4 Musts for Retaining Employees

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A flurry of resignations hits your HR department or you could be facing an epidemic of employees that have “quit and stayed.” These are employees who feel trapped (and perhaps even miserable) at their organizations, but are afraid to leave or explore the job market.

These are two common scenarios that many organizations are experiencing this year. Retention of great talent has become a major issue affecting a number of organizations. Before your organization hastily decides to launch a series of HR initiatives to address your retention problems, look first to these four areas of your business.

1. Look at their job

When faced with the red flag of potential turnover, take a hard look at their job first. Is the job playing to their strengths? Could the employee be used in more productive ways that would improve their engagement and is their job naturally progressing with more responsibility and challenge? Most employees need to feel a sense of importance in their work – that their skills and abilities are being put to good use, that they are doing something meaningful with their time, and that they have a say in decisions and how their work is produced. Consistently ranked as the most important attribute among top performers and a key driver of engagement, there is no substitute for making challenging and meaningful work the first priority when solving a retention problem. The job is usually the best place to start.

2. Look at their manager

Employees leave managers, not organizations. Employees are more likely to stay when they are treated in a supportive manner by their boss. In fact, this concept of feeling supported has been time-tested and is consistently found to be the leading indicator of whether employees stay engaged and committed. Support is most commonly manifested in how managers interact with their employees – whether employees are receiving the right amount of interaction and flexibility, the resources they need, help solving problems, and recognition and appreciation. So ask yourself: do employees have a positive relationship with their supervisor and do they feel supported by them in their job, career, and even personally? Consider whether the employee’s manager is doing everything they can to support employees and make them feel valued and confident in themselves.

3. Look at their opportunities

Numerous studies link the relationship between confidence and retention. Generally-speaking, employees will leave their employers for other opportunities. The more confident employees are in their prospects for continued employment and advancement opportunities, and their ability to earn more pay over time, the more likely they are to stay. You can help build a sense of confidence by emphasizing the organization’s success and long-term strategy and discussing advancement opportunities and career paths periodically. The bottom line is that you must give employees confidence that their career will thrive at your organization and that you are prepared to offer those opportunities.  Many organizations fear committing to providing a certain career path to their employees. The reality is that if you don’t, some other organization will.

4. Look at your competitors

Even when the job, manager, and opportunities are aligned with retention, sometimes competitors’ practices snatch a great performer. With pay information publically available on the internet to employees, an influx of passive recruiting via social media, and more employers heavily branding their workplace and culture as great places to work, your organization is constantly at risk of losing its best people. If your organization has fallen behind in terms of making sure its pay and benefits align with those of other businesses, make sure it stacks up before it’s too late. Get to know your competitors’ HR practices intimately and adjust yours if it makes sense.

Contrary to most popular beliefs, retention usually isn’t complex. It’s not a complicated formula requiring a multitude of HR initiatives. It usually comes down to whether employees are doing challenging and interesting work, being supported by their boss, seeing opportunities and security, and receiving fair pay and benefits in comparison to what is offered elsewhere.

Additional Resources

Talent & Performance Management Consulting Services
When it comes to managing talent retention, there are a variety of programs and initiatives to consider including employee engagement surveys, performance management, rewards and recognition programs, succession planning, mentoring and career development programs, job description updates, and exit interviews. To learn more about how ERC can assist you with these consulting projects, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.

9 Best Practices for Employee Engagement Initiatives

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A successful employee engagement initiative can make lasting and effective changes in the workplace.

Here are nine (9) best practices for your employee engagement initiatives. 

Collect data.

Conduct a regular employee engagement survey either every year or every other year. Organizations that consistently measure and track how well they are engaging employees are better able to assess areas of strength and opportunity in their workplaces to impact engagement. Most organizations that evaluate employee engagement survey employees at least every other year. If your organization is smaller, it may consider conducting a more informal benchmark for employee engagement such as interviews or one-on-one meetings.

Seek an external comparison.

Benchmark how well your workplace practices compare to other organizations. An external comparison is as important as an internal benchmark. You’ll need to know how your organization’s practices relative to engaging employees stack up against other organizations, particularly with those you are competing for talent. Market surveys, great workplace programs, and other audits can all provide helpful external benchmark information. Some organizations that conduct employee engagement surveys also provide normative comparisons.

Identify overall drivers.

Know the drivers of employee engagement at your organization. Drivers are simply those aspects that are most commonly and significantly driving employee engagement either up or down at your organization. There are many different facets of the workplace experience that influence engagement to varying degrees, but your resources and time are limited so you need to know which aspects are most important. By identifying the true drivers of engagement for your organization, you can focus your efforts on the things that matter most to your workforce and top people. A good employee engagement strategy is all about targeting the right things – not everything.

Identify individual drivers.

Many engagement initiatives fall short of identifying individual drivers of employee engagement - largely because this responsibility should fall on managers and supervisors. Managers and supervisors need to find out what engages each of their employees, and particularly their top people, through observation and conversations. These insights can be gleaned through day to day interactions, performance management, and communication. However, most managers and supervisors just aren’t attuned or trained to recognize what engagement is and why it matters. Your responsibility is to ensure that they have the right skills and resources to positively impact engagement.

Keep it relatively simple.

Scoring which is difficult to understand or results that includes too many segments or breakouts of data can detract from obtaining value in the process. If you conduct engagement surveys, make sure the scoring can be easily understood by those interpreting the results. Also, keep data segments and breakouts to a minimum so that the initiative does not become about “fixing” certain people, departments, or areas of business, but rather improving the engagement of employees.

Meet and discuss engagement with your leaders.

Once a survey, feedback, and/or benchmarking initiative had been conducted to evaluate employee engagement and how you compare internally and externally, it’s important to meet and discuss the results with your leaders. This ensures that engagement is seen as part of the larger business strategy and receives support. Key tips for creating this dialogue include: create an executive summary to help them digest the information obtained, tie the results back to issues of importance to them (business strategy, etc.), back your points with data and numbers, and provide recommendations for how to improve engagement. Another way you can make the results meaningful to your leaders is by providing segments of information that are important to them – such as engagement scores by the business’ divisions. The most successful engagement projects we’ve seen are those that are conducted with leadership support and participation from initial communications and analysis of the results to action planning.

Set goals aligned with employee engagement.

Having an employee engagement-focused strategy can help you set goals for your department and organization. Common goals that impact employee engagement include increasing employee engagement scores by a certain percentage, reducing voluntary turnover, enhancing communications effectiveness, increasing development opportunities, or even impacting the bottom line. Whatever these goals may be, they should be in line with the drivers of engagement and the areas of need. In turn, you should be able to tie these goals back to the larger business strategy. Be able to address why each goal is important to the business’ direction to gain support.

Create action plans, on-going conversations, forums, and follow-up.

Once you’ve set goals to improve employee engagement, create action plans to impact those goals.  We find that there tends to be a great deal of momentum initially right after an engagement survey that can become lost over time. To ensure that your goals are met and receive the support they need to be successful, create action plans with specific timetables, roles, and accountabilities. Additionally, if employee engagement is truly an important organizational initiative, it should permeate your organization and drive the actions of HR, managers, and leaders. Many organizations have on-going conversations and forums to discuss employee engagement and keep going back to the survey data.

Implement changes.

Lastly, implementing changes in an employee engagement initiative is crucial. Your organization should follow-up on the areas needing improvement either through direct change or acknowledgement of employees’ feedback, especially prior to surveying them in the future. If you plan to ask employees for their feedback – be prepared to respond because not making changes can lead to negative effects. It’s always a good practice to make any small changes quickly and to save the larger changes for later.

Additional Resources

Employee Engagement Surveys
ERC’s services are used by many local employers to gauge their employees’ engagement, identify drivers of engagement, benchmark scores to other local organizations, and help you translate the data into real, actionable changes. Click here to learn more.

NorthCoast 99
Benchmark how your organization’s workplace practices surrounding the attraction, retention, and engagement of employees compare to other employers by applying for the NorthCoast 99 award. All applicants receive free benchmark reports just for applying. 

Supervisory/Managerial Training
Are your supervisors and managers equipped to engage employees? Give them the right skills and competencies to impact engagement. Click here to learn more.