How to Build an Employee Retention Strategy

Human magnet attracting and maintaining employee retention; Performance Development Group.

by Rich Mesch

According to a recent survey, 52 percent of those surveyed are looking for a new job, up from 35 percent a year earlier. You read that right—over half of the people surveyed are actively pursuing other professional opportunities. To give some perspective, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) ran the numbers and reported that it takes an average of 42 days to fill a regular job position. The math is sobering—what if just 25 percent of your workforce left?

The following strategies can help your organization with employee retention while planning for future excellence.

Focus on Top Performers

Since top performers are the most in-demand and are the most expensive employees to replace, retaining “A” players should be a primary focus for any organization. Take the time to really get to know your stars and make sure to give them the opportunities and recognition they deserve. Keep them engaged by offering exclusive training and stretch exposure that includes projects related to the most serious challenges your organization faces. When you integrate this type of activity into individual development plans, you can create a win/win for your company and your “A” players.

You also may want to consider rethinking succession planning. Top performers generally know their worth, and if they don’t see a rising future with your company, they may seek out other options. Make sure you have solid development strategies in place for the employees you want to retain and share those strategies to keep them motivated and engaged.

Businesswomen talking in the office conducting stay interview
Conduct Stay Interviews

Many companies conduct exit interviews, which may be useful from a hindsight perspective but are too late to retain valued employees. Forward-thinking employers also conduct “stay interviews” to help learn why employees stay in their jobs. The information collected helps confirm the benefits employees see in sticking around. It’s also a chance to collect data from loyal employees about what makes their job harder than it should be, which helps identify pain points within the team or organization.

SHRM provides potential questions to ask during stay interviews, (for example, What do you look forward to when you come to work each day? and What would make your job more satisfying?). As the answers come in, collaborate with managers and the human resources team to look for patterns where the action is needed.

You may even want to consider engaging an external firm to conduct stay interviews to better assess and evaluate turnover risk. Conversations between managers and employees may not reveal underlying issues because the employee doesn’t feel comfortable sharing authentic responses. Stay interviews conducted by third parties may uncover real risk factors and reasons employees would consider leaving.

Female professional giving a high five to her colleague in conference room. Group of colleagues celebrating success in a meeting.
Recognize Performance

The Achievers report found that 74 percent of employees want more recognition for their work. To keep employees engaged, it’s critical to provide managers with a sustainable cadence for recognizing performance. Be sure to support managers by training them on that cadence and hold them accountable for following through with their team members.

Since managers are on the front line when assessing employee performance, they play an essential role in effective employee recognition. Provide managers with various ways to show public and private recognition to employees, and coach them on the importance of being specific when providing recognition. Such feedback should include what the employee did, what strengths they applied, and how they positively impacted the company or team. And of course, set an example by recognizing the managers who are successful at recognizing others.

Pay Attention

A great way to keep valued employees is to ask them the right questions, listen to their answers, and act on what you learn. These tips can help you meet your employees where they are and come up with mutually beneficial outcomes.

Find out what’s on their mind

Three ways to assess the current status of your culture include focus groups, employee spot surveys, getting out of your office and walking around, observing, and listening to employees. Use the information from these approaches to develop an employee retention plan and include a diverse cross-section of employees to aid in its development. Make sure remote employees are involved.

Embrace virtual work

Several recent surveys you can review here, here, and here all point in the same direction—a significant percentage of workers prefer either a hybrid workplace model or the option to work from home full time. Moreover, 42 percent of current remote workers say if their current company doesn’t continue to offer remote-work options long term, they will look for a job at a company that does.

Pulse of the american worker infographic
Source: Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey conducted by Morning Consult in March 2021

Make engagement a two-way street

People engage with their employers in a variety of ways. Take the time to create and implement thoughtful and deliberate internal communication strategies that use multiple distribution channels and ensure that communication isn’t just in one direction. And building and supporting processes that allow employees to share honest feedback can help an organization identify trends, gaps, and opportunities.

Finalizing Your Employee Retention Strategy

When you consider the time and effort it takes to re-fill just one vacated role, it should be clear that retaining valued employees should be a top priority for any company. A carefully considered employee retention strategy can help minimize the effect a “Great Resignation” could have on your organization.

When it comes to keeping your organization’s top talent on board, it’s vital to look into ways you can improve your employee retention strategy. Download the Ebook to learn how to create a future-ready workforce.

Need an Employee Retention Strategy?

When it comes to attracting and keeping top talent, you need a solid employee retention strategy. Download the eBook, How to Create a Future-Ready Workforce.

Rich Mesch

Rich Mesch has been working in the performance improvement space for over 30 years. An ideator and creator, he works with some of the world’s largest companies to solve business challenges by improving human performance. He is the host of the podcast “Real Impact!”, co-author of the ATD/Wiley book “The Gamification of Learning and Instruction Fieldbook,” and a frequent blogger, conference speaker, and contributor to industry publications. Rich is the VP, Consulting for Performance Development Group.

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