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A little while ago we asked our community the reasons why they’d left jobs and what could have convinced them to stay (and no, the most popular answer wasn’t salary!).

Employee retention is a continuous challenge for organizations, especially in a job market with lots of new opportunities available.

While some turnover is inevitable, no one likes to see top talent leave for a rival.

Off the back of our findings and wider research, we’ll cover 14 areas of focus to improve employee retention in your organization.

  1. Recognize people for their contributions
  2. Ensure wellness and wellbeing
  3. Focus on your managers
  4. Create Growth Opportunities
  5. Mismatched salaries
  6. Nurture your culture
  7. Ensure employee engagement
  8. Offer flexible working
  9. Work on your hiring and onboarding processes
  10. Promote Team Work
  11. Offer Attractive Perks
  12. Hire for Cultural Fit
  13. Implement Mentorship Programs
  14. Provide Continuous Feedback

Strategies for Improving Employee Retention

1. Recognize people for their contributions

A key driver of employee turnover, as revealed in our survey, is the feeling of being unappreciated.

Employees frequently feel undervalued and overlooked, with instances of their ideas being rejected or credit for their work being claimed by others.

Simple affirmations like "Nice work" or "Great idea," particularly when public, can significantly boost morale. While grand gestures have their place, regular, genuine expressions of appreciation, even in smaller forms, can foster a sense of value and motivation among employees.

Setting up a formal recognition program can be an effective way to consistently acknowledge and celebrate employee contributions, enhancing their sense of belonging and engagement.

2. Ensure wellness and wellbeing

Over half of the survey respondents cited burnout and declining well-being, due to their job's working conditions, as key reasons for considering quitting.

Recognized as serious health issues, burnout and work-related stress not only affect employees' physical and emotional health but also significantly impact global productivity, costing around $322 billion in turnover and lost productivity.

However, organizations can combat this by implementing strategies to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.

Encouraging a healthy work-life balance, such as trialing a 4-day workweek, has shown promising results in reducing absenteeism and increasing job applications, indicating a positive impact on employee satisfaction and potentially retention.

3. Focus on your managers

The third most-cited reason behind people leaving was a bad manager.

Respondents specifically mentioned:

  • Micro-managing
  • Lack of autonomy
  • Poor communication skills
  • Biases
  • Feeling undermined
  • Discrimination, bullying, gaslighting and sexism

Respondents relayed that these issues, coupled with a lack of action by management to address them, was the reason they left their position.

The importance of direction

Others pointed to a lack of direction, a lack of a clear vision for the long-term goals of the company, and a lack of transparency to include employees outside of the leadership team. 

This further highlights the important role that managers play in an organization and why they need training and support.

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Get weekly insights and how-tos on leadership and HR’s biggest and most pressing topics—right to your inbox.

4. Create growth opportunities

Equally impactful as poor management in driving the employee turnover rate is the lack of career growth opportunities. Many respondents felt stagnant in their roles, citing unchallenging work and limited chances to enhance their skill sets.

The absence of initiatives for personal and professional development, such as training or mentorship programs, was also a common concern.

Unfulfilled promises of promotions or career advancement heavily contributed to dissatisfaction.

Given that high-performing employees often seek continuous learning and development opportunities, providing avenues for career growth is essential for retaining top talent.

5. Mismatched salaries

We found that the lack of appreciation is closely linked to financial compensation, as various respondents said there was an ever-increasing amount of demands and responsibilities while the pay stayed the same.

A salary that was disproportionate to the work they were doing was a reason to leave for 43.8% of respondents.

With more pay transparency laws coming into place, and a lot of positive conversations happening around pay equity, there’s never been a better time to get on top of your compensation strategy.

6. Nurture your culture

The working environment was another crucial factor for employee happiness. Well over a third of respondents named the culture at their workplace as a reason for leaving. 

Several people described the culture as toxic, dysfunctional and unsupportive. Bad office politics were often mentioned as having a negative effect on the mental health of staff, while some management was stuck in the old ways of doing things and didn’t adapt. 

Culture is important because it determines how people work together to deliver on your strategy. So, while it may seem a nebulous concept, it has a direct impact on important metrics such as productivity and innovation, as well as retention.

7. employee engagement Needed

Almost a third of respondents also didn’t feel engaged in their position, which led to them wanting to leave.

Some described their work as boring, monotonous and frustrating, with a lack of purpose, while others were looking for ways to develop their skills that the employer didn’t offer at the time.

Engagement is a complex issue as everyone has different motives for working, but creating a sense of purpose, i.e. a clear vision and mission, appeals to people’s higher-level needs.

8. Offer flexible work options

A quarter of the job quitters surveyed said their work wasn’t flexible enough and 10.6% were even forced back to the office after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to their decision to quit.

Several respondents said that their employer didn’t support or even allow remote working, especially for full-time positions. Others also said that their commute was too long and that the options for remote work were too limited. 

Flexibility around where and when they can work is important to a lot of people and, in reality, this is closely related to micromanagement and autonomy.

Flexible schedules allow employees to juggle their work and day-to-day lives in a way that they see fit, accounting for the demands of their specific circumstances.

9. Work On Your Hiring and Onboarding Processes

This didn’t come up in our survey but we think it’s worth a mention because, according to a survey from Jobvite, 30% of people leave their job within the first 90 days of starting.

Of these, 43% of people said that this was because the job wasn’t what they expected, something that can be mitigated by a transparent hiring process and a proper onboarding process. 

As experienced recruiter, Kristen Renner, rightly points out recruiters shouldn’t be “selling” roles and instead matching them to the skills and desires of the candidate.

Common thinking is that onboarding of new employees should be at least a 90-day process and, in some cases, it can take up to a year for someone to be fully up and running.

10. Promote Teamwork

Fostering a strong sense of teamwork within the organization can significantly improve employee retention.

When employees feel like they are part of a cohesive team, they are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.

Actionable Advice

Encourage collaboration through team-building activities and cross-departmental projects. Creating an environment where ideas are shared and achievements are celebrated collectively can lead to a more fulfilling and sustainable work experience.

11. Offer Attractive Job Perks

Perks might include flexible working conditions, health and wellness programs, or unique benefits like gym memberships, childcare support or educational stipends.

Tailoring perks to meet the needs and preferences of your workforce can increase job satisfaction and loyalty.

Get Feedback on Perks Early and Often

Get Feedback on Perks Early and Often

Offer employees, in particular new hires, the opportunity to rate perks and indicate which ones they value the most as you look to personalize benefit packages.

12. Hire for Cultural Fit

Hiring individuals who align with the company’s culture and values can lead to higher retention rates.

Employees who fit well with the organizational culture are more likely to feel connected, satisfied and engaged with their work.

Pro Tip

During the hiring process, assess candidates not just for skills and experience but also for how well they mesh with the company’s ethos and team dynamics.

13. Implement Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs can be a powerful tool in enhancing employee retention. They provide employees with guidance, support and learning opportunities from more experienced colleagues.

Such programs can help employees navigate their career paths within the organization, feel more connected and see a future within the company, increasing their inclination to stay.

14. Provide Continuous Feedback

Continuous feedback is essential for employee growth and satisfaction. Instead of limiting feedback to annual reviews, implement a system of regular, constructive feedback.

This approach helps employees understand how they are performing, what they are doing well, and where they can improve. It also opens up channels for two-way communication, making employees feel heard and valued. 

Why Employees Leave

Employee turnover is a complex issue, often stemming from a variety of factors. Key reasons why employees may choose to leave include:

  • Lack of growth opportunities - When employees don't see a clear path for career advancement or feel stagnant in their current roles, their motivation can wane.
  • Feeling undervalued or unappreciated - A workplace that lacks recognition for their efforts or fails to provide adequate compensation can lead to feelings of being undervalued.
  • Poor management - Ineffective leadership, lack of support, and poor communication can significantly impact an employee's decision to stay
  • A mismatch between employee values and the company culture - If employees can't align with company values, they'll begin to disconnect with the work and the business' ultimate goals.

Why Employees Stay

Employees often choose to stay with an organization for reasons central to a sense of fulfillment and alignment with the company's values and culture.

When employees feel that their personal values resonate with the company's ethos, they are more likely to feel connected and committed.

Other factors include:

  • Opportunities for career growth and professional development - When employees see a clear pathway for advancement and feel that they are growing in their roles, they are more inclined to remain loyal.
  • Effective management and positive relationships with supervisors - This can significantly enhance job satisfaction along with how employees develop relationships with other team members.
  • Regular recognition - Feeling valued and appreciated for their contributions, particularly by senior leaders, creates a sense of job security and visibility that many employees are looking for.
  • A supportive, collaborative work environment - Creating a space where employees feel they have the support of people who are experts in areas they are not and that they can feed off the ideas of their colleagues eliminates feelings of isolation and pressure to always have the answer.
  • Work-life balance - Covid changed people's perception of how much of their time and creativity work was consuming. Today, employees want to be more connected with their personal passions, family life and hobbies outside of work in a way that sees the two come into balance.
  • Competitive compensation packages - Including benefits and perks, compensation packages can offer a variety of ways to show employees that they are valued. Some will mean more to one individual than another, so be sure to personalize these offerings as best as you can.

Creating Your Own Employee Retention Strategy

Developing a robust employee retention strategy is essential for maintaining a stable and engaged workforce. Here are 10 tips to create and refine your strategy:

  1. Assess Current Turnover Rates: Identify patterns or common reasons for departures.
  2. Gather Employee Feedback: Regularly collect feedback through surveys, interviews, or informal conversations. Understand what employees value and what might cause them to leave.
  3. Develop Clear Career Pathways: Ensure employees understand their potential career trajectory within the company.
  4. Foster a Positive Company Culture: Cultivate a workplace environment that aligns with your employees' values and encourages collaboration, inclusivity and respect.
  5. Offer Competitive Compensation and Benefits: Regularly review and adjust your compensation and benefits to ensure they are competitive and meet the needs of your employees.
  6. Implement Recognition Programs: Acknowledge and celebrate employee achievements, both big and small, to make them feel valued and appreciated.
  7. Promote Work-Life Balance: Encourage flexible working arrangements and respect employees' time off to help them maintain a healthy work-life balance.
  8. Provide Training for Managers: Equip managers with the skills to support, engage and retain their team members effectively.
  9. Track Key Metrics: Monitor retention-related metrics like turnover rates, employee satisfaction scores and performance levels. Use these insights to refine your strategy.
  10. Stay Adaptable: Be open to making changes to your retention strategy as your workforce and business evolve.

Remember, a successful retention strategy is not one-size-fits-all; it should be tailored to the unique needs and dynamics of your organization and workforce.

Prioritize People for Employee Retention

Some employee turnover is inevitable but, by focusing on the above, you can significantly improve your employee retention rate.

Recent research by McKinsey found that worker preferences are largely the same across all age groups.

The job of human resources, people ops and management is to cultivate and maintain the workplace experience so that workers are happy, engaged and working in the best interests of the organization.

Gathering feedback, and, importantly, acting on it has never been easier with the host of digital tools available.

Key takeaways

  1. Recognition and Appreciation Matter: Regular recognition and genuine appreciation, even through simple affirmations, can significantly boost morale and foster a sense of value, thereby enhancing retention.
  2. Wellness and Wellbeing Are Crucial: Implementing strategies to improve work-life balance can help reduce stress, improve overall well-being and potentially increase job satisfaction and retention.
  3. Growth Opportunities Drive Retention: Providing clear career paths, training and mentorship programs, and fulfilling promises of career advancements are essential for keeping top talent engaged and loyal to the organization.

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Finn Bartram
By Finn Bartram

Finn is an editor at People Managing People. He's passionate about growing organizations where people are empowered to continuously improve and genuinely enjoy coming to work. If not at his desk, you can find him playing sports or enjoying the great outdoors.