According to Pew Research, most workers who quit jobs in 2021 cited one or more of these reasons: low pay, lack of advancement opportunities, and feeling a lack of respect at work.1

The struggle to recruit and retain talent has been an issue for years. HR leaders have been contending with high employee turnover rates and difficulty finding new hires for years, long before the Great Resignation got its name.It’s undeniable that turnover and hiring are expensive, and keeping your most productive employees doesn’t just save your company the money it would otherwise spend to replace them. When you retain your best workers, you cultivate a workplace culture that attracts more and better job candidates, and you help protect your profitability.

So what can you do to help ensure that your current employees stick with you? The tactics you use to meet the strategies may vary, but be sure to address these seven objectives:

  1. Recognize employees’ contributions and make sure they feel appreciated.
  2. Monitor employee workloads to make sure they’re fully utilized — and not overworked.
  3. Create growth opportunities — professional, career, and personal.
  4. Hold managers accountable for establishing and supporting positive environments.
  5. Check in with high-risk employees and/or teams.
  6. Make applying, interviewing, and onboarding easier.
  7. Explore innovative ways to meet employee needs and differentiate yourself as an attentive and thoughtful employer.

Asking the following questions can help you make sure you’re doing all you can to support your recruiting and retention goals.

How Do We Recognize Employees and Show Appreciation for Their Hard Work and Loyalty?

Low pay is high on the list of reasons for quitting a job, but a salary increase alone is often not enough to retain an at-risk employee. Besides, salary increases can have multiple unintended consequences that ripple across an organization over the long term. But companies that succeed at retaining great workers show appreciation in a lot more ways, like

  • Department or company-wide awards or recognition programs
  • Nominal and discretionary gifts like swag and gift cards
  • Employee and family appreciation events
  • Profit sharing, bonus programs, or other employer-sponsored benefits
  • Revisiting healthcare benefits to ensure they’re affordable and effective

Maybe one of the most overlooked — and easiest — ways to show appreciation is to thank employees often. Recognize when they put in extra effort, and acknowledge it in an immediate and public way. A simple “Thank you” really can go a long way.

Do We Know if Employees Are Overworked or Underutilized?

Proactive leadership means digging in to ensure employees are appropriately challenged without being pushed toward burnout. It’s important to keep in mind that overworking employees can lead to diminished productivity and lower quality work. Productivity tools like time trackers and project planning software can help gather data and report on employees’ work, as well as help managers proactively balance workloads and plan ahead.

It’s important to understand that underutilized employees are more than just wasted resources—they’re also more likely to disengage. Overwork, on the other hand, can become seriously detrimental to employees’ physical and mental health if it’s not addressed. Every employee has a unique capacity and set of needs, so connect and try to meet them where they are.

Do Employees See a Career Path or Professional Development Opportunities?

If they don’t see a way to grow and increase their earnings, many employees will find their way to the door. That doesn’t mean every worker is looking for a fast track to a leadership role. Development can mean different things to different people, including:

  • Taking on new responsibilities and challenges
  • Learning new technologies
  • Cross training with other departments
  • Engaging in workplace culture committees or events
  • Formal and informal educational opportunities

What’s important is to survey the opportunities your organization offers, and make sure they support the culture you want your workplace to embody.

What Are Managers Doing to Make Work Life Better?

One thing too many leaders fail to recognize is the risk created by a poorly performing manager. It’s been said that employees quit bosses, not jobs, and there’s plenty of evidence both supporting and refuting that claim. But if you consider that managers represent a key link between the company and its employees, you’ll want to hold managers accountable for strengthening that link.

Help managers develop their skills in providing praise and constructive criticism. Give them the tools they need for communication, employee assessment, and professional development. And then hold them accountable with regular check-ins and bottom-up feedback from their teams.

How Do We Identify Churn Risk and Intervene?

There’s more to identifying at-risk employees than monitoring workloads, and no one wants to end up on the back foot with an employee who’s already received an outside offer. But what else can you do?

As an organization, be proactive and make sure your compensation is competitive — and identify and correct internal inequities. Make sure workers have access and time for adequate training to perform their work well. Keep eyes and ears open for workers who may be facing challenges outside the workplace, and find ways to help support them. And listen for negativity, which can spread like contagion if left unchecked.

Do We Ask for Feedback from Candidates and Employees?

Soliciting employee feedback is not just a great way to survey your workplace climate—just the act of asking workers what they think and how they feel demonstrates your value for their opinions and commitment to co-creating a better company.

You can use quarterly or semiannual surveys, or you can solicit feedback in employee development and review processes. Lots of businesses still use the time-tested suggestion box, and effective leaders often hold doors-open “office hours” when any employee is welcome to walk in and chat. These are all great ways to check in.

But recruiting feedback is also important, and human resources can ask candidates and recent hires about their experiences in the process of applying, interviewing, and onboarding, to identify issues and make improvements.

Workplace Culture Adds Recruiting & Retention Value

Full-time workers spend a large fraction of their lives interacting with colleagues, managers, customers, and the workplace. So it makes sense to do everything you can to build a strong culture in which employees have a sense of shared ownership and purpose.

An employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a meaningful benefit that closely held businesses can use to reward loyal employees while cultivating a culture of ownership that supports productivity and profitability. Learn more about the ways company leadership can strengthen that culture when you download our guide. 

Also, look into our newly founded research findings on employee benefits and retention.

1Pew Research, Majority of workers who quit a job in 2021 cite low pay, no opportunities for advancement, feeling disrespected, March 9, 2022.

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