How to Lose an Employee in 10 Days -- and How to Keep One for 10 Years
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With unemployment dropping to the lowest rate in more than a decade, and more than 164,000 jobs added to the economy last month, the fight to recruit employees is fierce. And with more jobs available than workers to fill them, retaining employees is critical.
While turnover isn't always disadvantageous (employees may leave if they aren't a good fit, for example), most leaders would agree that longer employee tenures equate to lower costs and higher productivity. For us, retaining top talent is a must -- our employees' passion, institutional knowledge and relationships with customers and each other are paramount to the success of our business. Like us, many organizations cite retaining top talent as not just one of their biggest challenges, but also one of their highest priorities.
Leaders: In order to reduce regrettable attrition, it's critical to build a culture that not only emphasizes employee engagement, but also creates an environment of purpose and belonging. Doing so leads to happier and more successful workers who stay for years, rather than months.
1. Put your people, not your perks, first.
While flashy perks like an in-office espresso bar and free lunches can help to create a great working environment, they typically only go so far in keeping employees around for the long term. For example, according to a Udemy survey, 42 percent of millennials said learning and development opportunities were one of the most important benefits an employer could provide (second only to healthcare). Deloitte found that diversity, inclusion and flexibility were bigger factors than money when it comes to keeping workers for the long-term.
We see in our own employees' comments that what keeps them excited about coming to work every day first and foremost is a strong sense of purpose -- it's our job as leaders to understand, foster and maintain this feeling every day.
Focusing on the factors that uniquely motivate and engage your employees and creating a rich employee experience above and beyond perks will pay the real dividends. Start by understanding and addressing the key drivers of engagement for your team -- a mix that's different for every team in the organization. These "drivers" include factors like your company's culture and prospects for the future, confidence in the leadership team and your employees' sense of purpose and balance.
Every organization is made up of a unique mix of people who are motivated by different things. By understanding what drives your people, and responding to their needs quickly and clearly, you can foster an environment of inclusion, trust and belonging, translating into higher performance and longer tenures.
2. Lead with awareness, authenticity and transparency.
Even if you go beyond the perks and emphasize the people-focused initiatives that matter most, without inspiring, authentic leaders, employees may fail to believe in the long-term success of your organization (and thus, their time there).
To create an environment where employees feel connected to the vision, the most impactful leaders are masters at "keeping it real." We call this conscious leadership, which focuses on bringing awareness, authenticity and compassion into a leadership role.
Conscious leaders are leaders people resonate with. They drive a sense of connection and clarity that helps teams engage and execute better. They bring their whole, authentic selves to work and lead from a place of trust, responsibility and curiosity.
These leaders also show their teams that they have faith in them by encouraging their autonomy. When leaders move away from "command and control," what they're really doing is sending a signal that they trust their employees. We've seen that showing our employees that they're valued and heard is a major reason that they not only stay on, but also choose to give more than their share of discretionary effort.
3. Go beyond the survey-centric systems.
Gathering feedback from employees frequently is one of the most important things organizations can do to maintain engagement and make sure employees are motivated to stick around. Some organizations, like Madison Reed, have committed to listening to employees as often as once per month. Amazon famously solicits feedback from its employees every day in service of improving workplace culture. Yet, most organizations are failing to optimize this critical step.
The majority of organizations gather employee feedback using a series of disconnected, annual surveys -- what we call a "survey-centric," infrequent model of gathering feedback. Engagement surveys, exit and onboarding feedback, and manager and team effectiveness surveys all provide detailed information about the employee experience. At most organizations, that information is far from optimized -- the data from these surveys remains stale and siloed from one another, failing to paint a complete picture of why people are leaving, and how to help ensure they stay.
Through technology, we've found a better way. With a "people-centric" model of gathering feedback regularly, all the information an individual provides during their tenure is connected. While maintaining confidentiality, HR has access to information about the impact of all elements of the journey over time -- including onboarding, manager and team-centric experiences -- on an employee's likelihood to leave. Organizations that use this model are alerted to common warning signs of attrition, so they can pull the most effective levers to improve engagement and ensure employee retention.
In our experience, once leaders and managers get over the initial fear of hearing their employees' opinions regularly and seeing how engagement is connected to performance, they dive head-first into leading productive conversations about the environment they're creating on their teams. This proactive approach creates a flywheel of feedback from manager to employee, spurring course-corrections and boosting transparency and authenticity.
A business is only as great as the people that work there. You want to hire and retain employees who embody your mission and go above-and-beyond to help the company succeed. Likewise, as a business owner or senior manager, you need to do the same. If you inspire people, co-create the right vision, embrace frequent feedback and lead from place of authenticity, rest assured your employees will walk out the door each day excited to return the next.