Retention, the ability to keep employees satisfied and choose to stay with their organization, took a devastating blow during the Covid-19 pandemic. In the U.S. alone, more than 4 million people quit their jobs in April of 2021. By November 2021, that number soared to a record 4.5 million.1 The phenomenon of so many employees leaving their jobs after a year of health crisis earned the mass exodus the distinctive title, “the great resignation.”
Which raises the question: In a climate of increased turnover, how to you keep employees working and reduce turnover?
First, it’s helpful to understand why employees stay. A recent study by SHRM2 identified five leading factors that keep employees happy and satisfied with their jobs:
- Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels
- Trust between employees and senior management
- Job security
- Opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work
In the U.S. alone, more than 4 million people quit their jobs in April of 2021. By November 2021, that number soared to a record 4.5 million.
–U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to create an employee retention strategy
To retain top employees in 2022 and beyond, employers must implement effective employee retention strategies that support crucial areas like those listed above. Instead of doing the bare minimum to retain employees, such as offering more compensation opportunities with tenure, successful employee retention strategies should focus on multiple areas of the work experience that are proven to combat high turnover rates and keep employees longer.
Best employee retention strategies address the reasons employees are leaving the organization. Are employees unhappy with their chances for advancement? Are they less engaged or unhappy with the work? Did they have a negative experience with a manager or co-worker? Or is a toxic workplace culture the issue?
7 strategies to retain employees longer
No single strategy can guarantee employees will choose to stay longer with the organization. But modern leadership principles, combined with focused drivers of retention will not only help reduce the turnover rate, but also increase the organization’s productivity. Consider the following seven strategies to improve the employee experience and help employees want to stay.
1. Immerse employees in the culture
Large businesses and small businesses alike continually find that company culture is a significant contributor to how employees feel and whether they are satisfied with their jobs. When it comes to attracting and retaining talent, a Glassdoor study of 615,000 participants found that what matters more than money is culture and values followed by leadership.3 Building an organizational culture where employees can thrive can do more to help employees want to stay than almost any other factor.
When onboarding employees, HR leaders can do more than completing the hiring process and educating new hires about their health benefits and 401k plan. They can introduce new team members to the workplace culture and let them know how that culture will help them prosper throughout their careers at the organization.
2. Focus on making connections
According to our 2022 Global Culture Report, a working environment where employees form strong connections to their team, leader, and organization leads to employees staying with their organization longer. More specifically, the odds of employees wanting to stay with their company six years or more increases 175% when connections are strong.4
Leaders can encourage greater connection by focusing on efforts such as team building, holding regular one-to-ones, and connecting people’s work to the purpose of the organization. They can also check in frequently with employees and trigger meaningful conversations.
the odds of employees wanting to stay with their company six years or more increases 175% when connections are strong.
–2022 Global Culture Report, Connection, O.C. Tanner
3. Recognize and appreciate employees
It’s no secret that employee recognition plays a significant role in keeping employees happy and motivated to stay with the organization. This is most effectively done through a formal employee recognition program, such as Culture Cloud Recognition, that allows employees to appreciate great work as it happens through the apps they use every day, including peer-to-peer recognition. When companies celebrate together, employees are 20 times more likely to feel connected and want to stay.5
To remain highly effective, employee recognition should be a constant, integrated element of the organization’s culture.5 Employee appreciation also works best when it is personalized to fit each employee. Most importantly, it should always connect employees to purpose, accomplishment, and one another.
4. Provide ongoing training opportunities
Organizations demonstrate that they are committed to employees’ long-term career paths when they offer opportunities for professional development. This can include company training programs, tuition support for college courses/degrees, trade shows, software certification, and even mentoring.
Harvard Business Review notes a strategy of designing development into everyday experiences.6 For example, one organization promoted weekly peer-mentoring sessions between people in adjacent functions that regularly worked together. These cross-functional sessions proved to help employees become more engaged in learning new skills and open new career paths. As further support, our 2022 Global Culture Report shows that when leaders introduce employees to mentors, the odds of satisfying connection needs improve 132%.
5. Provide work-life balance
Elevating the wellbeing of workers and creating a healthy work-life balance can make a significant difference in how employees feel about job satisfaction in their place of work. Our 2022 Global Culture Report found that 76% of workers are experiencing some level of employee burnout. A decreased work-life balance, feeling like work has a negative effect on health, or a decreased sense of belonging can increase risk of burnout by 22%, 40%, and 56%, respectively.7
Employers can help prevent burnout by helping employees create clear boundaries between work and home life, especially when they are working remotely.
increased likelihood of employee engagement when hybrid workers had flexibility in where and how they work.
–2020 COVID-19 pulse surveys, O.C. Tanner Institute
6. Offer the freedom to work remotely
There’s no question that the increase in the ability of workers to work remotely contributed to the scale of the Great Resignation. To accommodate the need for employees to isolate during the pandemic, employers had to offer more flexible work and make new policies on work from home or hybrid work.
Our research found that the more freedoms for remote or hybrid work actually improved employee experiences. We saw a 41% increased likelihood of employee engagement when hybrid workers had flexibility in where and how they work.8 A good practice to improve the employee experience for hybrid work is to reserve remote time for getting work done after collaborating and solving problems in the office.
7. Deliver peak experiences
What do we mean by peak experiences? These are the bigger, more impactful events that build lasting connections and lead to greater employee satisfaction in the workplace. Modern leaders who act as mentors, advocate for employee development, and connect employees to meaningful opportunities help employees (and themselves) feel a greater sense of purpose, accomplishment, and connection to each other. Additionally, our research found a 7.5x increased likelihood of improving the employee experience when an organization meets an employee’s needs of autonomy, connection, and mastery.9
Some examples of peak experiences might be leading out on a big project, receiving a company-wide recognition for making a significant contribution, or a chance to exercise an employee’s unique skills in a new way. Experiences like these lead to greater employee morale and feelings of success.
Create retention strategies that fit
The most successful employee retention strategies address the reasons why people are leaving. HR retention strategies that are the best for retention at one organization may not be the best strategies for another. For example, you can retain employees longer by addressing compensation and benefits if they are lagging compared to the competition. Or if your employee turnover stems from the lack of internal promotions, then you can create an employee retention strategy to address career advancement.
The bottom line? Focus on strengthening and reinforcing your workplace culture. Then implement strategies that will provide the kinds of employee experiences that your people are looking for. Give them meaningful work and encourage regular and meaningful recognition for employees who do great work.
O.C. Tanner’s team of employee tenure experts can help you assess your retention challenges, share best practices from other top companies, and help you craft a solution to keeping more of your best employees. For a free consultation, talk to us.
More Employee Recognition Resources
There are so many different ways to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate your employees. Here are more resources for guidance:
• Guide to Employee Recognition Programs
• 11 Employee Recognition Ideas
• 22 Awesome Employee Recognition Gift Ideas
• 9 Tips for How to Choose Employee Recognition Software
• Heartfelt Employee Appreciation Quotes to Say "Thank You"
• Benefits of Peer to Peer Recognition
• Best Practices for Virtual Employee Recognition
• Guide to Years of Service Awards
• Tips to Celebrate Work Anniversaries
• Employee Recognition in the Modern Workplace
• Culture Cloud: Employee Recognition Software