August 17, 2018

5 Tips for Retaining (Great) Staff in Your Business

Written by
Nikos Andriotis
Tags: HR

According to author Jim Collins, “great vision without great people is irrelevant.” And who could disagree? Because when an organization loses its best and brightest, its long-term success suffers. This is because every great employee takes a piece of the business’ potential with them.

When your staff retention rate is low, profit is in trouble too. In fact, without effective staff retention strategies, the economic impact of employee churn can be devastating. Need proof? According to the 2017 Human Capital Benchmarking Report by the Society for Human Resource Management, the average organization spends six to nine months of an employee’s salary to hire and train their replacement!

5 Actionable Staff Retention Strategies and Ideas

If you’re tracking employee analytics, like cost per hire, then you already know how wasteful it is to lose good employees. Even more crushing is knowing that they might have stayed if the organization took the right steps at the right time.

Let’s take a closer look at the tips that guarantee your staff retention plan will succeed.

Create an environment of trust and open communication

You can’t ignore the role of communication in employee engagement. Because employees are known to disengage when they feel invisible, or when they’re kept in the dark. Worse, a lack of understanding can delay work and create rifts between employees and management.

So, what do you do?

Start by providing employees with easy and varied tools for communication. Need a platform for team or casual one-on-one conversations? Slack’s got your back. Need a place to discuss project issues and tag team members? Trello and Asana might be better suited.

But whatever you do, make sure to prioritize expectation management in your communication. This will help with retaining staff, because employees will understand exactly what the organization needs from each task, what policies and procedures they should be adhering to, and how their performance is measured.

Finally, an environment of open communication avoids toxic situations like burnout, and the resulting resentment. So, regularly ask employees how they feel about their workload, and make it safe to answer honestly.

Prioritize two-way feedback

You’re probably already paying your star employees more money – but you need to pay them more attention, too! Because if they feel underappreciated, you can bet that they’ll take their skills elsewhere.

But feedback isn’t effective when it’s only one-way. Employees also need to feel heard and understood to stay engaged.

Let’s start with giving feedback. Recognition is one of the most popular staff retention strategies, and for good reason. Employees need to feel that their efforts are acknowledged and appreciated. Recognition can range from a weekly team email that congratulates exceptional performance, to a defined incentives program.

While recognition is vital, most employees prefer corrective feedback over pure praise. The problem? Corrective feedback can feel harsh. It needs to be packaged constructively by management. So, an environment of trust (see tip #1 above!) is the first step to giving feedback that improves performance.

And what about receiving feedback? Retaining staff starts with finding employee pain points early on. Identify what’s behind employee frustrations through anonymous employee surveys, direct feedback in one-on-ones, and paying attention to industry trends.

“Stay interviews” are an often-overlooked type of on-one-one, where employees are questioned on their reasons for leaving the organization. Leverage these interviews to find out what would make an employee decide to stay, and work together to make it happen.

Train leaders, not managers

Managers talk, but leaders listen.

Open communication and two-way feedback only work in the hands of quality leadership.

A good leader makes sure that their team feels safe enough to offer their opinion without punishment. They place listening before talking (e.g. listening to an employee’s frustrations before defending the organization’s choices).

Leaders should also create an open rapport with employees. This doesn’t mean becoming BFF’s, but it does mean empathizing with each individual employee. This extends to understanding employees’ needs in terms of benefits and pay, too.

That’s why incentive programs are often mentioned among staff retention strategies. Without sensitive leadership, the organization can waste its efforts (and cash) providing benefits and rewards that aren’t actually valued by the employees they’re awarded to.

So, leaders need to become experts in identifying rewards that will motivate their teams. Most organizations can’t offer every available benefit or perk, so understanding which benefits matter most is key. For example, flexible hours have a tangible effect on employees’ work-life balance, which might be a priority for an organizational culture focused on well-being.

Finally, leaders need regular training on how to motivate and encourage different types of employees, recognize workplace stressors, and manage morale within the team.

Open the door to innovation and creativity

As employees become more experienced (and valuable), they start to meet the challenges of their role more easily. Unfortunately, though, organizational structure doesn’t always provide a clear promotion-track. That’s why staff retention strategies must provide meaningful challenges to employees within their current role.

Start by creating a playful environment within the team. This environment should welcome out-of-the-box thinking. Regular challenge-based team building activities can help you make “play time” part of your team dynamic, too.

Next, approach seasoned employees about rethinking processes within their role and the department. Take advantage of their first-hand experience, while providing an outlet for creativity.

Finally, you need to help leaders change how their teams talk about failure. Innovation and creativity only flourish in environments that support risk-taking. Sadly, most workplaces are more focused on preventing mistakes. Instead, build your culture around learning. When a risk doesn’t pay off, employees should feel empowered by the experience – and not too afraid to try the next idea!

Invest in employee growth and development

A sense of growth and development is vital to job satisfaction and engagement. That’s why your best employees are always looking to improve. But if their development isn’t valued by the organization, they’ll start to look elsewhere.

This makes meaningful learning and development initiatives non-negotiable for staff retention strategies. Sure, creating the perfect training that meets the organization’s skills needs and employees’ training preferences can be daunting. But fortunately, online learning tools make quality training a cinch.

The first step is finding an LMS that provides a wide range of powerful features. Formats like videos and microlearning make training content more engaging and relevant. And an LMS that’s mobile-ready also makes learning more accessible and convenient for busy employees.

Once you’ve got the right LMS behind you, ensuring that training aligns with business goals is the next step. This means taking a close look at your learning outcomes and performance KPIs. Is the relationship between them clear? Done right, training will directly improve employee morale, productivity, and profit.
Staff Retention Strategies that Pay Off
Keeping your staff retention rate high keeps your vision intact, and your coffers full. So embrace these 5 staff retention ideas and keep your best people on board!

Nikos Andriotis has two decades of professional experience in education, IT, and eLearning. He holds a degree in Informatics and his writing has been featured in dozens of tech industry publications. Currently, he shares tips and insights about online training and other business-related topics for TalentLMS.