November 26, 2021
As organizations begin recovering from the last two years of a pandemic, retention and employee engagement continue to be a challenge. Faced with the dangers of COVID-19, many workers have changed their outlook on work along with their priorities, forcing organizations to look at their own culture to help stop the Great Resignation.
In our Guide to Retaining Talent, we’ll dive into many of the factors causing this mass exodus, the tough questions organizations need to be asking and strategies to boost retention.
As organizations deal with changes stemming from the pandemic, retention and resignations continue to be significant issues. More than 19 million US workers have left their jobs since the start of the pandemic, and according to data, “Fifty-three percent of the employers said that they are experiencing greater voluntary turnover than they had in previous years, and 64 percent expect the problem to continue—or worsen—over the next six months.”
This “Great Attrition” has led organizations to a crossroads as they determine what needs to be done to improve retention.
When looking at retention trends, a significant problem is organizations don’t truly understand why their staffers are leaving. Instead, they are looking for a quick solution, which is only reinforcing frustration among their staff.
According to a McKinsey & Company study, they also want “a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work. They want social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers. They want to feel a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that they want to feel valued by their organizations and managers.”
Once organizations understand what problems impact retention, they also need to understand what their staffers are looking for to stay put.
Leadership will be the most significant factor for most employees in your association when deciding whether or not they’ll stay. John Spence says, “more than 80% of people that quit their job, don’t quit the company, don’t quit the hours, don’t quit the pay — they quit their immediate boss.”
The managers and leaders within your organization are the main touchpoints for staffers. They are directly responsible for establishing culture, assigning work, and integrating teams, which is why they often have the most prominent role in your staffers’ happiness and stress levels.
Investing in manager training can be one of the quickest ways to turn the tide on retaining talent.
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For organizations to stop employee turnover, they need to ask tough questions to see where they can improve.
According to survey respondents who had left their jobs, 45% cited the need to take care of family as an influential factor in their decision. They also added that family care was a leading cause for people thinking of quitting.
Developing family-focused benefits, such as in-house childcare or daycare stipends, can help alleviate some of the issues leading to resignations.
Having an open dialogue and asking for feedback from staff can be the easiest way for organizations to understand the needs and benefits that staffers need today.
One of the top strategies to improve retention is always going to be training and professional development. This can include sending staffers to conferences, bringing in expert speakers, or using subject matter experts within the organization to help train hard and soft skills.
Additionally, establishing nurturing mentorship programs can help grow your employees, which can increase productivity and success for your organization.
When discussing turnover and employee retention, most experts will point to culture as the main factor. The bottom line is people need to be happy working for an organization and get the recognition they deserve.
Spence suggests purposeful recognition as a simple strategy to help improve culture. Look for three staffers and give them genuine and specific praise for a job well done. Similarly, recognizing milestones big and small, instituting awards like employee of the month and showcasing staffer achievements all contribute to an exciting and healthy work culture.
While some companies are creating “trophy offices” to bring workers back, the bottom line is flexibility is here to stay.
Depending on the association, returning to the office is essential for daily operations. However, for a vast majority of organizations, this is not the case, and when faced with the possibility of returning to work, many employees will choose to look for an alternative.
To avoid this, organizations should do more to create flexibility. Remote work is not just about being able to work from home – for some staffers, this flexibility is essential for their families or personal wellbeing.
Create options. Whether that’s flexible start times, fully remote options or hybrid alternatives, working with your employees will ensure they keep working for you.
As mentioned above, your leadership is one of the most important factors for retention. While there are a few different qualities that make good leaders, the most important thing is their emotional quotient or EQ.
This can be a challenge for many associations as they may still have leaders with a command and control mentality, giving orders and demanding that staffers follow.
Spence says leadership is now focused on servant leadership. “A leader realizes it's not all about me, it's me serving other people. It's not me telling people what to do. It's me asking them, how can I help you?”
Leaders should be more focused on providing authentic feedback, transparent decision-making, and investing in their employees’ professional and personal well-being.
One strategy organizations can use to avoid turnover is having a “stay conversation” with their staff. According to a recent Gallup study, “stay conversations are one-on-one conversations designed to learn more about the employee, including their passions and career goals, what they value in life, and what they need to be more successful in their role.”
These conversations are designed to help managers and organizations understand the needs and motivations of their staff, providing them insight to enact changes that can improve workplace satisfaction.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, physical and emotional health is critical to overall happiness. Creating a safe space for staffers to improve their wellness can enhance their satisfaction and productivity at work.
A wellness program can take many forms. For example, this can be something as simple as providing gym stipends for staffers or bringing in coaches for one-on-ones. Wellness is not just physical, either – adding mental health options and even financial coaching can help bring down stress and improve retention efforts.
Be sure that your organization keeps up with the cost of living, rates in the industry and career milestones. Additionally, work on bonus structures with incentive-based tiers that encourage staffers to hit their goals.
Compensation is not only monetary either; assessing healthcare and retirement benefits can also help improve satisfaction.
As associations, organizations and businesses of all sizes contend with the Great Resignation, understanding what drives retention is more critical than ever. Of course, while no organization wants to lose its staff, it’s not always a bad thing – with the right mindset.
For Spence and his clients, who have had staffers leave to work in larger organizations like Amazon or Microsoft, they see these losses through the lens of, “Awesome, I had a Google-caliber person working for me for years.”
Employee retention is always a challenge, but by understanding the problem and proactively working to improve the situation, organizations can expect to have happier employees, healthier cultures and less turnover. Best of all, those same great employees will be your biggest champions in the industry.
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Jose Triana joined the Sidecar team as the Content Manager in 2021. He is a writer and creative focused on helping purpose-driven organizations learn and find value online. When he isn't working on content, you can catch him going for a run or resting with a good book.