The Most Effective Employee Retention Strategies You’re Probably Not Doing

By: Christina Zurek
happy employees in meeting
A new wave of hiring is here as pandemic restrictions fluctuate across the country and businesses ramp up production and services to meet rising demand.
But many recruiters are struggling to find the talent they need due to significant labor shortages that affect filling both new jobs and back-fill positions. In a talent market this intense, there’s fierce competition for top talent among recruiters seeking to lure away current employees.
That’s why you need a strong defense for your talent strategy right now. We’re on the brink of what many are calling “The Great Resignation,” and when it’s this difficult to fill open positions, the last thing you want to see are valuable employees voluntarily walking out the door.

Make Your Employees A Strategic Priority to Cut Back on Turnover

Since 2020, business leaders have seen the stark impact of wellbeing on engagement, productivity and employee happiness. A business is nothing without its workforce, so making your employees a strategic priority is, unsurprisingly, key to performance.
People have an innate sense of wanting to belong in all aspects of life. The workplace is no exception. Employees increasingly want to work for companies that treat and support them as individuals, not just assets responsible for producing results. According to the 2021 Metlife Employee Benefit Trends Study, employee wellbeing is predicted to have the greatest impact on the workplace of the future. The pandemic saw a seismic shift in how employees want to work in the future and what they expect of their employer. Let your people know their value and impact to the overall organization.

Common Reasons Why Employees Leave

1. Lack of appreciation. 
If employees are doing a great job but are never getting any reassurance that what they’re doing matters, why would they continue to perform? It’s important to make sure they know how their work aligns with the company goals and objectives—the bigger picture. According to Forrester research, lack of recognition is the top predictor of burnout. Organizations must be aware that employees—at a basic level—want to feel that they have made a positive contribution to the work they are doing and understand how that work fits into the company as a whole. Appreciating your employees’ contributions to the organization increases their feelings of self-worth, and, along with that, their overall performance.
2. Not feeling heard and/or valued.
From the founder of the company to a newly hired individual contributor, every single employee wants to feel heard, valued and trusted. They want to believe that the work they are doing has a purpose and that their time is appreciated. Making your employees feel as though they are part of a team and that their presence in the workplace is necessary is a key factor in maintaining higher levels of retention.
3. No mobile work flexibility. 
Work from anywhere now applies across industries, from tech to banking and even to industrial companies handling manufacturing or supply chain management. Companies embracing this trend are perceived to offer greater flexibility and autonomy, both of which are magnets for talent right now.
4. Low levels of purpose. 
When employees feel a lack of purpose in the work they do or stuck in a role without growth potential they often disengage. That’s why it’s so concerning that just 18% of employees surveyed by McKinsey feel they have as much purpose as they like in the work they do. To help your people find that deeper purpose, help them internalize how their individual contributions support your organizational mission and purpose.

What Today’s Employees Are Looking For

When it comes to employee retention strategies many people immediately think of traditional tactics like monetary compensation, tenure-based recognition and benefits. But times are changing and, while those things matter, there are other needs employees are prioritizing.
What can you do as an employer of choice to really keep your employees—even so much that they refer others to your organization?
Today’s employees are looking for:
  1. Meaningful acknowledgement of their contributions to the organization
  2. Achievable performance and productivity goals
  3. Career development opportunities
  4. Better work/life balance
  5. Meaning and purpose in the work they do

Strategies & Resources to Help You Retain Employees

1. Create a culture of appreciation. 
Appreciation culture is an effective way to develop emotional connections between your employees and your company, which in return can motivate them to stay loyal and dedicated to the company culture.
Useful resource: Want to show your employees that you care about them? Put these employee appreciation tactics into play for year-round recognition results.
2. Support the psychological needs of your employees.

Purpose is deeply rooted in social psychology and relates directly to the aspirations a person has for who they want to be. These beliefs are formed by our experiences and strongly drive our behavior, including the degree to which we engage as employees. This is important because companies with highly engaged employees not only have happier, more fulfilled employees—they also boast lower rates of turnover.

Useful resource: When you focus on the ways you can enhance the psychological needs of your employees, you can have a strong impact on employee loyalty. Learn how.
3. Provide flexibility in the workplace.
The pandemic has transformed flexibility from a desirable perk into a powerful people practice that many employees (especially top talent) will expect in the future—one that is expected to endure well after COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror. Talk with your employees about what they want. A “work where you can do your best work” embraces the importance of finding the right balance between the needs of the business and the personal needs of our team
Useful resource: Over the course of the pandemic, we regularly surveyed our team members to better understand the pandemic’s impact on them and to inform our decisions about what needed to change (and what didn’t) because of it. Here’s what we learned.
4. Invest in skills development programs. 
Business disruption coupled with evolving technology is creating a shift in skills needed leading to a lack of appropriately skilled employees and partners. According to Gartner, the number of skills required for a single job is increasing by 10% year over year, and over 30% of the skills needed three years ago will soon be irrelevant.
Useful resource: While the skills gap is accelerating faster than ever, skills development programs can help show your people you are committed to helping them grow and evolve to remain part of your organization long-term.

Engagement Leads to Commitment

By showing appreciation, reinforcing purpose, empowering your people and promoting development, you’ll build a strong, engaged workforce ready to stay with you for the future.
Need more tips for creating and sustaining an engaging employee experience that helps retain your team members? Download our ebook, Improve Retention and Engagement by Enhancing the Employee Experience.

Christina Zurek
Christina Zurek

Christina is an experienced leader with a passion for improving the employee experience, employee engagement and workplace culture. Few things excite her as much as an opportunity to try something unfamiliar (be that a project, development opportunity, travel destination, food, drink or otherwise), though digging in to a research project is a close second.