Employee Retention Strategies

Preventing Turnover in the New World of Work

High turnover used to be attributed to employees wanting higher salaries and better benefits. But recent changes to the world and the workplace have shifted employees’ mindsets. 

Wages and benefits are still important. But today, employees often leave companies because they feel misaligned with workplace culture, their role lacks meaning or management undervalues them.

This recent shift has created a disconnect between executives and employees. A survey by the management consulting firm McKinsey & Company asked top leaders and employees for the biggest reasons people leave an organization. 

Executives said employees left their company for: 

  • Better compensation
  • Improved work-life balance
  • Physical or emotional health reasons

Employees cited three different reasons for leaving:

  • Not feeling valued by the company
  • Not feeling valued by their manager
  • Not having a sense of belonging at work

How to form better connections

This gap reveals a need to understand employees better and connect them to leadership. The human resources news site HRMorning recommends the following strategies to forge stronger bonds:

  • Regularly host discussion groups. There is a clear need to speak with employees, seek their feedback and act on their responses. Small discussion groups can facilitate meaningful communication and provide insights into workplace culture. Rotate participants in your discussion groups. Including employees from all levels of your organization will help you capture diverse viewpoints and a more robust picture of your workplace.
  • Make executives accessible. One way to increase accessibility is through Q&A sessions with employees. These can be live or virtual. Employees’ questions will reveal pressing issues and provide a blueprint for addressing workplace concerns. Another option is for executives to host short coffee meetings with rotating groups of employees. Limiting these meetings to ve employees will give everyone a chance to share their knowledge and experiences. 
  • Offer skip-level reviews. These are similar to performance reviews, except they are driven by employees. And instead of meeting with a supervisor, employees speak to a leader higher up in the org chart. They’re not meant to undermine or air grievances against a supervisor. Instead, they’re an opportunity to connect employees to leadership and solicit ideas. Employees feel seen, and executives are exposed to opportunities and challenges they otherwise wouldn’t see in their day-today operations.

Tailor your approach

You’ll want to customize your retention strategies based on employee feedback. But there are factors that employees almost universally desire, including: 

  • Professional development: Education and training opportunities consistently rank as a top employee benefit, according to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to increasing employee retention and engagement, professional development makes organizations more competitive and innovative. It also helps identify potential leaders and create career paths for your employees.
  • Workplace exibility: Flexibility isn’t just desirable; it’s the most empowering employee benefit, according to Forbes. It ranked as highly as matching retirement contributions and time-off policies in a survey by the workplace platform company Envoy. Workplace flexibility can mean remote work, flexible hours, compressed workweeks, job sharing, sabbaticals, gradual retirement paths and more. Seek feedback to understand the types of flexibility that are most important to your employees.
  • Deeper meaning: Create opportunities to connect employees to each other and the importance of their roles. HRMorning reports that 50% of employees would leave a company for a more meaningful job. Ideas for connection include employee resource groups (ERGs), which bring together employees with similar backgrounds, experiences and interests. ERGs allow people to share insights and support each other. Best practices include having a top-level executive participate in ERGs to deepen the connection and hear directly from employees. Customer testimonials are another way to make employees proud of their work. Hearing from customers helps your employees understand the value their work brings to people’s lives and livelihoods.
  • Positive culture: A toxic company culture is the top reason employees leave, according to a survey from the job search site FlexJobs. It ranked higher than salary, bad management and work-life balance. Toxic behaviors such as belittling, bullying, harassment, stealing credit and silencing dissent must be eliminated. Transparency is essential to a positive work environment. Openly communicate about good news and bad news. Employees want to be in the know. Earning their trust is vital to retention.

Staying connected to employees needs

Amid a tight labor market and changing expectations, employee retention is more important than ever. 

For more ideas on retention strategies, talk with your benefits adviser. They can help you examine your workplace culture and employee communications. They can also identify professional development, workplace flexibility and other benefit opportunities to engage and retain your employees.

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