8 ways to increase employee retention

Employee retention is important. You likely know this firsthand from the heartache, headache, and logistical nightmares you’ve suffered after a key employee parts ways with your business. The numbers confirm the damage it can cause: Recent data indicates that it costs as much as 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace them—that’s a lot of money, especially if you lose a high-level employee.

So, what can you do to prevent the emotional and financial repercussions of employee turnover? To keep your employees around, you need to make sure they’re happy and engaged—and that’s not an overnight process. Here are eight actionable and concrete ways to start improving your business’s employee retention:

Start with recruiting  

Much of your employee retention rate will depend on who you hire in the first place—and how you hire them. Hiring strategies for turnover prevention are valuable to keep in mind as you grow your team. Therefore, you’ll want to look for indications of flexibility and versatility in candidate’s resumes and interviews, especially if you’re a new company and the role could potentially shift and evolve over time. Also, you’ll want to be cognizant of why they’re choosing to move on from their current position, if only to know how to better manage them if they end up filling your position.

You should also be very intentional about how you frame your business in your job postings and interviews. Are you making it clear how much you value employee retention? If not, express this in your communications with candidates.

Set up socialization infrastructure  

The first few weeks of employment typically set the tone for how new employees interact with their peers, which is why setting up employee socialization infrastructure is so crucial. You’ll want to create systems for making sure your new employees are socialized into your company on a positive note. Help them break in and settle in with their new co-workers by scheduling lunches, meet-and-greets, and the occasional happy hour early on.

This being said, since you probably already spend time and resources on making sure your new employees know the ropes of all the technical and logistical aspects of their new positions, throwing the social aspects into the mix of all your onboarding procedures shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.

Keep on top of industry standards  

Every half year or so, you should be checking in on industry standards for your employees’ positions, and not just for their salaries. Sure, you need to be confident that you’re paying your employees at least the market rate for their skills and experience—but you also need to offer the benefits that other employers in your industry are offering.

How does your work-from-home policy stack up? What about your paid parental leave? Make sure you’re offering your employees the benefits that are standard for their positions, or another employer will.

Offer unique perks  

Beyond offering the industry standard for benefits, you should also consider offering unique fringe benefits. Fringe benefits will make being your employee that much more enjoyable. If you offer unique benefits that other employers in your field aren’t offering, employees will be less tempted to look for other jobs.

If you want to improve employee retention, consider offering tuition reimbursement, catered meals, or gym memberships. Talk to your current employees about what fringe benefits would be most useful and enjoyable for them and go from there.

Be flexible  

The more flexible you are, the more likely your employees will stick with you through the different phases of their lives. If an employee feels they’re able to talk to their manager about shifting around their hours when they become a parent, they’ll likely stick with your team. Or, say an employee wants to go back to school. If you’re willing to have them as a part-time employee, they could bring what they learn back to your business in the meantime.

Work with your employees as they weather and celebrate what life throws at them. Odds are they’ll be grateful and eager to stick with an understanding employer.

Make concrete, delineated career maps  

Most employees want to work towards something at any given moment. Whether it’s a project, a meeting, or a training session, whatever they’re working on should easily tie into a career map that they’ve developed with their managers. A whopping 94% of employees said they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career.

Make it clear to each member of your team that you care about their development. Have managers take the time to sit down with their direct reports and fashion career maps, complete with micro-goals and skills to learn, for their development.

Publicly recognize hard work  

If you want to improve your employee retention rate, start recognizing your employees’ hard work publicly—and if you already do, start doing it more often. According to a Qualtrics survey, employees with managers who consistently acknowledge them for good work are 5x more likely to stay at the company. Though the concrete ways of recognizing hard work, like raises and promotions, are most important, simple words of encouragement will cost your company nothing and can help achieve similar ends.

Foster candid employee/manager relationships  

The more open the employer-manager relationship, the more likely the employee will be to have a conversation with their manager if they’re unhappy with an aspect of their job. Alternatively, if an employee isn’t comfortable having that conversation with their manager, they might find it easier to search for another job.

Rather than address the issue at hand, which can be an uncomfortable conversation to have, employees tend to search for jobs where the issue at hand doesn’t exist. Although a manager may be willing to address the issue head-on, they can’t do that if they’re unaware of the issue in the first place.

Increasing employee retention: your next steps  

Now that you’re familiar with these eight solid tips towards improving your employee retention, it’s time to start thinking about next steps.

Which should you act on first? If you’re ready to make a splash—and a significant investment—start thinking of fringe benefits you can add to your employee’s packages. On the other hand, if you want to start small, think about ways you can more publicly and more consistently recognize employee successes.

Wherever you start with your employee retention game plan, just remember to be patient but proactive. Because employee retention improvements are majorly culture-based and gradual, pulling multiple strategic levers at once will help you see more concrete results.

Randa Kriss is a staff writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and Spanish from Iona College and writes extensively on human resource solutions, payroll, e-commerce, and small business trends. 


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