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15 ways you can improve employee retention

Employees are the most valuable asset in every company, which means they should be cared for and safeguarded at all costs. If you don’t, eventually you’ll end up with a high employee turnover rate, which can negatively affect productivity, morale, and the bottom line.

By following the tips outlined below, you can avoid this worst case scenario and keep your employees happier and more engaged. Ultimately, this will improve employee retention and position your organisation to be as successful as possible.

1. Invest in your recruiting and hiring function

Employee retention often begins by simply hiring the right people. And, the best way to hire the right people is to have an effective recruitment team and hiring process that ensures you’re hiring the right people.

When coming up with a hiring plan, make sure you have a thorough understanding of the roles your company needs to hire. Research the skills and responsibilities related to those roles and outline them as clearly and accurately as possible in the job descriptions. If you make the mistake of selling someone a job that’s very different in reality, turnover will be an ongoing problem in your company.

Another way to make sure you’ve got the right candidates in your pipeline is to have a solid HR tech stack. For example, an applicant tracking system that can automate CV screening, or a global mobility platform that evaluates whether or not international candidates will be eligible for work permits. These kinds of tools help recruiters and hiring teams select the right talent from the start, which directly affects retention rates.

2. Create a detailed onboarding and orientation framework

One of the easiest and most effective ways to address employee turnover is through your onboarding program. Companies that engage their employees during onboarding retain 91% of their first-year workers. However, only 12% of employees think their organisation does a great job with onboarding.

To prepare your onboarding program, you need to determine what makes it successful. A good onboarding process is structured and strategic. It should focus on what employees need for short-term and long-term success at your company. Don’t think of it as a one or two day event that’s compulsory, but as the beginning of the employee experience which should be dynamic and ongoing.

3. Foster a diverse and inclusive culture

Even the most generous salary and benefits package can retain talent if they don’t feel comfortable in their work environment. Employees who differ from most of their colleagues in terms of religion, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background and so forth often feel as though they can’t fully be themselves at work. When this is the case, they may “hide” parts of their identity, which makes it hard to tell what they want and need.

In the workplace, diversity is, by and large, understood and accepted. However, that’s not always the case with inclusion—the act of embracing all people irrespective of race, gender, disability, medical or other needs, and giving them a safe space to be themselves. This is a building block of employee retention.

4. Pay competitive salaries

We live in an era where data and information is widely accessible—including salaries and wages. Tools like salary calculators make it easy for employees, as well as potential candidates, to find out the value of their work. If you pay your employees wages that aren’t competitive, it will be difficult to hide that information for long.

One way to counter long-term retention risks is by regularly conducting a salary benchmarking exercise. This plays a key role in ensuring pay consistency and transparency across your company.

5. Offer benefits and perks employees actually want

Between April and September of last year, more than 24 million Americans quit their jobs as part of the Great Resignation. Several factors influenced this widespread movement. One commonly cited is flexibility — or a lack thereof.

A recent study conducted by the Future Forum (via Fortune) shows that 76% of knowledge workers "want flexibility in where they work." More than 70% who aren't satisfied with their current flexibility would be open to looking for a new job this year. Companies looking to boost retention rates simply have to find a way to offer flexible work as an employee benefit.

6. Provide well-being and mental health services

Approximately 40% of employee turnover is a result of job stress. Even when it doesn’t result in turnover, chronic stress leads to poor mental health and can result in a lack of engagement, poor job performance, and low productivity.

Introducing wellbeing programmes, especially those that take a holistic approach, can help employees positively deal with their mental health and emotional distress before it becomes an irreconcilable issue. Solutions range from fostering a work culture where there aren't stigmas around mental health to giving employees the option to see trained counselors or other healthcare professionals.

7. Communicate expectations clearly and often

Communication is necessary when it comes to employee retention. When expectations are clearly set, it’s easier for employees to feel prepared for their jobs and to ask questions for further clarification if need be. For example, when setting performance targets, it’s important to be as tangible and concrete as possible. This provides a benchmark to measure future success against.

8. Recognise and reward success

When employees feel valued, they’re more engaged and motivated. Organisations with formal recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover than organisations that don't. They’re also 12x more likely to achieve strong business outcomes.

When you recognise your employees, it positively reinforces in their minds that their work is valued. This boosts morale and motivation and enhances workforce loyalty. A study carried out in Journal of Governance and Regulation found that reward and recognition were some of the main factors business leaders should address in order to minimise turnover.

9. Give employees more ownership of their work

Often, employees don’t take ownership of work because they’re not quite sure if they should. You can solve this problem by delegating effectively. Delegation is more than just assigning tasks. It’s also about clearly communicating where decision-making power lies and letting your employees hold themselves accountable for their results.

Similarly, fostering an accountable culture means that everyone has a clear understanding about key objectives. Bring your employees into the process. Set a roadmap for your team as a whole. Then ask each team member what they think their performance objectives should be for the quarter and how they’ll execute on them.

10. Practice effective change management

Organisational change can be disruptive, causing employees to become less engaged and productive. Ultimately, this can lead to turnover. Leaders who lead through change, not merely manage the change, will boost retention rates.

It’s important to give employees space to go through the “change curve”, which is similar to the grieving process. They need time to come to terms with the change and what it will mean for them personally and professionally. Additionally, leaders should be as open and transparent as possible and help employees understand the drivers behind a change. Even if employees disagree with the “how,” they might be able to get on board with the “why.” If employees understand the drivers behind the change, they can move through the process in a more positive way.

11. Help with career pathing

Career pathing is another great tactic for improving employee retention. Employees may be afraid to bring up the topic of career development with their managers. However, such talks can be healthy. Encourage them by training managers on how to handle these conversations in positive ways so that employees feel valued and empowered.

Promote the idea of a career lattice. The idea of the career ladder is very common in most company cultures. It’s not meant for everyone, though. An alternative to the ladder is a career lattice, which encourages vertical and non-traditional career moves, as well.

12. Empower through training and development

Similar to career pathing, training and development is also an effective strategy for engaging and retaining talent.  One of the biggest incentives that attracts an employee is the opportunity to acquire new skills in order to grow in his/her career. Investing in employee learning and development not only benefits the employee, but also the company as the employees become better armed to tackle any work  challenges that come their way.

The development opportunities a company provides significantly increases the chances of an employee staying in their current job. An easy way for employers to start with training and development is to look into micro learning platforms. These are corporate learning solutions employed by HR and learning and development (L&D) departments. These training solutions provide employees with short bursts of focused educational content that fit into a daily workflow and are accessible on any device.

13. Prioritise work-life balance

Improving employees’ work-life balance is essential to keeping them happy and ensuring they can do their best work. When people have adequate time for their personal and professional lives, they’re much more content. This translates into greater productivity, stronger engagement, and higher retention.

You can promote work-life balance in your company by providing employees with ample time off, asking them what their ideal work-life balance would be, having clear policies about working hours and expectations, and encouraging management to lead by example and set boundaries.

14. Invest in ongoing training for management

The most common mistake that companies make is only training the senior leaders, as they are the ones with great influence. Even though their behaviour can have a lasting impact on employees, the low-level managers work in more proximity to the employees as compared to the seniors. First-time leaders may most likely make rookie mistakes, when it comes to handling everyday scenarios with employees, like coaching and motivating the team, providing useful feedback, or maintaining discipline among them.

By creating a training management system for inexperienced leaders or managers, you can increase the stats of overall employee retention, not just the high level. You also set the mark for your future leaders.

15. Prepare for turnover

To plan for possible future needs, organisations should have a succession plan in place to train and develop key employees for roles that will eventually be open in the company. This can be done by equipping employees with new skills through short term assignments or on the job training. Succession planning increases flexibility and ensures that the organisation is ready to fill any new roles in the future.

The bottom line

These retention strategies are just some of the ways to increase the well-being and happiness of your employees. Turnover in general is inevitable, but the effects can be minimised by having a sound retention plan in place. At the end of the day, your employees are your most important asset. They should be treated as such.‍

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