How Can Organizations Reduce High Turnover in a Tight Labor Market?
Talent retention is on the minds of HR leaders and executive teams in all industries and in every geographic location. While organizations understand that employees have various reasons for leaving -- including higher pay, advancement opportunities, career change, or family needs -- when an organization has a steady increase in its turnover rates, HR leaders can no longer perceive the turnover as a natural part of the ebb and flow of business. If your organization is spending too much time and money attracting and recruiting the right talent, you may need to start thinking about changing your emphasis to engage and retain the talent you have.
Why is employee churn so common?
In today’s world of work, historically low unemployment rates have created an employee-driven market. If your team members are no longer satisfied with the opportunities, culture, or compensation at your organization, they can fairly easily and quickly get a better job.
3 key reasons people are leaving your company
- Lack of competitive compensation and opportunity – Whether it’s providing competitive benefits, career development, or pay, an organization must remain competitive, or superior to other companies in the same industry and geography. It’s essential that companies do their research and respond accordingly.
- Company culture and civility– Beyond beer Friday’s and ping pong tables, organization’s that cultivate workplace civility and make it the norm not only retain employees, they pull strong talent from those that don’t. Companies that promote a culture of civility across leaders, managers, and all employees create an irresistible brand to keep and attract talent.
“It's free to be kind, yet managers often ignore the value of appreciation. Christine Porath argues that workers and companies experience real costs when there is incivility in the workplace.”
- Absence of a clear roadmap – Employees like transparency. The ability to see opportunities and take advantage of them is critical to improving retention. Those employees that are not getting clear, actionable performance feedback, as well as strategies and support to develop or advance in their careers, are at risk of leaving. Understanding and supporting each individual’s unique talents, interests, and values strengthens engagement and performance.
Managers as coaches: A mentor-first mindset
In the new world of work, managers will take on the role of mentors and leaders and abandon the micro-managing models of the past. Companies looking to attract the best talent will invest in training managers to lead their teams in a collaborative coaching and career development role.
Attempting to change the dynamic without training may not deliver the desired results as many managers have little or no formal training or experience in talent mapping, identifying high-growth potential, acting as a mentor, or even successfully navigating the performance conversation. The current trends are shifting the conversation to ongoing and in the moment feedback. It is critical that managers are well-versed and comfortable in these conversations.
Training can also help managers to better think about talent not just from the perspective of their departmental goals, but from a company-wide perspective to determine the strongest way to utilize an employee’s skills and talents. This frame can support both the employee and company’s development. A shift in thinking about employees as company assets opens up the possibility for new HR initiatives that include redeployment, internal promotions, and career growth programs. Through training, managers can be made aware of the importance of identifying and strengthening soft skills and optimizing transferable skills to meet organizational goals. The idea is to improve skills analysis, communication, and collaboration to retain and redeploy talent.
3 leadership and mentoring strategies that directly impact retention
- Invest the time: Seek out new opportunities for existing staff to expand upon their skillsets. Take time to get to know how employees are feeling by checking in on a daily basis to get a pulse of their experiences.
- Create a safe environment: Promote active listening and take a genuine interest in the opinions of your team members. Trust and transparency are core fundamentals in the kind of communication that leads to safe environments.
- Build strengths, abilities, and confidence: Reduce stress and enhance the lives of your employees. Take the time to recognize big and small accomplishments with:
- Praising in-person vs. email – Any confirmation is positive but a verbal congratulations can be more personal than just a digital “good job!”
- Timing for Constructive Feedback – Pointing out criticism while praising can backfire. Give constructive criticism at the right time and place – and that’s not while giving recognition. Find a safe space to conduct a timely conversation, when the observation is still relevant and remembered.
- Positive Reinforcement – Don't wait to acknowledge great performance. When an employee does something valuable and impactful, managers should immediately seek out the employee with a simple congratulations for a job well done.
Take part in the Gig Economy
Improving hiring and retention strategies can include taking part in the Gig Economy. While organizations may have to pay more per hour for temporary employees, the flexibility and ability to hire on a project basis may outweigh the higher short-term costs.
3 benefits of on-demand hiring include:
- Lower recruiting and onboarding costs: Companies do not have to hire as many full-time employees. Independent contractors and temp workers allow businesses to try out people before committing to hire them.
- Getting the benefits of specialized skills: Fill skills gaps for specific projects without investing in hiring for limited-time projects and goals that require specialized skills.
- Acquiring more brand evangelists: While contractors and project workers may be at the company for shorter stints, they are still a part of the organization’s brand. Make their experiences positive to encourage positive reviews and referrals in the future.
Promote health and wellness
A recurring theme in the retention puzzle is the role of employee wellness initiatives. It makes sense. After all, people who are unwell are not showing up and are not as productive and effective as they could be otherwise. When an organization focuses on helping its employees’ mental and physical health, it sends a message that the organization cares about more than just the bottom line.
If you don’t want employees to burn out, establishing a culture that encourages work/life balance is key to engagement. Initiatives that make sure people are taking care of themselves and that encourage them to be positive might include:
- Flexibility benefits including parental leave and caretaker leave
- Opportunities for consultant or project work
- Discounts on wellness products like the Fitbit or gym memberships
- Encouraging people to take their Paid Time Off (PTO)
- Catered lunches with healthy food
- Internal social networks to improve communication – sharing pictures and ideas on an enterprise network gives a sense of community and cultivates relationships between people and departments
Invest in career development and creative retirement
Proactive education support and retirement planning are equally important in modern workplaces where four or five generations of employees work together. Whether it’s due to retirement or life changes, offering creative retirement options is a great way for the organization to take advantage of employees who still want to work, but may want to change the scope of how they work.
Pay attention to workers at all stages in their careers from a career development perspective. Get people to think about how they can continue to contribute their valuable skills to the company and know your current talent pool well enough to identify those people who can fill current employment gaps.
Proactive HR leaders are turning to Baby Boomers to fill open positions. A recent SHRM survey noted that the 60+ employees provide greater experience, institutional knowledge, a great work ethic, and company loyalty. Many companies, are investing in regular retirement programs for people 50+ to get them thinking about their contribution and considering fulltime or project work and mentoring fellow employees. People in this cohort group tend to be lifetime learners. They have seen technology evolve and appreciate how quickly people and things can become obsolete if they don’t keep up with the times and are more likely to seek out learning opportunities to stay current. In addition, Baby Boomers may prefer company loyalty and stability to constantly moving to advance their own careers.
Build a company of belonging and pride
Encouraging employees to refer others to work at your organization goes beyond offering a referral bonus. Team members need to feel great about where they work and confident about what their future holds. Before people will recommend your organization to their peers or networks, they need to have a positive experience and feel passion and commitment to the company. They also need to know that the company is dedicated to its employees and their personal and professional wellbeing.
People aren’t always looking for the obvious. They are also looking for companies that have a positive legacy and who are seeking to make a difference in the world. They want a connection to sustainability and social conciseness through best work practices and contributions. Actively doing something to make the world a better place is something today’s employees are actively seeking.
To keep employees motivated and productive, include team building activities that boost employee engagement. Events can range from marathons to helping a Food Bank to sponsoring services for other charitable organizations. Efficient teamwork is fundamental to creating a strong environment of employees who are happy and want to stay with the organization.
Other creative ways organizations of attracting talent
We all know the conventional ways to draw interest. Here are a couple out-of-the box ideas to engage current employees entice new talent:
- Presentations –Put your leaders in the spotlight to promote their expertise and enthusiasm. Consider producing 60-second videos or 60-minute webinars or on-site presentations or panels.
- Open house – Bring the people to you. Host an easy-going open house to connect interested people to the organization. Encourage employees to bring at least one colleague to check you out. It’s a non-intimidating way to find fresh and motivated candidates.
- Technology Trends – Live Facebook or YouTube Q&A sessions show that your organization is up to date on the latest communication tools.
- Contests – We are in a viral world so why not use this trend to find top talent? PR can use social media to host a fun competition and offering a small prize. It might be a 48-hour technology competition or a HR crossword puzzle. Something of this nature can reach a big audience and attract talent you wouldn’t through the usual channels.
Bottom line, to retain and attract talent, it is essential you get creative in your outreach, promote and train employees to create a culture of civility, and support managers in developing their team in effective collaboration and individual career development. The benefits are clear. You won’t keep everyone who is offered a bigger salary, or the career change they seek. But you will significantly reduce the employees who are seeking.