Employee turnover is a major problem, and there are many factors at work, including generational factors, the economy, sweeping changes in the workplaces and more.
Nearly 70% of organizations report that staff turnover has a negative financial impact due to the cost of recruiting, hiring and training a replacement employee and the overtime work of current employees that’s required until the organization can fill the vacant position (BLR). All things considered, it’s been estimated that a lost employee can cost six to nine months of that employee’s salary on average.
Learning the following actionable 15 strategies will help you reduce employee turnover and retain the talent you need to run your company.
But first, let’s preface all these strategies with the most important principle of all: In order to retain and engage your employees, you must truly care about them. No strategy will overcome a lack of empathy or appreciation for your employees.
Okay, now for the strategies!
1. Provide more positive feedback
We all know that employees need feedback to improve and to do their best work — both positive and constructive advice. But in what proportion?
A study on Harvard Business Review shows that the ideal ratio between positive and negative suggestions is 5.6 (positive) to 1 (corrective).
Positive feedback should be given frequently to motivate employees and to give them the determination they need to do their best work. But constructive and corrective feedback is also important, particularly when there’s an urgent issue that needs to be nipped in the bud.
Moving forward, become more aware of how many negative comments you’re saying to your employees in relation to positive comments. Move the ratio towards six positive comments for every negative comment.
Your action step: give each employee one positive bit of feedback each week.
2. Give your employees an opportunity to grow
Many companies promote people from outside of the organization and don’t offer ongoing training and education for their workers. Because there is no way to advance or improve, employees become disillusioned in their roles and are less likely to stay.
Per Sharon Florentine at CIO, ongoing education makes employees feel valued and gives them something to look forward to. When there is a clearly laid-out path for advancement, your workforce will feel like they are a critical part of the company’s success.
By promoting from within and implementing a training program, or by leveraging outside resources and tools (such as workshops, books, online courses, etc.), you can create a powerful incentive for your team members to stay over the long haul.
Employees see these initiatives as an investment in their future.
Your action step: find a course or a book for your employees to study this month. Tailor the resource to the individual.
3. Challenge your employees in a balanced way
Doing the same thing day in and day out can lead to boredom and apathy. On the other hand, getting your employees to complete difficult projects or jump through too many hoops could make them feel demoralized and ambivalent about their future in the company.
Kristi Hedges, contributor at Forbes, notes that finding the balance between challenge and support is rarely easy. This is because every employee is different, and what one might find rewarding another might find tedious and too complex. Hedges suggests:
- Expressing belief in your employees. Leaders are in a position of authority, and when they express the potential they see in them, their belief in self grows.
- Pushing people out of their comfort zone. Give them a chance to take a risk.
- Seeing failure as a learning opportunity. Process failure together by learning from it.
- Encourage a growth mindset. Reward effort — not just talent and brains.
Your action step: determine which of your employees are looking for more to do and give them one added responsibility this week. Empower them by providing the tools they need, and give them full responsibility over the project instead of micromanaging them at every stage.
4. Encourage creativity
Although many companies say they value creativity, they don’t necessarily have any initiatives or policies in place to support it. Google, for example, has a 20% program in which their employees are given the opportunity to work on side projects that interest them.
Michael Poh, freelance blogger at Hongkiat suggests the following steps for encouraging creativity in the workplace:
- Offer rewards. If you’re going to encourage suggestions, take them seriously. Recognize and incentivize employees that contribute in a tangible way.
- Provide an outlet. Not all employees are going to want to be named or recognized for their ideas. Create opportunities for both public and private contributions or feedback.
- Set up innovation teams. These are individual teams that are tasked with coming up with ideas on a specific topic.
- Demonstrate the value you place on creativity. Encourage risk-taking.
- Hire a variety of different people. Creativity will not come from a group of people that all think alike.
- Have fun. Create a positive working environment where creativity and spontaneity can occur.
Your action step: this week, give your employees 30 minutes of creative time to brainstorm ideas or work on side projects that interest them.
5. Foster respect in the workplace
More than ever, people are looking for respect at their jobs. They don’t want to feel devalued or unimportant within an organization, which can result from a lack of respect.
CEB’s Quarterly Global Labor Market research showed that the top five things people look for in a new job are:
- Health benefits
- Work-life balance
Respect is one of the top three things jobseekers are looking for. Does your workplace value respect as highly as workers do?
A culture of respect can be fostered by implementing many of the strategies suggested on this list, including: feedback, recognition, encouraging creativity, collaboration and so on.
It is also essential to empower your team members with the tools and resources they need, and demonstrating kindness and thoughtfulness can also go a long way.
Your action step: this week, say “thank you” to employees that hand in their assignments, greet them with a smile and a cheery “good morning” as they arrive, and instead of interrogating them about work they need to complete simply ask if they require your help in any way (and provide them with the help they need if they ask).
6. Earn the trust of your employees
Employees perform better when they trust management and the people assigning them tasks. They are more likely to achieve the goals that are set for them when they believe in the person that’s getting them to do the work.
Forty-six percent of employees stated that a lack of transparent leadership communication is driving them to seek new employment. Meanwhile, 79% of highly engaged employees have trust and confidence in their leaders (Novarete).
If you haven’t implemented an employee engagement program, there’s a good chance they don’t trust you as much as you think they do.
As you’re looking to create more trust with your employees, it will be necessary to:
- build personal connections
- emphasize honesty and transparency
- motivate your team members
- give credit and shoulder blame
- avoid favoritism
- demonstrate competence in your work
Your action step: this week, make it your goal to get to know each of your employees a little better. Have open-ended conversations with them, and make them feel welcome and free to discuss what’s on their mind.
7. Encourage your employees to give you feedback
It’s one thing to give feedback to your employees, but you must also accept feedback from them. When workers don’t feel like their thoughts are being heard, they assume the company has no interest in improving or pursuing worthy ideas.
Many employees have a tendency of thinking that nothing will change, even if they do propose something new.
Hay Group found that high levels of employee engagement can boost revenue by 2.5 times (KaiNexus). This extends into providing them with the right tools and resources, offering feedback and so on, in addition to encouraging them to give you feedback.
Remember, there needs to be opportunities for both public and private feedback, and it never hurts to thank those who offer their suggestions. Create a culture where staff members feel comfortable offering their thoughts.
Your action step: ask your employees to offer their feedback on an important project this week. For example, it could be about company culture, a high-level executive decision or a new development in the marketplace that may require your company to adapt.
8. Include your employees
No one wants to feel excluded in an organization they are a part of. They want to feel like they were hired for a reason and that they are playing a key role in helping the business achieve its objectives.
Josh Bersin, founder and principle at Bersin by Deloitte, found that companies who deliberately work to encourage inclusion, diversity, development planning and leadership development in their culture were 3.8 times more likely to be able to coach people for improved performance, 3.6 times more able to deal with personnel performance problems and 2.9 times more likely to identify and build leaders.
This is just one of the stunning findings on companies that make diversity and inclusion a priority.
From hiring and leadership assessment to development and performance management, you will need to take a top-down approach to a culture of inclusion, and there are no shortcuts to getting there.
Your action step: this week, have a conversation with each of your employees individually. Or, have an open-ended strategic meeting and ask each of your team members what their thoughts are on their role within the company. Listen and take note of what they say.
9. Encourage a healthy work-life balance
Many organizations have high expectations for their employees. But for workers, this can mean less time devoted to personal care, leisure activities and family.
OECD found that roughly 12% of employees work very long hours in the United States. This is slightly less than the average 13%. But full-time workers in the U.S. only devote 60%, or 14.5 hours of their day, to personal care and leisure, which is less than the average 15 hours.
When your team members are well-rested and have adequate time to care for themselves and their families they will also perform better at work.
Establishing regular work hours, policies for working on weekends or work-from-home programs can offer your team members the flexibility they need to bring their best to work every single day.
Action step: identify people in your company that are overworked this week. Give them a bit of time off, or get everyone out of the office for a walk.
10. Connect with your team
Part of employee engagement and enablement is taking time to connect with your people, and we’ve already seen how employee engagement can have a dramatic impact on the effectiveness of your company.
When your workforce feels connected, it gives them purpose. It helps them carve out a niche within their department or team, and it helps them see how they are contributing to big-picture objectives.
Per Peter Economy, full-time ghostwriter and best-selling author, “The secret to unlocking this unlimited source of energy for your company is to build and strengthen the bonds between you and your employees. When you trust and respect your people — and really connect with them — they will respond with commitment and enthusiasm.”
You can bring out the best in your workforce by allowing them to express their ideas, recognizing their contribution, empowering them with the tools and information they need, giving them opportunities to grow, and so on.
Companies can accomplish this best through corporate philanthropy programs, like employee volunteering and corporate giving. Studies show large companies have reduced turnover by 50% using CSR programs. IBM alone attributes a $600 million return on their $200 million CSR program investment. Fortunately, companies large and small reap the benefits.
Your action step: connect with your team members outside of your place of business this week and consider using that time to bring your team together to give back to the community. Get more out of your time away from the office with pro bono employee volunteering; a great career development and team building opportunity.
11. Offer a competitve base salary or hourly wage
Your employees want to feel like the effort they put into work is worth their time. When it comes to employee retention money isn’t everything, but offering a competitive wage can help your people feel like their work and time is valued.
According to Chron.com, “Regardless of a person’s field, she wants to know her compensation is competitive with what others who perform similar work are earning. Salaries need not be the highest in your area but should be among the top. Paying low salaries means top people will leave and low performers will take their jobs.”
Your team members need to be able to cover their cost of living and to feel like they are doing good, rewarding work. If you aren’t sure, research what a competitive salary would be for your employees and start paying them what they’re worth.
Your action step: review current wages, and determine if you need to make any adjustments to be competitive.
12. Avoid sudden changes in the workplace
Change may be inevitable, but it can also be very stressful. You may need to introduce new initiatives and systems in your company to keep up with growth or to strengthen quality assurance. But forcing too much change too soon can affect employee retention.
Towers Watson found that employee attitude can be affected negatively by organizations going through significant change.
We all like to think of our employees as strong people, capable of adapting as necessary. But without ongoing communication — especially with regards to the status of their job — your workers can begin to feel fearful for their future in the company.
Many entrepreneurs have found that introducing one change at a time is more manageable for workers than many changes at once. Instead of trying to implement broad, sweeping changes it would be wise to go about it gradually.
Your action step: determine whether your employees are under any undue stress this week. If you have a plan in place to bring about changes within the company — assignments, job descriptions, polices, systems and so on — consider slowing the projected timeline for completion.
13. Create a clean and safe environment for your employees
Dirtiness and clutter is distracting. And if people sense that danger is near, they’re going to have a hard time focusing on the work they need to do.
To achieve this end, you may need to carry out risk assessment to identify potential hazards and dangers in the workplace. You may also want to update your health and safety policies and put additional processes and procedures in place to ensure a safe working environment.
And although we are talking about employee retention here, it may also be necessary to let go of employees that are harassing, causing distractions or not cooperating. This will be for the better of all involved — ensure the comfort of the many over the few.
Your action step: put a plan in place to keep the workplace organized, and do a risk assessment this week.
14. Give your employees the tools they need to succeed
If you’re going to set goals for your workers, you need to give them the tools, resources and information they need to succeed. All too often, employees are left to their own devices without any direction or guidance. Is it any wonder they fail to hit a target they cannot even see?
Abigail Phillips, editorial director at WDM Group notes, “We’ve all heard that ‘a team is only as strong as its weakest link,’ but the number of business leaders choosing to ignore this sentiment is staggering, as they are more concerned with their own development and less so with their employees. Not a smart move.”
If you want to help your employees succeed, you need to be in regular communication with them, asking them specifically about the project they’re working on and if there’s anything you can help them with to bring it to completion. You need to be willing to share your knowledge and to mentor and guide them.
Your action step: this week, assess whether any of your team members are uncertain how to proceed with a project. Ask what they would need to move forward with their assignment, and provide it for them.
15. Provide adequate rest periods for your employees
In the U.S., long hours in the office is often worn like a badge of honor, and hardworking entrepreneurs are glorified and celebrated. But people are not machines, and when pushed too hard for too long they will succumb to illness, fatigue and unnecessary (but sometimes costly) mistakes.
According to Chron.com, one-third of workers eat lunch at their desk, and 16% hardly, if ever, take a lunch at all.
It’s one thing to support an employee that’s driven and wants to make a significant contribution to the company. But for every determined and ambitious employee, there are many others that would collapse under the pressure of stress and overwork.
If employee retention is your goal, then it’s important to provide adequate rest periods for them. This will help reduce stress and sick days. Depending on the state, this is also a matter of regulatory compliance.
Your action step: this week, try adding an additional 10 minutes to everyone’s rest period. Observe whether this makes any difference to overall performance and morale.
You’ve just learned about 15 distinct strategies that can help you retain your best workers. This is a lot of information to absorb, and might even be overwhelming.
So, instead of trying to affect change at a foundational level, why not begin work on just one strategy this week? Start with something you know needs to be addressed in your company sooner rather than later. Don’t put it off. Take action this week, and put your new knowledge to good use.