How Business Leaders Can Keep Employees Engaged

As a business owner, here's how you can meet the challenges of the Great Resignation head-on.

By Nate Nead

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Millions of American employees are quitting their jobs every month as part of a striking trend quickly becoming known as the Great Resignation. And while most in the media are championing workers for taking a stand, what are we as business owners, managers, and leaders supposed to do? In other words, what's the correct response?

While every business is different and faces its own unique set of circumstances, the reality is that you can protect your company from this harrowing trend of employees leaving. The key is to keep employees engaged.

The Great Resignation by the numbers

In December 2021, 4.3 million workers quit their jobs. That makes up roughly 3 percent of the workforce. And it comes on the heels of another 90-day stretch where nearly 13 million workers quit their jobs. That means in the last four months of 2021, nearly 12 percent of American workers – more than 1 in every 10 employees – quit their job.

As a business owner and CEO, that's scary. It's a clear indication that we're operating in some truly unique times. And while many business leaders are using their time to complain or lament about what's happening, I'm suggesting we take a different route. I think it's time to lean into the underlying factors for the Great Resignation and deal with them head-on. In particular, it's high time that we prioritize employee engagement.

Strategies for keeping employees engaged (and retained)

Employees can jump ship for any number of reasons. But it's much less likely that an engaged employee who feels committed to the company and prioritized by the team will up and leave without good reason. In other words, an investment in employee engagement is an investment in retention.

Here are several good strategies for keeping your employees engaged.

1. Provide a clear path forward

Nobody wants to work a dead-end job where there are no opportunities to grow. It doesn't matter if you're the office secretary, a salesperson or someone in a middle management position, everyone wants to see a clear path within the company for higher pay, more responsibility and better opportunities. If these paths do not exist — or if they aren't made clear to your employees — people will leave for greener grass elsewhere.

2. Enhance your benefits and perks

You might not have to give an employee a 10 percent raise to keep them happy. In some cases, small benefits and perks can be enough to keep an employee engaged and loyal to the company. This may include extra time off, a more casual dress code, a gym allowance, annual smartphone upgrades, office decor allowances or anything else that you think your employees would like. The goal is to tailor benefits and perks to your employees' preferences and personalities. You might even want to crowdsource ideas to make sure you're hitting the mark.

Related: Working Alongside Subway's Co-Founder Taught Me the Greatest Lesson of My Professional Life

3. Invest in team bonding (especially when virtual)

We often think of team bonding as boring and cliché. But you don't have to use cheesy or predictable techniques. There are plenty of creative ways to strengthen the shared relationships between team members without going to a ropes course or escape room.

Team bonding is especially important when your team is virtual. You don't have the luxury of rubbing shoulders with everyone daily or sharing coffee in the break room. Thus, you have to be intentional about creating time and space for people to get to know one another outside of normal team meetings and emails.

One idea is to have a virtual town hall meeting once per month where you split up into breakout rooms, do a couple of games or activities and invite employees to share a little about what's happening in their worlds.

4. Offer flex scheduling

If at all possible, offer employees flexible scheduling arrangements that allow them to pick and choose their hours (within reason). This might seem like a small detail, but it makes a huge difference. Flex schedules allow people to work around their responsibilities and create schedules that work for them. Morning people can get up and get their day started, while late-starters can ease into the day and work later into the evening.

Related: Take Advantage of This Easy and Effective Way to Improve Employee Experience

5. Be a proactive leader

You're not going to keep 100 percent of your employees year after year. This isn't practical, nor is it particularly healthy. Some turnover is natural and can be quite good for your team's creativity, motivation and drive. But if you're losing an abnormally high percentage of your staff as part of the Great Resignation, it's time to dig in and understand why.

By shifting your approach to engagement, you may find a rather simple antidote to this otherwise frustrating problem.

Related: Top 10 Employee Engagement Strategies That Matter

Nate Nead

Managing Director at InvestNet

Nate Nead is the principal and managing director at InvestNet, a direct online-investing portal for sophisticated, institutional investors. Nead has nearly two decades of experience in mergers, acquisitions, private equity and direct-market investing.

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