Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Dan Scalco – Owner and Director of Growth at Digitalux. His opinions are his own.
Employee retention is one of the most important—and most overlooked—facets of running a successful company. Research consistently finds that retaining top talent is essential for maintaining institutional knowledge, high morale, satisfied customers, and even sales growth.
In contrast, employee turnover is a drain on the company’s staff and financial resources. Losing key employees can limit productivity, damage morale, and cost as much as (or more than) the departing employee’s salary during the process of finding and training a replacement.
While the majority of managers assume that employees are most likely to leave a role because of inadequate salaries, the reality is that a number of factors can contribute to employee turnover, including a lack of effective management, a dearth of advancement opportunities, feeling unappreciated, being chronically overworked, and so on.
This means your employee retention strategies need to be aimed at improving and incentivizing all aspects of the employee experience. In addition to paying your employees well (which remains a critical factor in employee retention), here are eight effective strategies to keep your top talent around for the long haul.
1. Invest in employees’ professional development
When employers invest in their team members by providing them with opportunities to learn new skills or knowledge, it signals an investment in their present and future career growth. In fact, up to 42 percent of employees feel their job satisfaction hinges on having opportunities for career development. This could look like paying for employees to attend conferences or workshops, offering tuition reimbursement, creating an in-house mentoring program, and so on. It’s also important to promote from within whenever possible.
2. Establish clear-cut expectations and policies
When employees feel they don’t have a clear grasp of their job duties, company policies, and the performance metrics by which they’ll be evaluated, it can prove tremendously frustrating and damage morale to the point that employees may be tempted to look for employment elsewhere. Luckily, there’s a simple solution: Communicate with employees to ensure they have a crystal-clear understanding of their job duties, company policies, and so on, and provide employees with regular feedback so they know how they’re being evaluated. Just as important? Make sure these policies are employed fairly in order to avoid having them backfire.
3. Offer a benefits package that is truly beneficial
This should include (but is certainly not limited to) high-quality and affordable health insurance, life insurance, ample sick leave and vacation time, family leave, and a retirement savings plan. Beyond these staples, every company should consider what would truly serve the needs of their employees. Flexible scheduling, stock options and other financial incentives, child care, gym memberships and/or fitness coaching, and sabbaticals are all popular benefits. Solicit your employees’ feedback to learn more about the benefits that would truly enhance their lives and wellbeing, and consider allowing for customizable benefits options to account for the fact that different demographics of employees (e.g. Boomers versus Millennials) tend to be motivated by different factors.
4. Create a culture of open communication
Morale improves significantly when team members feel free to speak their minds, share their ideas, address conflicts and other grievances, and participate in the company’s evolution. Ensure that your managers are committed to open, transparent, and respectful communication, and encourage this behavior in every member of your team. An added bonus of these practices is that they will enhance trust in senior management, which is another key factor in maintaining satisfied employees.
5. Make it a priority to help employees feel valued
Employees contribute a huge percentage of their daily lives to enhancing a company’s bottom line, so it’s essential that they feel respected and valued. Make sure employees are treated fairly and that management consistently acknowledges team members for jobs well done and for the effort they put into their work. While a simple “thank you” is a good first step, you can provide greater rewards in the form of bonuses, raises, promotions, paid time off, and gifts that provide actual value to employees’ lives. If you’re not sure what rewards would most appeal to your employees, go ahead and ask.
6. Don’t overburden employees
All the benefits in the world can’t compensate for chronic overwhelm and burnout. Overworking employees can lead them to losing focus and eventually giving up on their projects. Your employees will have the energy (and the desire) to stick around longer if they aren’t constantly overworked. Thus, it’s essential to ensure that no member of your team is being asked to do too much. Encourage your team members to prioritize healthy workloads and work-life balance, and make sure your managers are modeling these behaviors so employees feel comfortable doing the same. While you might fear a productivity dip if your team members scale back their workloads, research suggests that working less (which typically equates to stressing less) can actually result in even greater productivity.
7. Provide employees with meaningful work
Today’s employees—particularly millennials and other younger workers—care just as much about doing meaningful work as they do about having a job that pays the bills. That’s why it’s so important to provide team members with varied tasks, stimulating assignments, and opportunities to make a real difference at the company or in their communities. Philanthropic programs, opportunities for community engagement, social programs to facilitate bonding between coworkers, and unification around a shared vision for the company can all help provide employees with a sense of meaning on the job.
8. Understand why employees stay
Most businesses make a habit of conducting exit interviews, but very few of them take the time to understand why some employees choose to stay. Soliciting your team for insights into what compels them to remain at the company is invaluable for identifying the policies that are truly contributing to your employee retention strategy and for learning if there’s any room for improvement. The key is to be open to this feedback and to allow it to shape your internal policies.
Here’s what employee retention really boils down to: Do you treat your employees with integrity, as if they are human beings with their own needs, personal lives, and goals who are inherently worthy of respect? If the policies and practices of your company all align with that question with a resounding “yes,” then you’re well on your way to retaining satisfied team members for life.