pro, you likely have the power to win in the increasingly difficult talent war. Instead of watching good employees walk out for the supposed next, best opportunity, you can stay ahead of resignations with solid retention strategies.
Almost 4 million people quit jobs in July – and nearly the same number quit each previous month this year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 40% of employees say they’re at least somewhat likely to leave their job in the next six months, a McKinsey study found.
Those are the big numbers. You probably don’t need to read them to know there’s a labor crunch. You might experience it every day, trying to fill positions or increase staff.
But, as in many business situations, your best defense is likely offense. Fend off resignations with more and better strategies to retain employees.
“In today’s labor market, retention is the most important HR priority. Tenured employees are culture bearers for your company, and hold the institutional knowledge that keeps teams working smoothly,” says Linda Shaffer, Chief People and Operations Officer at Checkr.
“The good news is that retention is an organization’s greatest recruitment tool. When staff are happy and engaged at work, they will take it upon themselves to share their positive experience with others,” Shaffer says.
So here are six strategies and tactics to improve the employee experience and retain good employees – and possibly attract more.
Improve employee development
Best-in-class HR departments – those that lay claim to low turnover rates, and high productivity and mobility rates – have this critical element in common: They focus intently on employee development, according to Fuel50’s Global Talent Mobility Best Practice Research.
Employees who feel they are valued and have opportunities to learn, become better and advance, won’t likely walk out the door for a one-time signing bonus. They’re more likely to stay where they can grow.
Help: HR almost always plays an important role in developing employees. But Fuel50 found the most effective employee development programs give front-line leaders time and tools to help. You might develop training for front-line leaders on how they can identify and fairly distribute a variety of development opportunities. Bonus: In learning (and implementing), leaders naturally become development role models for employees.
Gauge your understanding
One of the biggest problems with retention is employers don’t know why they fail at it. In the McKinsey study, HR and other leaders said turnover stems from issues with compensation, work–life balance, and poor physical and emotional health. In contrast, employees say they mostly quit because they didn’t feel valued by the company and their managers, or they didn’t feel a sense of belonging at work.
Help: Research like this is a clear call for a dedicated process to do exit interviews and act on what you learn. More importantly, you want to do frequent employee feedback surveys so you can get a pulse check on employee engagement before it goes sour.
Focus on mental well-being
You likely already help employees with their financial well-being by compensating them at or above industry norms and offering generous benefits.
For retention, it’s also critical to help with their mental well-being.
“With over half of the workforce considering new job opportunities, money is no longer the No. 1 motivator for employees,” says Laura Sage, CEO at Chill Anywhere. “Employees know when their employer is genuinely looking out for their best interests, which ultimately results in a more stable workforce.”
Help: When it comes to any health care, preventive maintenance trumps reactive measures. So you’ll want to promote your mental well-being resources regularly through email, internal app campaigns, and in on-site and virtual meetings. “It’s also imperative to create a culture in which your team feels comfortable discussing mental health issues and that they readily have access to the resources that can help,” Sage says.
Improve the together experience
As much as we talk about remote and hybrid work, some people are sick and tired of it. You likely have a population of employees who miss – dare we say, crave – personal connections and engaging with colleagues.
They want a renewed sense of connection with their bosses, co-workers and their actual work. Some feel frustrated meeting online, doing virtual happy hours and managing email beyond normal working hours.
Help: Give employees reasons and opportunities to be together again. Of course, you don’t want to force anyone who isn’t comfortable to share space with colleagues. But you can retain employees who want to re-establish interpersonal connections by giving them the opportunities. Plan on-site social and professional events again. Or give some Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) the tools and/or resources to plan in-person events again.
Force them out
You can temper turnover by making sure employees – and especially front-line managers, who carry their employees’ struggles and their own – get out of the office. Detach. Rest. Refresh.
Regardless of where employees work, they aren’t using their sick or well-being time. Nearly two-thirds of employees say they’ve worked through physical illness. And 42% say they’ve worked through mental illness during the pandemic, according to research from Skynova.
Employees who don’t take time off when they physically or mentally need it experience more stress. That leads to turnover.
Help: Regularly remind employees about your health and wellness time-off policies. Try to remove negative stigmas for taking time off – such as a fear the boss will be suspicious of their behavior. To note, 33% of the employees in the Skynova study said they feared just that. Add a direct HR email, phone or text line for employees to use for sick days.
At HRMorning, we don’t believe in encouraging readers to throw money at problems. Money alone won’t fix underlying issues, such as low morale and poor employee experience.
But you can’t overlook compensation in the race to retain employees. So regularly compare your comp and benefits packages to industry and geographic trends.
Help: If you decide to make changes, Marsha Akpodiete, HR Coach at PayChex cautions: “When establishing such plans, businesses will need to establish criteria for awarding this extra compensation and ensure they avoid any discrimination, as employment decisions, including changes in compensation, cannot be based on reasons that violate federal, state or local laws.”