4 Simple Steps to Improve Employee Retention

The United States is still in the thick of the Great Resignation, and companies are feeling the strain. A combination of economic factors, the aftermath of a pandemic, and a workforce with more options than ever has left thousands of companies desperate to find new employees.

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But as any good HR department knows, there’s a chicken-and-egg scenario involved with recruitment and retention. The better your retention strategies, the less you’ll need to concern yourself with recruitment. And the better your recruitment, the more you’ll be able to retain employees, as you’ll have done an effective job of describing your company’s values and needs. Retention becomes an essential piece of the recruitment puzzle and one that’s too often overlooked. If you’re spending all of your time trying to find new employees to fill open roles but never concentrating on how to make sure the employees you currently have will stick around, you’ll find yourself on a hamster wheel of recruitment and constantly needing new applicants in your hiring funnel.

But what does focusing on retention really look like? Recruitment can feel like a more active activity, whereas retention feels more like conserving the status quo. But in reality, there are concrete steps you can take to improve your employee retention and ensure your workers don’t jump ship.

Retention doesn’t have to look like higher paychecks, more complicated titles, or overlooking mistakes. Here are four simple employee retention strategies to consider implementing in your business so you can hop off the hamster wheel.

Survey Your Employees

The first step is the most obvious one, yet it’s so overlooked. You can brainstorm a thousand and one retention ideas, implement practices you’re sure will keep employees around, and still be facing a major resignation problem. Why? Because you didn’t ask your employees what they actually need. What you think employees want vs. what they actually want aren’t necessarily aligned. Open communication is key to employee retention, and the pandemic made that clearer than ever. Employees may no longer be gathering around a watercooler, but you still need to create avenues for conversations about important company topics. So before you dive in headfirst with fancy programs or a long list of retention goals, reach out to your employees to see how they’re doing. Do they feel like they fit in at your company? Do they understand the tasks in front of them? Is there something they really wish were a part of your benefits package? Whether done formally or informally, these types of conversations can be really eye-opening and help you keep your workforce satisfied enough to stick around. Furthermore, by asking employees how happy they are in your current role, you’re reminding them that your company actually cares about them and wants them around.

Create a Mentorship Program

A common reason employees jump ship is they feel like their career isn’t going anywhere. If someone feels like he or she is staring down a dead-end job, it makes sense the worker would look for employment elsewhere. A mentorship program may be able to help solve that problem. Employees can learn from people who’ve been in their industry longer and troubleshoot any difficulties they’re facing. If employees have resources at their disposal to advance their careers, they’re much more likely to stay with your company. A mentorship program shows you’ve taken an interest in your employees and you want them to be both satisfied and successful. It helps them see their role in your organization at large and feel like more than just a cog in a machine. Effective mentorship programs may even save you resources on training, as mentors can show new employees the ropes in certain areas. Moreover, you’re empowering more experienced employees to have a role in the next generation of workers, which can help them feel utilized and worthwhile. Newer employees can offer more experienced ones a fresh perspective, as well.

Acknowledge Milestones and Achieved Goals

Everyone likes to feel affirmed, and your employees are no different. Make sure to take the time to acknowledge things like 5-year milestones or major goals achieved. This could be as fancy as a reception for employees who have worked with you for 10 years or as simple as a shout-out in the companywide newsletter when an employee really knocks something out of the park. Again, it’s about making people feel seen, heard, and understood. If the only time you’re really communicating with your employees about how well they’re doing is during an annual performance review, that may no longer be enough. Consider implementing monthly one-on-one meetings instead during which you can go over the work employees have been doing and make space to congratulate them on a job well done. You could also think about having some type of perk, like extra vacation days, a bonus, or a sabbatical, once employees reach a particularly impressive milestone (i.e., every 5 years).

Put People First

Lastly, make a commitment to put people first. You obviously want your business to be profitable; that’s the point of a business. But many companies are facing a sometimes uncomfortable reckoning with the importance of treating their workers like human beings. If one of your employees really wants to make it to his or her daughter’s softball game, what’s your company doing to make sure it can make that happen? If somebody is struggling with an intense pregnancy, is she able to work with your HR department to complete some of her work on her own schedule? If an employee is struggling with a difficult task, is your first reaction to help him or her work through it, or do you reprimand the person for not doing a better job? No matter how high of a salary a different company is trying to woo them with, employees will always hesitate to leave a company that really cares about them. The overarching idea of putting people before policy is going to go a long way for your company.

Claire Swinarski is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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