by Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Each year whether we are in a recession or boom, we continue to hear statistics ranging from 60 – 85% of our workers are actively seeking employment. Employers often find themselves in disbelief that these numbers apply to them, especially if they’ve been lulled into low turnover rates – UNTIL their best employees exit out the door right before the eyes. The fact is we have more jobs available than we do candidates. And, your best recruitment solution starts with re-recruiting your current staff.
No matter what the state of the economy, the best employees can always leave at any time. But, once one or two leave, others start feeling more confident that they can too! Turnover is contagious. So, what are you doing to prevent a mass exodus from happening to your organization? If there was there was such a thing as a magic bullet to retention, I’d say it would be….ASK YOUR EMPLOYEES!!! You’ll find out exactly what will do the trick. Some of the best ways to do this include:
- Employee Surveys: Whether you call the survey an employee opinion, engagement, satisfaction or climate survey, the key is you want to find out information from your employees about how they feel about your company, supervisors, work conditions, job, and even intentions for staying. Make sure the survey is anonymous and you must respond to the data with action. What are you going to do with the feedback and if you can’t do anything with it, why not?
- Focus Groups: The same type of information can be gathered by a neutral third party in focus groups. Ask employees why they come to work each day, what they like about the company, what they dislike, and what would they like to see improved? You may be surprised at some of the simple solutions employees may provide that you never even thought about. But, again, be ready to take action and respond to employees with what the company is doing with the results so the employees know their voices have been heard.
- Exit Interviews: Don’t give up on asking employees who are leaving these same types of questions. You may find they are more willing to share vital information right before they leave or better yet a few months later. Which of these two times gets you the best results from exiting employees? What trends are you seeing from departing employees? What are you doing with the results?
It is critical you start creating retention solutions that work in your organization NOW! Don’t wait until you lose that first key employee. Once you know what employees want, start implementing some of the solutions they shared to help retain your workers. You’ll most likely find yourself implementing some of the following “stay strategies” depending on your workforce and what they tell you:
- Supervisor Training: How many of your supervisors have become supervisors but never received formal training? Do they have the skills to effectively coach, motivate, empower, communicate, delegate and most importantly represent the company in the right way? Remember, in many cases, the supervisor is the company to the employee.
- Leadership & Direction: With the economy in flux from year to year, many companies find their organization doing the same. How clear is the direction from leadership? Do employees feel like they have clear goals and expectations set from the supervisor and the leadership of the organization? Does the organization have clear cut policies and procedures that are applied fairly and consistently across the organization? If not, now is the time to tighten up and make your employees realize the ship is on course and has some strategy in place that has direction for everyone.
- Training & Development: What learning opportunities are you providing to your employee? Do you have a formal or informal way to help identify employees’ career goals and help them meet those goals within the organization through training and/or on the job experiences? Because of today’s ups and downs, employees are forced to focus on their career loyalty. But, if you help them focus on their career development, they are likely to be more loyal to you.
- Communication: Do you know an organization that has ever been told they over communicate? I don’t mean that you send too much email; this just means you aren’t communicating efficiently. Employees need to know what is going on in the organization during the good and bad times. Different employees like to hear messages from different media (i.e. email, memo, face to face). And, oftentimes, employees need to hear it repeatedly to really get the message. What do your employees feel they don’t hear? How do they like to be communicated with? Do you have a communication plan?
- Recognition and Reward: Too often, we all get too busy in our workdays to take time and simply say “thank you” to employees even for just doing their job, let alone for going above and beyond. Recognition doesn’t always have to be about a monetary reward. Employees often express that if someone just noticed and showed appreciation, it would mean a lot. Both managers and companies will be more successful AND retain more employees when they take the time to just say “thank you” to the employees. Find out what type of recognition employees seek. Individualize the recognition as much as possible. One person may enjoy a Home Depot gift card and another may like Starbucks. What means the most to the employee?
- Flexibility: Survey after survey continues to say that employees want to work for a flexible company. Is your workplace one that realizes the need to have flexible workplace policies? This need started with the Gen Xers but has become contagious. All of the generations have gotten on the bandwagon. If your organization isn’t considering creative ideas for offering any form of flexibility in your workplace, you are likely to start seeing your employees leave for organizations that do offer this – alternative work schedules, telecommuting, PTO, etc.
These are just a few ideas and they may not be right for your organization. Your solutions depend on your employees. But, when you say retention is too expensive, remember to do your math! What is the cost of turnover of one, two, or three key employees? This cost should become your budget for retention. Retention isn’t expensive – turnover is! How many employees can you afford to lose?
Robin Throckmorton, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is a Senior Human Resources Management Consultant and President of Strategic Human Resources, Inc. (www.strategicHRinc.com). If you have any questions or would like to share your comments or retention strategies with Robin, contact her at Robin@strategicHRinc.com.