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5 employee retention strategies – how to keep your people happy at work

5-minute read

Sam Bromley

8 March 2022

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While it’s natural that employees will want to move on to explore new challenges, some resignations may be preventable.

It’s important to build a culture that makes employees want to stay. As part of that exercise, you can consider employee retention strategies that help your business put its people first.

What is employee retention?

Employee retention is a cold-sounding term for your business’s ability to keep its employees. While you can measure the employee retention rate (for example, the percentage of employees that stay over a given time period), that only tells part of the story.

It’s better to consider employee retention as an overarching strategy that informs your business’s culture and what it’s like to work there. In that sense, employee retention is about prevention rather than last-minute changes to stop employees from leaving.

Employee retention strategies are especially important when it comes to your best employees. Top employees disproportionately contribute to your business’s performance, so when they leave it will come as a significant blow.

Your best employees are likely to be your business’s main advocates, too – the ones most engaged with its culture and future direction. When their morale slips, your business will feel the pain.

To understand employee retention, you need to get feedback from employees before putting particular strategies in place.

Getting data to improve employee retention

Exit interviews are great, but they present a problem when it comes to improving employee retention – they’re a snapshot of what an employee thinks after they’ve decided to leave. Ideally, you should be constantly gathering feedback from employees who are still committed to the business. In lean methodology terms, this helps you practice continuous improvement.

One way to gather feedback is through employee engagement surveys. These give you the opportunity to ask people what they think about their future at the business and the current leadership. Questions you can ask include:

  • would you recommend working at this business to other people?
  • how often do you think about looking for another job?
  • how confident are you in our leaders?

With smaller teams, you can think about incorporating questions like this into regular 1-2-1s and appraisals. But in larger businesses with multiple teams, you might want to send a regular survey, which makes it easier to collect and store feedback.

There are paid platforms that can help your business get this feedback and improve employee retention, including CultureAmp, Reward Gateway, and Perkbox. These are an investment, so while using a platform like this will increase costs in the short-term, the long-term benefit is that you may find it easier to retain employees.

Employee retention strategies you can start using today

Gathering data is in itself an employee retention strategy, as feedback will inform the changes you make to the business.

It’s also an employee retention strategy as it gives people the opportunity to have their voice heard, so they have a genuine say in the running of the business.

But what are other employee retention examples? Here are five tips.

Review your hiring practices

You can have a look at job descriptions and the careers page of your website to make sure the right parts of your business’s culture are being emphasised. This should attract candidates who respond to your business’s culture.

When it comes to interviews, they of course need to feel like a natural conversation. But larger businesses especially should have a set of interview questions that gauge whether a candidate is the right fit for the business.

One method is to make sure you’re asking values-led questions alongside ones that test a candidate’s competencies. These questions will help hiring managers understand whether a candidate’s attitude aligns with the business’s culture.

They can include:

  • what sort of working culture and environment makes you most happy?
  • how would past co-workers describe you and your contributions to the team?
  • what were your favourite parts of your last job and business you worked for?

And finally, when a candidate has accepted, don’t go quiet. A brilliant onboarding experience makes a great first impression. Read more about creating an onboarding process.

Offer the right benefits, incentives and pay

It’s no secret that money is often a motivating factor behind employees looking for new work. If you want to retain employees, make sure that you’re offering the right salary from the moment you advertise the role.

And if someone’s responsibilities have changed, or they’ve grown beyond the role they were initially hired for, it could be time for you to review their pay.

Make sure you have a standardised process in place across your business for this, otherwise people could be on varying pay scales even though they’re similar in seniority. This decreases morale.

Explore whether benefits and incentives could be a worthwhile investment too. Consider ways to offer:

Emphasise recognition for employee retention

How often does your business recognise work well done, and is it built into your culture?

It’s important to make sure that each employee feels empowered to give recognition (not just managers and team leaders). You can make sure that employees are:

  • given the opportunity to have their say on recognition, letting your business know whether it needs to do more
  • recognised at important milestones (for example, work anniversaries or project completions)
  • encouraged to give gratitude and acknowledgement (for example, through communication tools like Slack, or in regular internal newsletters)

Another element related to recognition (yet still separate) is reward. Rewards are often seen as more tangible incentives, for example financial benefits or extra paid holiday for high performers.

You could tie reward to recognition by setting up a system that empowers employees to reward colleagues for a job well done – for example, through points that can be converted into vouchers.

Read more about employee rewards and recognition.

Employee retention by focusing on career development

Individuals will respond differently to goal-setting, so it’s tricky to get right. But to feel like they’re progressing, employees need to know what they’re aiming for.

It’s your business’s responsibility to help foster conversations with employees about both personal and career development. After those conversations, you can consider investing in training and conferences, as well as setting up:

  • mentorship opportunities – can your employees learn from senior people in your business?
  • ways for employees to move across the business – lateral moves can help your employees take on new challenges while staying in your business (check out Amazing If for more on what they call Squiggly Careers)
  • forums for internal knowledge sharing – while formal training is great, the bulk of learning happens while on the job, so encourage people to share their skills

Being open about the opportunities available to employees while suggesting routes to help them get there should improve employee retention.

Focus on wellbeing

With coronavirus lockdowns proving that it’s possible for lots of people to work from anywhere (and at any time), it’s especially important that employees don’t feel overwhelmed by work.

There’s lots of ways your business can support employee wellbeing. Happier employees that don’t feel burned out are more likely to stay.

Read about how to support mental health at work, plus get more inspiration for employee wellbeing at our wellbeing hub.

Do you have any further employee retention tips? Let us know in the comments below.

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We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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