Retaining Employees: The Common Sense Approach

🙋‍♀️ This is a cross-post from my newsletter, Leading by Design. If you liked the post below, consider subscribing! I post two issues per month.

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash

We live in (undoubtedly) interesting times. The so-called “Future of Work” went from being a buzzword in HR conferences to actively affecting the livelihood of millions of people. Last year, the Great Resignation saw employees leaving their jobs in record numbers after almost two years of working from their dinner tables. This year, a looming financial crisis caused even well-funded companies to internally collapse, while others had to resort to mass layoffs to “weather the storm”.

Interesting times indeed.

While researching and working with clients, I noticed that the retention issue is timeless: despite the ever-shifting workplace trends, most companies still struggle to keep their best employees on board. The “old ways” will not cut it anymore, as people revisited the importance of work in their lives after the pandemic.

What can we as leaders do today to ensure trusted employees won’t jump ship anytime soon?

Pay them fairly

Competitive compensation is the simplest solution yet the toughest to implement. Employees not paid according to market standards are in greater danger of leaving. It’s common sense.

I’m a big fan of the visibility effort in tech salaries data over the past few years. Despite companies’ best efforts to keep salary discussions to a minimum, people will eventually talk about how much they make.

To make sure you don’t lose your competitive edge:

  • Do your research and pay employees fairly according to their seniority and contributions.
  • If the company runs an ESOP program, revisit it to ensure that people who have been in the company for a long time have strong incentives to remain.
  • Clean up your benefits and make sure you remind employees how they can make use of them. Benefits don’t need to be monetary: flexible work hours, extra days off, and internal mentoring programs are just some of the ways that you can boost morale without breaking the bank.

If your team has returned to the office, please avoid repromoting remote work as a “benefit”. Most of us spent almost two years working from our homes, and we might have to do that again sooner than we’d wanted. Don’t pretend the last two years never happened.

Ask for their feedback and follow up

Instead of spending time and effort to assume what your team needs, you can ask them directly.

HR departments love to use employee engagement surveys as a quick morale fix. Employees give detailed feedback on what they need to feel more productive or appreciated at work, only for upper management to cherrypick issues and brush real problems under the rug.

Asking for feedback is the first step, but it’s nothing without following up. Make sure you address the problematic patterns found in your survey and update your team on how you’re working to resolve any issues. People know you can’t solve everything, but they’ll want to see some progress after their feedback.

Fine-tune your remote/hybrid strategy

Have you worked on improving remote collaboration in your team, or have you just ridden the lockdown work-from-home wave based on people’s goodwill? Whether you work remotely or in a hybrid manner, you must make people feel supported, no matter where they choose to work.

Ensure your most common processes are thoroughly documented, especially if hiring and onboarding remote workers. If there’s a budget for tech equipment available, use it to accommodate better those working from home and install proper videoconference equipment in office meeting rooms.

The best way to make your team feel supported is to involve them while shaping their workplace experience. Instead of issuing “back to the office” one-size-fits-all mandates, try to listen to your employees as closely as possible. People will feel much closer to the policies they helped shape.

Sell the vision, but include them in it

Vision is often the decisive factor when people consider job offers. Each team has a different way of approaching that, but no matter how hard you promote your vision, ensure you present ways for employees to visualize themselves in it.

How does success for the company translates into success for its employees? Is there a clear career path for them? How often do you talk about their career advancement?

Take a look at your processes as well - is there an internal hiring or referral program? People want to know if the company has their backs, so acknowledge they will need a “what’s in it for me” factor without judging them (companies are not families, after all).

Trust them

If you give the slightest impression that you don’t trust your team members, people will be discontented and look for other opportunities. Remember that you work with adults; there is no need to infantilize them by enforcing unnecessary policies based on edge cases.

A culture of trust and belonging is vital to keep your best employees with you. Employee turnover is a constant in business, but it doesn’t have to be constant in your team.

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