Turn Great Resignation into Great Retention

Kelly Murphy

Although awareness of the so-called Great Resignation remains important, we need to transition to the Great Retention movement in our workplaces. If we retain our top talent, the need for recruitment isn’t nearly as daunting.

Business owners often focus efforts on recruiting talent with such shiny new objects as sign-on bonuses and relocation and tuition reimbursements. But what about existing employees? When you hear about companies offering new customers $50 off monthly services, how does that make you feel as an existing customer? Thinking about how your work force feels about the enticement for new employees might be the same as your reaction: What about me?

According to Indeed.com, fully 86 percent of surveyed candidates believed employers must actively entice existing employees to keep them from leaving. Such tools as stay interviews, upward appraisals and satisfaction surveys provide insights into what companies do well and what they could do to retain employees. Don’t wait until they’re already committed to leaving to have the conversation with them as many do with exit interviews. More than ever, it’s important to remain mindful of organizational culture, including unwritten rules.

A recent study conducted through Indeed offers important results  about what employees want: 59 percent want higher pay, 58 percent want flexibility in scheduling and 56 percent look for work-life balance. Remote work comes in close behind at 54 percent.

What should employers look for to develop more desirable workplaces? Let’s explore some options:

Analyze. Review such analytics as turnover rates to understand benchmarking in your departments. If certain areas exceed industry standards, dig into the reasons.  Does a manager need retraining or additional resources? Has a competitor moved in the area?  What’s causing employees to jump ship?

Anticipate. Use such tools as stay interviews to gauge how employees perceive working conditions and management support. What is the company doing well and not so well?  Use this information to increase awareness of positive things and work on negative things. Remember to watch for outliers that could skew results.

Act. Following a change model method, implement changes based on the information gathered. Choose the low-hanging fruit first and demonstrate what steps you take and will take. Under promise and over deliver. But don’t expect employees to just notice changes. Educate and celebrate those changes.

Assess. Once the cycle of change is complete, assess if the desired results were achieved. If not, evaluate what didn’t work and start again. Change never stops. Find other areas to improve.

Successful retention programs typically demonstrate to employees how valued they are. Some programs offer personal and professional development. These programs don’t always require large budgets. Given rising inflation, financial classes offer help in budgeting, stretching income and planning for retirement. When employees feel less stressed about personal finances, they tend to exhibit higher productivity in the workplace.

Here are some other areas to consider:

Identify skills gaps for succession planning and opportunities for growth. This could include asking seasoned employees to develop training programs, team up with new employees or write standard operating procedures. This enforces the value these employees feel while showing new employees they’re worth the investment.

Learn what benefits are meaningful to your work force. Have you had requests for pet insurance? Flex time scheduling? Additional vacation days instead of raises? These are areas you might discover in conducting employee surveys.

Create or enhance an employee recognition program. These plans offer many benefits, including aligning employee values to organizational goals, building a positive employee culture and improving customer service. All this ultimately affects the bottom line. 

Focus on employee engagement activities, and make them fun. According to a Gallup poll, 70 percent of employees aren’t engaged at work. Engaged employees succeed when they feel psychologically safe, depend on their managers to support them, receive clear expectations and accountability and understand the why of their work and how their efforts affect others and the business. A Harvard Business Review study identifed six factors. The top three motivators are play, purpose and potential. Those that hinder productivity include emotional pressure, economic pressure and inertia. How are you combating negative factors and promoting positive ones?

Finally, let’s review some ways to retain top talent already on the payroll. They don’t know what they don’t know. It’s essential to explain the why in a way to create the how understanding. Listening with the intent to hear and not just respond is crucial. If you aren’t going to act on the results, avoid asking for feedback. Reward achievements privately and publicly. Build relationships with employees to ascertain what matters to them. Bring the fun into the workplace and provide opportunities to celebrate. Demonstrate how valuable your employees are by investing in their growth.  

Consider what Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, said: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”