1. Employee retention and engagement starts at the leadership level
If there was an award for the most-used human resources buzzword, “employee engagement” might win. But that hasn’t always been the case. Mulligan says that when his company first started publishing the report 15 years ago, it predominantly canvassed administrators involved in recruitment and training. These days, employee engagement is considered a “business imperative at all levels,” according to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report, as more organizations realize the impact that an engaged workforce can have on the bottom line.
“Employee retention and engagement will never be higher than your leader,” Mulligan says. “Everyone is an employee within the organization, from a frontline employee to the CEO. And we have to be concerned with the engagement at all levels.”
Many leaders don’t consider that they might be an impediment to employee engagement, however. “Leaders, especially frontline leaders, will underestimate the influence that they have on the engagement and retention levels of their teams,” Mulligan says. “They will cite schedule, pay, the work itself before themselves.”The first step to getting leaders engaged in their teams is to show them the influence that they have. But, the TalentKeepers report concludes, fewer than half of organizations measure the engagement effectiveness of individual leaders.
Mulligan recommends that businesses track leadership engagement metrics. For instance, tracking turnover rate by the leader, in order to understand how many people leave a leader’s team, is essential data every human resource team should monitor.
2. Really listen to employee feedback, and follow-through
Engaged leaders are effective communicators and listeners who are able to build trust among their employees—and trust in the cornerstone of employee retention. Jenn Hyman, the co-founder and CEO of fashion rental service Rent the Runway, tells Inc. that listening to employee feedback is both key to her leadership style and a regular part of her company’s business operations.
Every six months, Hyman distributes anonymous employee surveys to her staff members in one-on-one meetings. In this survey, Hyman assesses the happiness of her employees and the satisfaction they feel with their leaders. After the results have been reviewed, action plans are created for the whole organization. “It’s the follow-through that’s so critically important,” she says.
Communicate your intention to conduct an employee engagement survey in advance to ensure you get valuable feedback. Employees are sceptical about the idea of honest feedback-even anonymous feedback-may feel reassured through advance preparation.
3. Create and support an inclusive culture
An Arizona State University study reveals that corporations are losing more women and minority professionals than their male and white counterparts. The high quit rates and employee retention challenges have been linked to challenges in adapting to workplaces and, in some cases, to lack of support from managers.
For instance, a McKinsey and LeanIn.org study shows that women, especially women of colour, are less likely to have managers support them in the workplace. Compared with entry-level men, women at the same level are less likely to have their work accomplishments promoted to their colleagues, to obtain assistance with navigating organizational politics or to receive the same opportunities to engage in social activities outside work.
“If you don’t create the conditions for people to stay, you can do an amazing job at hiring and then people aren’t going to stay,” says Diego Scotti, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at Verizon, in a Wall Street Journal interview. According to Scotti, despite initial progress in hiring women and people of colour, it’s an ongoing struggle for marketing agencies to execute effective employee retention strategies.
In partnership with the nonprofit Center for Talent Innovation, Verizon is now tracking factors that influence women and minority workers to stay or leave marketing, communications and media jobs. These efforts include a national survey, employee interviews, and focus groups.
4. Invest in employee growth opportunities
Money is rarely the main reason people leave their jobs. An engagement survey at Facebook revealed that people were leaving because of the work and the roles they were in.
In a Harvard Business Review article, the authors write, “Managers can play a major role in designing motivating, meaningful jobs. The best go out of their way to help people do work they enjoy—even if it means rotating them out of roles where they’re excelling.”
Another big reason employees leave a job is a lack of career advancement opportunities. Says Mulligan, “Clearly, career growth needs to happen more quickly, when 68% of organizations are experiencing their highest turnover sometimes within a new employee’s first 12 months on the job.”
In order to keep ambitious workers, one retention strategy is to provide more "in-role growth opportunities" so they can advance more rapidly. For instance, stratify entry-level positions into six positions instead of two or three, Mulligan advises. Employees can advance every six months instead of waiting two to three years. Role levels do not necessarily entail pay raises or new titles.
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5. Go deep with exit interviews
Known as a leader on work-life balance (read: mandated employee surf breaks ) and for its unusually low employee turnover rates, outdoor clothing company Patagonia is known for doing things differently. Its approach to exit interviews is no less unique.
Dean Carter, the company’s chief human resources officer, told an audience at the Qualtrics X4 Experience Management Summit that he has been moved to tears during exit interviews. He suggested starting the conversation from the beginning, with how employees came to join the company in the first place, rather than why they are leaving: “After that, it’s ‘Did we do that?’ ‘What was the experience we delivered for you?’ ‘Where was the difference in that?’ ” he said.
Organizations are increasingly using "stay" interviews to retain employees. During these interviews, the employer explores and understands why employees want to work for the company and what it will take to keep them.
Employee retention means investing in your employment brand
It is difficult to engage employees of all types and stripes in a meaningful way - but it is even harder and more costly to replace them. Leaders and companies that invest time in figuring out what employees need to stay engaged in their jobs will be most successful in retaining them. Having a strong employee retention strategy will also result in happier, more productive employees who inspire and elevate those around them.
Author : Alex Samur
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