July 26, 2022

4 Simple Ways to Improve Employee Retention

What does it take to keep new and long-term hires? Here are four things your company should be doing to improve employee retention.

job interview at a desk

4 Simple Ways to Improve Employee Retention

An executive at a high-profile company recently conducted an interview with a promising candidate. After a series of subsequent interviews and phone calls, the executive made the decision to hire the candidate. The new hire completed their paperwork, signed onto the company email roster and prepared for their first day on the job… 

…and then walked out of their very first meeting, never to return. The last thing they told their new boss? “I need to go to the bathroom.” As it turns out, the candidate received a call from another company, and decided to pursue a different job opportunity. 

Here’s another scenario: an employee began his first week on the job and was conducting stellar work. Excited about the promise of a new career opportunity at an up-and-coming advertising agency, the employee signed off for the week, hoping to demonstrate their skills the following Monday. 

However, when Monday did roll around, the employee never showed up for work. When the organization reached out to him to follow-up on his sudden disappearance, the employee called back and told them he’d just been through the worst break-up of his life. He simply couldn’t get himself out of bed, and decided to take his chances by no-showing to work.

While surprising, these scenarios aren’t actually as uncommon as you might think. Despite ample effort on the part of employers, employee retention is at an all-time low, with countless examples of impromptu resignations transpiring at major organizations worldwide. 

There’s a reason employee engagement is such a hot topic among company leaders, executives and HR decision-makers right now: simply put, organizations are losing their best workers to competitors, personal challenges and a host of other factors. Known in some circles as the Great Resignation, or The Big Quit, young professionals are increasingly leaving their old jobs — and employers are paying for it. 

The numbers paint a stark, concerning picture. Somewhere around a third of all employees are currently looking at a position other than the one they’re currently working, with more than 30 percent of workers citing an interest in leaving their job. On top of that, a significant number of them are changing fields altogether, with plans to gain additional education in preparation to pursue a different career track. 

What’s causing this? Some sources point to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, with people increasingly choosing to change their life trajectory after a major social event. Other sources cite a nearly 60 percent burnout rate among millennial and Gen Z workers, who are working longer hours for less pay than their parents did at comparable ages. 

While it might be tempting to blame new work trends on a generation of employees who have largely dispensed with a “company loyalty above all else” mentality, the reality is that in order to keep good talent, executives are going to have to play ball. 

So: how do you — an executive, hiring manager or other organizational decision-maker — keep your workers around? 

By changing your hiring practices and improving your employee culture in these four meaningful ways, you’re far more likely to experience long-term employee retention. 

What does it take to keep new and long-term hires? Here are four things your company should be doing to bolster your workforce of young professionals:

Create a clear career path for advancement opportunities

Young professionals don’t want to chase a carrot on a stick. Instead of vague promises about the future of their careers, millennials and Gen Z workers need to know that there’s a career path laid out in advance for them.

In practice, this looks like documenting and showing your workforce exactly what advancement opportunities within your organization look like. How long does an employee need to work one position before advancing to the next? Are there specific milestones that need to be met before advancement happens? What does your promotion track look like, and are there examples of employees you can point to who have been rewarded for their work?

Young professionals won’t settle for doing the same rote tasks over and over again, so it pays to help them advance in their field. Additionally, millennials and Gen Z workers will appreciate knowing if there are any ways they can get on the “fast track” to advancement. 

While this might sound like a lot of legwork to keep your workforce around, the reality is that failing to provide a path toward advancement will lead to employees looking for advancement opportunities in other places… namely, your competitors.  

Don’t give them that chance. 

Offer opportunities for growth, learning and contribution

In addition to advancement opportunities, your workforce should feel like each day is a new opportunity to grow, learn and contribute to your mission. Nobody wants to feel “stagnant” in their position. In fact, it’s better to offer challenging and difficult tasks over the same routine work each week. 

That’s because employees want to feel stretched. They’ve worked hard to attain the skills they have, and now they want to show them off. How can you give them opportunities to demonstrate those skills? Moreover, how can you widen their skillset even further? 

Providing employees with learning seminars, giving out tickets to attend work-related functions and offering subscriptions to educational modules are great ways to increase your employee engagement AND train your workforce to improve at their jobs. 

In addition to educational opportunities, employees also need to feel like they’re actively contributing to the mission of your organization. How are they valuable? What do they offer the company? Would your organization be just fine without their position, or are they a crucial component of the company? 

Employees want to feel like the latter, not the former. Feeling valuable and worthwhile is key to not only employee retention, but also employee engagement, employee morale and employee satisfaction. 

If you haven’t already, start putting together a company mission statement, and be sure to remind workers of how their contributions are helping you to actively achieve that mission. 

Introduce a strong leader with coaching skills

One of the top reasons employees leave their jobs involves poor leadership. Bad managers or uninspiring executives can cause an employee to look elsewhere for leadership — somewhere that’s not within your walls. 

Part of being a strong leader involves having a detailed, concrete vision for the company. But there’s more to it than that: a great leader also needs to act as a mentor and coach to their employees. Doing so will keep employees invested in the company long after they’ve signed on to work for you. 

Unfortunately, coaching skills aren’t simply learned “on the job.” Many leaders who think they possess what it takes to properly coach employees would be shocked to find out what their employees thought of them in anonymous survey results. 

Instead of using a “guess and pray” coaching mentality, consider training your leaders with actual coaches before asking them to coach employees. Doing so leads to guaranteed higher satisfaction rates among teams — not only that, but it also contributes to better job performance. 

infographic describing 4 ways to improve employee retention.

Provide external personal support   

A final, but crucial, component of employee retention involves creating external personal support for your workforce. Young employees’ lives don’t revolve entirely around their jobs — each of them have personal obligations, romantic lives, friends, families and distinct needs. 

When it comes to providing employees with resources, some companies take an inside-out approach, insisting that their workforce can speak confidentially with their manager about any problem they’re experiencing. 

The problem with that mentality is that young workers don’t want to be perceived negatively by their organization. As a result, when a manager notices a team member experiencing difficulties, that team member is far less likely to open up about those challenges to their boss.  

Instead, creating outside opportunities for your workforce to talk through their challenges with a trusted source, such as a coach, is key to keeping your workers around. Through coaching or other means, every worker at your business should have a means to talk through whatever life challenges they’re experiencing — doing so will show them that you have their best interests in mind, regardless of what it means for the company. 

Engaging employees and increasing retention is possible

It’s a tough time to be a company leader. As a high-achieving professional, you might be used to things working according to plan. Unfortunately, a perfect plan will falter if it doesn’t have the right talent to carry it out. 

For these reasons, it’s crucial that you cultivate, grow and engage your workforce. To do so, make sure to provide each and every one of your employees with a path toward career advancement, growth and learning opportunities, an opportunity to work with leaders who have coaching experience, and resources for external personal support. 

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