A top performer resigns out of the blue, and you’re at a loss. What happened? And what about the rest of your employees? How will this impact them?
You already know you’ll need to lean on your remaining team members to take on more responsibility while you search for their colleague’s replacement. That’s a big ask, especially if they’re already stretched thin — and it may help stoke feelings of stress and uncertainty.
Given the possibility of cascading fallout, it’s natural to worry that an MVP’s sudden departure could be the tipping point that pushes other valued employees to think about leaving. At the very least, it may dent morale, which could undermine work performance and employee engagement. So, now’s the time to confirm your business is doing the right things to drive job satisfaction and, ultimately, employee retention.
Why do employees leave?
Exit interviews can provide invaluable insight into the employee perspective of your company and help determine whether your employee retention strategies need improvement.
More than likely, you’ll hear the departing employee cite one or more of the following reasons for leaving their job:
- Inadequate salary and benefits
- Feeling overworked and/or unsupported
- Limited opportunities for career advancement
- A need for better work-life balance
- Lack of recognition
- Unhappiness with management
- Concerns about the company’s direction or financial health
- Dissatisfaction with the company culture
- The desire to make a change
Many professionals feeling stuck right now
The COVID-19 pandemic, not surprisingly, is a major factor in why many workers are rethinking their employment situation. Research from Robert Half finds that nearly 4 in 10 professionals surveyed (38%) feel their career has stalled since the start of the crisis. That number jumps to 66% for workers ages 18-24.
Among those who said their career has stalled, about half reported that they’ve seen stagnation in salary growth, career advancement and skills development. Additionally, our research found that 1 in 3 workers whose feelings toward their work have changed due to the pandemic want to pursue a more meaningful or fulfilling job.
View our free Salary Guide to confirm you’re paying your employees competitive compensation.
Employee retention strategies for increasing job satisfaction
While the job market in some industries and regions favors employers, candidates with in-demand skills likely won’t have to wait long to find a new opportunity. Many companies never stopped hiring during the pandemic, and a lot that did are starting to expand staff levels again.
If you sense your business is at risk of losing top talent, you need to move fast to shore up your employee retention strategies. Here are 14 areas where deliberate action can help boost employees’ job satisfaction and increase your ability to hold onto valued workers:
1. Onboarding and orientation — Every new hire should be set up for success from the start. Your onboarding process should teach new employees not only about the job but also about the company culture and how they can contribute to and thrive in it. Don’t skimp on this critical first step. The training and support you provide from day one, whether in person or virtually, can set the tone for the employee’s entire tenure at your firm.
Need to onboard employees remotely? Check out the tips in this post.
2. Mentorship programs — Pairing a new employee with a mentor is a great component to add to your extended onboarding process, especially in a remote work environment. Mentors can welcome newcomers into the company, offer guidance and be a sounding board. And it’s a win-win: New team members learn the ropes from experienced employees and, in return, they offer a fresh viewpoint to their mentors.
But don’t limit mentorship opportunities to new employees. Your existing staff — and your overall employee retention outlook and team’s job satisfaction — can greatly benefit from mentor-mentee relationships.
3. Employee compensation — It’s essential for companies to pay their employees competitive compensation, which means employers need to evaluate and adjust salaries regularly. Even if your business can't increase pay right now, consider whether you could provide other forms of compensation, such as bonuses. Don’t forget about improving health care benefits and retirement plans, which can help raise employees’ job satisfaction, too.
4. Perks — Perks can make your workplace stand out to potential new hires and re-engage current staff, all while boosting employee morale. According to research for our Salary Guide, flexible schedules and remote work options (separate from pandemic-related stay-at-home orders) are the perks many professionals value most. In addition, about a third of the employees we surveyed said paid parental leave is a big plus.
5. Wellness offerings — Keeping employees fit — mentally, physically and financially — is just good business. The pandemic prompted many leading employers to expand and improve their wellness offerings to help employees feel supported and prioritize their well-being. Stress management programs, retirement planning services and reimbursement for fitness classes are just some examples of what your business might consider providing to employees.
6. Communication — The pandemic helped underscore the importance of good workplace communication. Your direct reports should feel they can come to you with ideas, questions and concerns at any time. And as a leader, you need to make sure you’re doing your part to help promote timely, constructive and positive communication across the entire team, including on-site and remote employees. Make sure you proactively connect with each team member on a regular basis, too, to get a sense of their workload and job satisfaction.
7. Continuous feedback on performance — Many employers are abandoning the annual performance review in favor of more frequent meetings with team members. In these one-on-one meetings, talk with your employees about their short- and long-term professional goals and help them visualize their future with the company. While you should never make promises you can’t keep, talk through potential career advancement scenarios together and lay out a realistic plan for reaching those goals.
8. Training and development — As part of providing continuous feedback on performance, you can help employees identify areas for professional growth, such as the need to learn new skills. Upskilling is especially important today as technology continues to change how we work. When people upskill, they’re gaining new abilities and competencies as business requirements continue to evolve.
Make it a priority to invest in your workers’ professional development. Give them time to attend virtual conferences, provide tuition reimbursement or pay for continuing education. Also, don’t forget about succession planning, which can be a highly effective method for advancing professional development and building leadership skills.
9. Recognition and rewards systems — Every person wants to feel appreciated for the work they do. And in today’s “anywhere workforce,” an employer’s gratitude can make an especially big impact. So be sure to thank your direct reports who go the extra mile and explain how their hard work helps the organization. Some companies set up formal rewards systems to incentivize great ideas and innovation, but you can institute compelling recognition programs even if you have a small team or limited budget.
10. Work-life balance — What message is your time management sending to employees? Do you expect staff to be available around the clock? A healthy work-life balance is essential to job satisfaction. People need to know their managers understand they have lives outside of work — and recognize that maintaining balance can be even more challenging when working from home. Encourage employees to set boundaries and take their vacation time. And if late nights are necessary to wrap up a project, consider giving them extra time off to compensate.
11. Flexible work arrangements — As business offices reopen after the pandemic forced their closures, many companies are preparing for the fact that some of their employees will still want to work remotely, at least part time. In fact, a Robert Half survey found that 1 in 3 professionals working from home would look for a new job if they were required to return to the office full time.
So think sooner than later about what you can offer employees if remote work on a permanent basis isn’t an option. A compressed workweek? Flextime? Or maybe a partial telecommuting option? All of the above can help relieve stress for your team — and boost employee retention.
12. Effective change management — Beyond the disruption due to the pandemic, every workplace has to deal with change, good and bad. And employees look to leadership for insight and reassurance during these times. If your organization is going through a big shift, keeping your team as informed as possible helps ease anxieties and manage the rumor mill. Make big announcements either individually or in a group call or meeting, and allow time for questions.
Need more insight into how to guide your team through change? See this post.
13. An emphasis on teamwork — You should encourage all your employees, not just star players, to contribute ideas and solutions. Promote teamwork by creating opportunities for collaboration, accommodating individuals’ work styles and giving everyone the latitude to make decisions and course-corrections, if needed.
14. Acknowledgement of milestones, big and small — A final tip for promoting employee retention is to shine a light on notable achievements. Whether your team finishes ahead of the deadline on a major project, or a worker reaches a five-year work anniversary, seize the opportunity to mark the milestone together. Even if you need to celebrate virtually, it can be a meaningful and memorable moment for everyone.
The 14 employee retention strategies outlined above are just some ways to help increase your team members’ job satisfaction. Be sure to re-evaluate your efforts regularly. That includes staying current on market standards for salary and benefits, and best practices for developing an attractive workplace culture and strong manager-employee relations.
It’s inevitable that some team members will leave your organization sooner than you’d like. But you can at least make their decision a little tougher. And if those employees leave your firm knowing they were valued and supported, they’ll likely say good things about your business and, perhaps, even come back to work for you one day.