The 4 Most Important Employee Retention Strategies That Actually Work*
Retaining employees is one of the most crucial factors in running a successful business. Not only is employee turnover expensive, it can stifle growth, and decrease morale and togetherness in the workplace. Fortunately, there are a few key strategies that can help any organization keep people around, and see continued success.
Being transparent and honest with employees
Good communication goes a long way in any setting, and miscommunication leads to more complicated issues over time. Simple misunderstandings can manifest into much larger problems if employees are afraid to clarify, or if they aren’t given proper instructions the first time.
Mistrust, employee conflict, and general confusion about objectives and goals are also results of miscommunication, and can lead employees to no longer feel like they fit within an organization. This obviously isn’t good for employee retention.
Let’s face it –– employees can tell when you’re being dishonest or misleading. Not letting team members in on important information, or failing to field requests and have intimate conversations will make your employees feel “left out.” Business leaders can help avoid these communication issues by making it a point to foster positive relationships with each employee, and taking the time to listen and learn from those in lower levels of the organization.
Transparency is a huge factor in making employees feel included. To increase transparency and trust, ask for feedback from your team members, and give periodic updates on the state of the business to all employees. This can make people feel like they belong, thus reducing their risk of attrition and that “outsider” feeling.
Giving positive, individualized feedback
Telling someone that they did a “good” or “bad” job on a particular project is easy. Giving individualized feedback and coaching, however, is much more nuanced. Coaching is different than teaching, and requires consistent analysis and input from the leader. When team members are given thoughtful feedback, not only do they have a lower risk of turning over, engagement is increased as well.
Coaching is a skill that requires consistent practice and takes time to develop.
Employees who get individual attention feel valued because they’re being actively encouraged to improve. If a team member sees themselves as a “worker bee” who just shows up, works, and leaves, they have a far weaker connection with the values of the organization than they potentially could.
Helping employees zero-in on what exactly is stifling performance can pay huge dividends for any type of business. Listening effectively, paying attention to how specific tasks are done, and helping employees understand why you’re giving them feedback are all crucial steps to achieving high-level coaching skills.
Encouraging employees to contribute at a higher level
Making employees feel like their voice is important increases their commitment to the project, and encourages them to become more invested. A common problem across industries is that lower-level employees have great ideas that they’re afraid to express. Generally, there’s a reason behind this tentativeness, and explicitly letting employees know that they are encouraged to speak up is the most effective way to make sure they do.
Once team members get the confidence to speak up, they’ll be more inclined to think “big- picture” which will increase performance and productivity. In return, their commitment to the business will increase, and make them less likely to leave. An issue that often arises (especially in larger organizations) is that those at the top of the meritocracy become out of touch with those underneath them, thus creating a disconnect that is difficult to remedy. Encouraging team members to “communicate up” can help avoid this chasm of misunderstanding.
Giving clear expectations, and staying consistent
When employees are caught off-guard, it can reflect badly on management. Team members who feel “in control” and comfortable at work are far more likely to stick around. Comfortable employees also make for a happier overall workplace. If expectations and standards are made clear, team members find it easier to trust their superiors, and will be more inclined to reach goals if they are concrete and well established.
One great way to make expectations clear is by setting effective SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-framed). SMART goals leave no room for confusion, and help team members feel justified in what they’re working on. If someone is even slightly unsure about what they’re trying to achieve, and why they’re trying to achieve it, their commitment to the project is essentially nonexistent.
Putting it all together
Reducing employee turnover is no easy task by any means. Unless business leaders take deliberate steps to make sure their organization is happy, healthy, and high-performing, there is a good chance that attrition becomes a big issue.
Having managers who can exact these strategies is crucial to increasing employee retention, and proper leadership training is one way to ensure that they do. Creating a culture of retention starts with having effective leadership, and having effective leadership starts with making sure leaders have the skills to manage those they oversee.
*Adapted from an article by Tom Post, Vital, September 2017