Record numbers of employees are quitting their jobs. The most recent data reports that 3.9 million people quit their jobs in June, amid a phenomenon dubbed “The Great Resignation.” This trend picks up where the high pre-pandemic turnover rates left off, as people resume their job searches. This ‘turnover tsunami,’ like the natural disaster of the same name, is somewhat unpredictable, and employers in many industries are scrambling to mitigate the impacts.
The good news is that employers are far from helpless in all of this. Whether you’re already experiencing high turnover or want to get ahead of the challenge, you can take steps now to protect your organization. Focusing on the employee experience and fostering engagement can improve retention of your current staff and adopting strategies that help you make better hires will reduce the turnover you might face in the future.
How to keep the employees you have
Today’s employee retention strategies need to be innovative to be effective, particularly as employees’ expectations of employers have shifted during the pandemic.
#1 – Give managers the tools to have better “money talks” with employees
Teach managers how to communicate better with employees and how to address the difficult issues that might inspire employees to look for other opportunities. This means talking about salaries, mental health, and organizational culture. When it comes to compensation, it’s especially important to understand employees’ expectations about their earnings, at your company or with another employer.
Many employees may make false assumptions about whether their current salary is low, average, or above average. Sharing market range numbers with them might save you trouble later. Ultimately, if they think they can do better, they will probably try. And since 60% of millennials making $100k (now a middle class salary) say they are living paycheck-to-paycheck, this presents a challenge for employers. Having frank discussions about current salary can help, especially when you can chart an employee’s future earning potential and help them see a long-term career with your organization.
#2 – Prepare to pay up
If your employees do begin to look for work elsewhere, expect and prepare to make counteroffers to keep them on your roster. You’ll likely need to offer tangible rewards to convince them to stay—higher salary, bonuses, and other valuable perks. Remember that it costs 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them, so from a budget perspective, you can offer substantial compensation and still come out ahead.
#3 – Ask for constructive criticism
Employee feedback has always been an important part of building a productive and positive organizational culture and, right now, understanding how employees feel could determine whether they stay or go.
Survey employees about how your company has handled the pandemic and ask for suggestions on what you can do better. Ask them about the benefits and perks they would like to have, and look for tangible ways to deliver on those wishlists. If necessary, meet with employees individually to discuss their concerns and ensure they feel (and are) heard and seen.
#4 – Get real about remote work
More than a third (39%) of employees say they’ll quit their job if they can’t continue working from home. If you want employees to return to work full-time or on a hybrid schedule, talk to them about their feelings and concerns before dictating a schedule.
Since employers and workers largely disagree about what a hybrid split should look like, frank discussions about how to meet company and employee needs at the same time are necessary.
As we all watch the Delta variant of COVID-19 renew the danger in many areas of the country, many employees continue to be concerned about safety and health, for themselves as well as their families, Employers need to show employees that they are tracking the trends, learning about the science, and ready to adapt in the event of another wave of lockdowns and school closings.
How to hire people more likely to stick around long-term
Improving the quality of your new hires can help protect your business against future turnover. Here are a few thoughts on how to do that:
#5 – Renovate your job ads
Job descriptions need to reflect necessary competencies as much as experience.
For each open role, conduct a fresh job analysis to make sure you’re accurately describing the position in a way that gives candidates a real sense of what they would be doing on the job. Some employers may skip this step because they’re in a hurry to fill positions but investing a small amount of time in performing job analyses can save a lot of time and headaches down the road. There’s no benefit to hiring quickly for the sake of speed if you’re not connecting with the right candidates.
#6 – Lean on science-based assessments
Use science-based hiring assessments that give you an extra window into job fit that you can’t get from just using resumes, skills tests, and interviews. Valid, reliable assessments help filter out poor fits and can actually enhance the candidate experience for serious job seekers. Research confirms that cognition, personality, emotional intelligence, and other factors are linked to job satisfaction and performance, so using pre-employment assessments can help you identify the best candidates to hire.
(See for yourself how leaning on Wonderlic assessments right now can help you land great talent now—and prevent turnover, long-term.)
#7 – Prevent burnout from Day 1
More than half (52%) of employees are experiencing burnout and that could prompt them to explore other options. Head off burnout at the pass by focusing on the experience your new hires have, especially for remote positions.
Make them feel welcome and demonstrate a culture that values mental health and employee satisfaction. Fully one-third (33%) of employees quit within their first 90 days and up to 20% of turnover happens in the first 45 days, so the new hire experience is crucial to get right.
Their first few weeks on the job set their expectation for the duration of their employment, so designing a remote onboarding process that follows best practices can give new employees another reason to stick around.
#8 – Stop hiring for “culture fit”
Hiring for culture fit can perpetuate bias and cause your organization to miss out on talented candidates who have the potential to help your company adapt, innovate, and grow. Instead, look for “culture add” — candidates who bring new perspectives and bright potential to your organization.
You can start making this shift by documenting your organization’s culture, ethics, and mission, and by evaluating candidates on their culture add potential. There are tech tools that can help make this assessment, and it’s also helpful to sit down with hiring managers to review each batch of candidates.
Hiring for culture add can lead to a more inclusive culture where employees feel a greater sense of belonging, which is linked to a number of benefits: a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover risk, and a 75% reduction in sick days.
#9 – Show employees the way forward
More than half (58%) of employees report that their current employers don’t offer enough growth opportunities for them to stay long term. If you want to hire employees who will stay, and keep the employees you have now, you need to show them that you are invested in their future. Making even one improvement to your employee training and career development program could help. Some ideas:
- Provide frequent on-the-job learning opportunities through collaboration and informal mentorship. Managers can help employees tackle difficult tasks by role-playing or helping them create a step-by-step plan, so they learn the soft skills they need to advance.
- Tailor learning experiences to individual needs. Take into account each employee’s knowledge and level of experience, as well as learning style, when creating learning experiences.
- Don’t underestimate feedback. Set clear expectations and provide regular feedback so employees can course correct as they work toward their goals.
Tom Gimbel, founder and chief executive of LaSalle Network, a national staffing and recruiting firm based in Chicago, suggests having tough conversations via video call. Before telling employees where they are falling short, ask them how they are doing,” he wrote for Wall Street Journal. “Sometimes, employees will bring up what you were going to address, which makes the conversation easier. Lastly, look into the camera lens, not at their face, to actually look into their eyes. I promise it makes a difference.”
Employee retention starts yesterday
The circumstances that influence your employees’ decisions whether to stay or go are already formed in your organization, so you need to work quickly to improve things if you’re experiencing high turnover, low employee engagement, or any of the warning signs that an employee might quit.
Having tough conversations and making even the smallest changes to your compensation structure, employee development program, hiring and onboarding process can translate into big gains in retention, engagement, and productivity. You can’t change the past, but you can work now to shape a brighter future for your business and your employees.
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