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7 Employee Retention Tips From the Experts

Isidora Markovic
Isidora Markovic

In the saturated, competitive waters of the international job market, it’s no secret that employee retention can determine whether your company sinks or swims. 

It’s also no secret that retention is a growing problem. By 2023, it’s estimated 1 in 3 will voluntarily quit their job. The context of this alarming projection is a decade of rising year-on-year churn. 

Churn isn’t cheap - when employees leave, there are several costs employers are left to absorb. From dampened team morale, to lost productivity, to the cost of recruiting. Annually these individual costs amount to a staggering $1 trillion for U.S. businesses. 

Gen Z and Millennials are entering the workforce in greater numbers and have a novel relationship to their jobs. Unlike their predecessors, they are less likely to consider their current job a long-term commitment, and have fewer qualms jumping ship to competitors offering a more enticing proposition.

Is there a way to stop this rising global trend in its tracks? Read on for seven insights from CEOs and HR Professionals on how to curb churn and improve employee retention...

Tip 1: Recognize employees

“Ten years ago, I decided to transform our organizational culture by focusing on our people.” says Kerry Wekelo, COO of Actualize Consulting. What did this transition consist of? Infusing their company culture with “gratitude at all levels”.

This change was enforced in order to create “mutual respect by handling challenges with a focus on appreciation of others, celebrating success, and making the team feel valued”.

When organizations reorient themselves to become gratitude-focused, “this trickles down to how each team member shows up each day - in the workplace and at home”. By encouraging employees to acknowledge each other’s successes, mutual gratitude rises, and along with it, job satisfaction. Unlocking employees satisfaction safeguards against turnover.

Actualize Consulting reaped the rewards from implementing a recognition-rich culture - their  “high turnover rate of 33% dropped to under 1%”. And it’s been a change that’s had long-lasting effects. In the four years since, they’ve not seen churn rise above 4%.

By leveraging the power of recognition, (and this encompasses both peer-to-peer recognition and managerial recognition), they managed to reduce their employee turnover rate from double the national average (15%), to a third of the national average.

And what does recognition-giving look like in action? Michael Doolin, MD at Clover HR notes “it doesn’t have to be big. It can be as simple as just saying thank you for getting a task completed on time or recognizing an employee’s effort into a particular task”.

💡eduMe top tip: Encourage cross-departmental peer-to-peer recognition by using employee recognition tools like Bonusly.

Tip 2: Invest in wellbeing

According to a 2019 Gallup study, 28% of full-time employees reported feeling burned out at work "very often" or "always." Burnout is unmanaged workplace stress that negatively impacts individuals, leading to depletion, mental distance from their job and reduced efficiency.  

Chronic burnout leads to higher rates of absenteeism, and if left unchecked, eventual turnover. Burned-out employees are 2.6 times more likely to be seeking another job than their non burned-out counterparts.  

Investing in employee wellbeing is key to mitigating churn. It’s especially important to prioritize wellness in our current climate, where an ‘always on’ work culture poses an invisible threat to organizations.

As wellbeing is holistic, it must be tackled holistically. One-off gestures or health-related initiatives are only part of the picture - a fruit basket in the office or gifts given in isolation are insufficient to remedy a heightened state of mental stress alone. So what else can employers do? 

Some things Actualize Consulting introduced, alongside externalizing gratitude by recognizing colleagues, were:  

  • ‘Gratitude Videos’ created by their CEO for each person in the company to show appreciation and support 

  • Regular phone calls from COO, Kerry Wekelo to see how individuals were faring inside and outside of work

  • Small group chats hosted by partners to ease fears by chatting openly on subjects like new business pipeline and company stability

  • Frequent and transparent communication to address concerns    

  • Mailed care packages that included immune system supplements, a writing pad with daily gratitude prompts and a ‘Great Place to Work’ flag

  • Virtual cooking, mindfulness, comedy and yoga events 

  • Starting wellness challenges on staying healthy and connecting with others

  • An increase in flexibility and a broadening of their wellness benefit for child-related expenses such as tutoring or childcare

💡 eduMe top tip: Take a pulse survey regularly to check-in with employees and employee sentiment, e.g. how they are starting the week feeling, or what initiative they’d like to see introduced. What is a Pulse Survey? Read more here.

Tip 3: Provide training and development opportunities

“At the beginning of the year, we published our study on Employee Turnover and the reasons why people decide to quit their jobs...We found that a staggering 83% of people would consider quitting their job because of no progression, making it the no1 reason which would lead someone to resign” - Stavros Triseliotis, Insights & Communications Specialist, CareerAddict

“We know all employees crave learning, growth and development opportunities”, says Halelly Azulay, CEO of TalentGrow, reflects. It’s true -  86% of employees believe it’s important for employers to provide learning opportunities. Among millennials this number rises to 87% - 18% higher than non-millennials.    

But “annual, or even quarterly, training events will simply no longer cut it in this new paradigm”. Instead, to secure success “employers need to be strategic, intentional, and proactive about informal learning”. 

So what does a quality training program look like? Identifying individuals’ knowledge gaps and creating learning material that bridges these gaps is only the first step in the process. Employees don’t just want to “learn” but to “continue iterating their skills and knowledge base”.

In order to satisfy employee learning and development needs in an ongoing manner, training needs to be delivered in an ongoing way. Learning is not a one-off event - it’s a lifelong journey - so avoid approaching it as such. This will keep feelings of stagnancy at bay.

Once you’ve set up a continuous learning program, this should be complemented by and reinforced with “ongoing feedback”. This will help illuminate employee knowledge gaps on an ongoing basis, so you can keep crafting valuable, powerful personalized learning experiences for them. 

💡 eduMe top tip: Add feedback to incorrect and correct answers in your mobile training platform to better embed knowledge, promote retention and reinforce positive learning outcomes. Why is immediate feedback important? Read about it here.

Tip 4: Seek feedback and check-in

“Frequently assessing the pulse and temperature of employees through impactful workplace surveys is one way to hear first hand what’s on the minds of employees. Managers should frequently check in with their employees to see how they are doing and to see if there is anything that can be done differently to support/ With COVID, many employees are feeling an abundance of stress and anxiety." - Tawanda Johnson, Human Resources Thought Leader

The importance of empowering employees with a voice can’t be overstated. Those who feel heard are 4.6 times more likely to perform at their very best. 

Feedback doesn’t just improve an employee’s satisfaction, performance and loyalty, it also gives you the information necessary to keep improving your employee experience. Whether that comes in the form of new wellbeing based initiatives, or streamlining your continuous learning program in line with identified knowledge gaps.

Dmytro Okunyev, Founder of Chanty echoes the value of conducting “frequent employee surveys”, which Chanty sends out at “at least once per month”. By doing this, they are able to identify  “what we’re doing well and what needs improvement”, which ultimately will help “them feel better in the workplace”.  

Unsurprisingly, the ‘secret’ to retaining employees lies within employees themselves. You just need to make a habit of asking. 

💡eduMe top tip: proactively seek frequent feedback from employees with Pulse Surveys. What do employees think of their recent training? Employees will value being given the autonomy to curate their own learning journey. It will also help you inform your learning strategy.

Tip 5: Create a sense of community

Feeling part of a community and greater retention are closely linked. 51% of employees who reported having a “best friend” at their workplace also reported feeling connected to their company and working with passion, compared with only 20% of those who didn’t.

75% who had a best friend at work also planned to be with the company for at least another year, compared with 51% who didn’t.  

This exemplifies the importance of community in anchoring employees, instilling a sense of belonging and subsequently, loyalty. Team building activities play an integral part in creating community, and they don’t need to be carried out in-person in order to foster tight-knit team dynamics either.

Laura Handrick, a HR Professional at Choosing Therapy, embarked on a project with “a culture committee” to “identify ways to engage employees”, offsite and onsite. The initiative culminated in the introduction of ““monthly trivia nights, team and virtual scavenger hunts, group outings and Zoom games”, strengthening personal relationships among team members and increasing loyalty.

Any company can mandate that managers book in more catch-up time with their direct reports. Bryan Mattimore, Co-Founder of Growth Engine Innovation suggests creating a team building initiative that goes beyond the expected and makes you stand out from the crowd. 

One way he suggests doing this is setting up  “different activities designed to reflect and champion the company’s values”.  This could involve cross-team story sharing, i.e. “having an assigned team member share a story about how one of the company’s values has been put into action”. 

Stories that showcase the company's values in action could center around another team member’s actions, an organization in the news, another company, or even a “currently-released movie”.  Afterwards, the different strands of discussion should be summarised and disseminated via “text, e-mail or video”.  

The more you create experiences that are unique to your company, the more indispensable you become as an employer. 

💡eduMe top tip: encourage employees to share best practice with peers - newcomers and established staff alike. They can do this by taking a video using their smartphone, which can then be distributed to the whole team at a click of a button via your mobile training tool.

Tip 6: Align people around a central vision

“Retaining your best employees through a challenge and a crisis like Covid can be daunting. What has worked for me and my best advice to leaders on building a strong team of loyalists is to rally everyone around the central "why" - why does our company exist?” - Bryan Clayton, CEO, GreenPal

Your vision and mission statement are your company’s reason for being. Companies rated highly on ‘purposeful mission’ see 49% lower attrition.

Your employees can’t derive a sense of purpose or meaning from the work they do if you aren’t sure of your own reason for being, or have failed to communicate it adequately. 

A strong, clearly communicated vision and mission better bond employees to both company and each other by uniting everyone around a shared ‘North Star’. But they are also an opportunity to hammer home your competitive edge - why your reason for being outshines competitors’. 

“One of the most effective ways of increasing engagement and retention is by developing and activating an Employee Value Proposition (EVP).” says Kaitlyn Holbein, CEO of The Employer Brand Shop. An EVP  “is “the ‘what’s in it for me?’ factor that answers why candidates and employees should choose to work for your organization, rather than working for a competitor”.

It’s also not something that should be brought up just once during onboarding then forgotten. To stay top of mind, it must be reiterated - “infuse this messaging across your employee experience and lifecycle to remind employees about all the great things associated with working at your organization”.

Don’t forget to focus on the bigger picture - if your company achieves its vision, what impact will this have on the world? Larry Sternberg, Fellow at Talent Plus, advises that in addition to making “sure each employee truly understands why their job is important” make them understand “how you are making a positive difference in peoples’ lives”.

💡eduMe top tip: create a concise microlearning lesson that provides an overview of your vision and mission, for every incoming employee. Create a short video using Lumen5 and ask questions at the end to make sure everyone is aligned.

Tip 7: Reward hard work

You can give tangible or intangible rewards to employees to incentivize them, or to express your gratitude for a job well done.  Tangible rewards encompass things like financial compensation while intangible rewards encompass things like words of affirmation or managerial praise. 

Which reward is most appropriate to give when depends on the outcome you are looking to achieve. A gift card, or referral bonus for example would be a short-term motivator - they ensure loyalty and incentivize employees up until the point of monetary exchange. 

If seeking to ensure loyalty longer-term loyalty through leveraging tangible rewards, they must be recurring. Alex Capozzolo, Co-Founder of Brotherly Love Real Estate shared that the company “provides bonus incentives even for non-sales positions”. 

But these incentives aren’t one-offs - if the company closes “on a property, our office staff receives a small percentage of the profit we make once we flip the house”, every time they flip a house. This initiative saw their retention rate increase by 15%, “from 70% to 85%”. 

A similar effect could be achieved by giving employees a stake in the company by offering stock options. This tangibly connects their success to yours, motivating them to not only stay, but work harder in order to raise their stock value.  

💡duMe’s top tip: Send out announcements recognizing individuals for hard work. These can be text or video, departmental or company-wide.

The takeaway...

Recognition, wellbeing, ongoing training, seeking feedback, reinforcing your vision, building community and rewarding employees are all tried and tested strategies for improving employee retention rates.

But the skills that are required to make any of these initiatives successful, and therefore are actually at the heart of improving employee retention, are active listening and empathy.

Employees are a company’s lifeblood. Without all their individual efforts occurring in tandem, your company would cease to exist - your success is merely a reflection of theirs. 

So focus on facilitating their success first, and the company’s will follow as a natural by-product. What do your employees want? Once you know the answer to this, how best to retain them becomes a breeze. 

Are you experiencing churn? eduMe is a remote tool to train, inform and engage modern workforces.

Through gamified learning, pulse surveys, video messages, and a whole host of other features, eduMe helps companies like Uber and Deloitte to provide training, community build, vision align and improve overall wellbeing, so that they can better retain their people.