So much has been said and written about employee retention over the years, but have you ever noticed that so much of it seems to be focused on blaming the employee? Traditional advice for retention usually revolves around a couple of key areas. The first of these is salary and benefits, but again, the argument is one of finger pointing at an employee. The employee will leave if they can get more money elsewhere, so that means we need to pay more money. This is of course factually incorrect. It has been proven time and again, that you only have to pay an employee an average salary and combine it with a positive work environment and the employee will most likely stay.
The second of these, is that a company needs to have a better hiring policy, because if the employee left, it means they must have been the wrong fit. Again, this is incorrect, you can hire the perfect candidate, but if the company environment is toxic, they are not staying. The answer to employee retention is quite straight forward, a company needs to start focusing on creating an environment that employees will actually want to stay in, instead of trying to pay them more to stay in a bad environment.
Focus on manager capability
I do not know how many times it needs to be said for businesses and HR teams to finally grasp this concept, but people do not leave companies, they leave managers. It is such an obvious and well-known truth, that is supported by countless pieces of research. Despite this, 9 out of 10 first time managers have been promoted without having the required leadership skills. They are promoted on their ability to do the last job, not the next job. Rather than spending insane amounts of money on bean bag chairs and new office designs, training all managers to have the required skills would deliver a significantly better ROI. Quite simply, if you have an employee retention problem, you have a manager capability problem.
Listen to your employees regularly
Employees that are repeatedly asked for feedback, that is listened to and actioned on, are much more highly engaged and likely to stay with their current employer. No workplace is perfect. Even the best organisations in the world have their challenges. The difference between the good and bad organisations, is that the good ones listen to their employees and address areas of concern. This makes employees feel valued and that they actively contribute to the organization, as opposed to being treated like they do not matter.
Most firms only do an annual engagement survey, this is proven to be the least effect of all timeframe measurements to ensure engagement. In fact, a pulse survey every month, has been proven to be the most effective. There are two kinds of responses to the idea of asking employees every month, how they feel about things at work. One group have read this and said, oh yes, that makes sense. The other group have cringed in horror at the idea of having to take so much time to listen to employees’ opinions. Do you want to guess which group will have more trouble in retaining employees?
Provide people with learning and development opportunities
Do you want to know another great way to retain employees? Teach them new things and let them gain new experiences. Far too many organisations mistake learning and development with promotions. You do not need to promote someone to enable them to learn new skills. Every single team, in every business in the world has a unique set of challenges. Maybe a process is too manual, or a system has too many steps in it. Empower employees to proactively solve these problems by learning the skills to do it. Let an employee in the team with the manual process go to some conferences and workshops to learn how to automate that process. The team will improve performance, and the employee learns a new skill while doing their existing job. If people are learning new skills and applying them to their current job, they are more likely to be satisfied and fulfilled. Therefore, they are more likely to be highly engaged and stay where they are. Once that problem has been solved, I guarantee there is another problem to be solved, the cycle can repeat without end.