Retaining Top Talent Series | Part 3: What to Do About Employee Retention

By Marilyn Weiss | Loyalty & Retention

Mar 05

This is the final installment in a 3-part blog series about retaining employees. We started by looking at what makes employees stay at companies, then we considered what makes them leave. Today, we wrap up with some ideas on what organizations can actually do to affect employee retention. 

Throughout our deep dive into employee retention, we’ve looked at a lot of research about what makes employees stay or leave companies. While staying and leaving are two very different things, I noticed the research on each actually emphasizes some of the same things, which is why you see them mentioned in both of the previous blogs in this series. Those things are development, culture and managers. That is, an organization’s development, culture and managers are so critical that they are the key reasons people stay, and the key reasons people leave.

I think this is fascinating, so while there are countless things you could do to impact whether people stay or leave, I’m choosing to focus on these three areas that seem to equally impact people, positively or negatively:

Development

As a reminder, employees are 3x more likely to look for a new job if they don’t believe they’re growing or developing1, while 83% of employees say training is a factor in their job happiness2. Employees are sending a clear message here: Invest in them to keep them. Organizations need a development plan in place for every single employee, and they need to hold managers accountable for taking this important action. Employees also need to understand that development often doesn’t come in the form of a promotion – it usually involves lateral moves throughout an organization, stretch assignments in their current roles, or training that expands their knowledge. Human Resources plays an important role in communicating this idea of a horizontal “career lattice” vs. a vertical career ladder.

Culture

It’s hard to fully articulate the importance of company culture – it has a bigger impact on employee retention than the benefits package does1! And yet, nearly a quarter of employees say their company culture doesn’t fit with their values3. If employees can’t see themselves in an organization’s values, they’re much less likely to be loyal. How to tackle this? Start by ensuring the organization’s values are clear, and that they’re truly embedded and acted on at all levels. The most successful organizations don’t just paste values on the wall, they bring them to life by training incoming employees on their expectations for behavior. These organizations have a way of talking about their culture and values that wouldn’t immediately make sense to someone coming in from the outside, but that reflects a shared consciousness around “what it’s like to work here” and what’s expected from each person. When culture and values are that clear and overt, employees can more easily understand whether their own personal values align.

Managers

Employees who are unsatisfied with their bosses are 4x more likely to interview for other jobs1, while 81% of people say they’d work harder for a more grateful boss4. Direct managers are where company culture and values come to life for most employees, so they play a critical role in whether employees stay or leave. And yet, in many organizations people become managers because they’re promoted based on how good they are at their jobs, not based on displaying key leadership competencies. Even more, once they become managers, there’s often no training on how to do this critical job well. Organizations need to change how they identify and promote people to lead others, focusing more on leadership qualities like empathy and the ability to inspire. They also need to put in place leadership training that sets clear expectations and gives managers the tools to succeed in leading others. Then, managers need to be held accountable to how their employees evaluate their leadership, so effective management is truly part of their job description, and their compensation.

As I conclude this blog series, I want to take a step back from all the research we’ve been examining. I hope the data will provide some helpful insights for my readers, but if you want to know the unique reasons your employees choose to stay or leave, you need to spend time with employees to uncover deeper insights about their experience. LINX WorkForce Innovations helps companies do this, using qualitative research methods that have helped brands better understand their consumers for the past decade. Then, we partner with our clients to develop custom action plans based on their unique opportunities. We’d love to work with you to build loyalty with your employees so they choose to stay – not leave – and contribute their best efforts to increase your business performance.

Not surprisingly, the few companies that get this right are winning big. Teams with high engagement are 21% more productive5 and companies with highly satisfied employees outperform others by 2-4% per year in long-run stock returns6.

1TINYpulse Employee Retention Report

2Ceridian Pulse of Talent survey

3Korn Ferry: Breaking Boredom: What’s Really Driving Job Seekers in 2018

4John Templeton Foundation gratitude survey

5Gallup: Managing Employee Risk Requires a Culture of Compliance

6Harvard Business Review: 28 Years of Stock Market Data Shows a Link Between Employee Satisfaction and Long Term Value

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About the Author

Marilyn has a passion for Workforce Wellness. As co-founder of LINX WorkForce Innovations, she is keen on discovering and amplifying the “Voices of Employees” who are the “Consumers of the Workplace,” so that the right WorkForce solutions can be co-created the first time. Previously, she co-founded SIVO Insights where she provides thought leadership and creative thinking for Fortune 500 companies by uncovering consumer insights and experiences. For every endeavor, she believes in the power of a strong company culture, based on authentic connections, innovative approaches and a growth mindset.

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