3 Words To Help Build The Best Employee Retention Strategy

diverse professional workers smiling

“Alexa, retain my employees.”

If only it were that easy, right? Well, it actually might be as simple as asking for help. 

When it comes to current labor trends, a quick scroll through the latest news headlines confirms what we already know: people are quitting their jobs in all sectors at record-setting paces, employee turnover is costing employers millions of dollars, and employee retention needs to be part of every company’s strategy this year.

It’s been called many things: The Great Resignation. The Great Attrition. The Great Realization. Or, our favorite from Work Institute: Turnover Tsunami.

But do this one thing to address it: Ask your employees

Ask former employees to help you understand why they left.

Conduct stay interviews with current employees to uncover what makes them stay, and uncover existing factors that might cause them to quit in the future.

Having these candid conversations may be awkward, but will reveal the necessary investments and areas for improvement that can be made to increase employee retention in an era of record attrition. 

female professional in foreground with team in background

Assumptions vs Reality

A McKinsey & Company survey revealed a disconnect between what employers believe are the reasons employees are quitting, and the actual reasons employees are quitting. 

What Managers think are the driving factors for turnover:

  • Work-life balance
  • Physical and emotional health
  • Pay 

Interestingly enough, pay is only cited as the root cause in fewer than 1 out of every 10 employees who quit.

In fact, the McKinsey survey suggests that pay increases and bonuses alone (while well-intentioned) might even have the opposite effect as a retention tactic, signaling to employees that they’re simply viewed as a business transaction.

While those factors are important to employees, they aren’t as important as managers believe. When asked, employees revealed different reasons for leaving: 

  • 54% don’t feel valued by their organizations
  • 52% don’t feel valued by their managers
  • 51% don’t feel a sense of belonging at work 
team meeting behind glass wall

Ask…Then Act

How to address these issues in your employee retention strategy may vary from person to person and company to company, but you won’t know until you ask. Here are some common examples of what employees want from their employers that are more relational than transactional:

  • Support their career trajectory. Offer paid professional development, ongoing training, and mentorship opportunities. Show them how they can advance within the organization, and help them do it.
  • Create common goals. Clear goals give employees a sense of purpose, ownership, and motivation. Otherwise, they start to feel like a cog in the wheel.
  • Flexible scheduling. Let them come in a little later in the morning so they can get the kids to school. If they worked late one night, tell them to leave early before the weekend. Consider offering a hybrid work option, or even switch to fully remote work if the situation allows. A little give goes a long way.
  • Boundaries. Showing that you care about their personal lives outside work goes a long way. Create (and stick to) boundaries when it comes to work expectations after hours and on weekends. People don’t live to work, they work to live.
  • Give recognition & praise. Whether it’s during morning announcements, in an email to the entire company, or through an employee engagement platform like Cooleaf, showing that you appreciate your employees is a small action that makes a big impact.
  • Show empathy. We are in the people business, first and foremost. Empathy and compassion in the workplace is a vital leadership skill that is proven to increase employee job performance. 
  • Communication. Don’t leave employees in the dark. Create an open and transparent communication environment by conducting weekly one-on-ones between managers and their direct reports, provide ongoing feedback, and perform first day/week/monthly check-ins with newer hires. Create an internal communications portal to keep employees in the know of important company news and happenings.
team pizza lunch with woman laughing

Build a Sense of Community

Put the unity in community to create belonging. Whether you connect virtually or in person, building community will increase engagement.

  • Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. A Deloitte study found that 39% of respondents would leave their current organization for a more inclusive one where they feel comfortable being themselves and can build authentic relationships with their coworkers. 
  • Make time for fun at work. Give employees the autonomy to log off a couple hours early at the end of the week and crack open a beer while playing trivia in the break room. Get a prize wheel and let them spin it for some company swag or gift cards. Hold a spirit week during football season. Host virtual team challenges. Make it fun, not forced.

When it comes to employee retention tactics for your company, don’t assume you know what employees want. Instead, go straight to the source — ask your employees. Their answers might surprise you! Let their feedback guide your company’s retention strategy this year and beyond. 

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