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6 Employee Retention Strategies to Try

March 24, 2020

By: Wendy Sheaffer

Replacing skilled employees is a major challenge for any organization. In addition to the time and expense required to conduct a new search and hiring process to replace a departed employee, there’s also the lost productivity when remaining employees have to pick up the slack until a replacement is selected. That’s why having strong employee retention strategies in place is essential to building a resilient organization. When employees aren’t constantly looking for their next opportunity elsewhere, they are more engaged in their work and take a more active role in contributing to long-term success.

6 Employee Retention Strategies

1. Focus on Development

There is no universal definition of employee development. Still, most companies understand it to mean a collaborative effort between an organization and its employees to improve their skills and knowledge. In most cases, this is accomplished by making learning resources available while also providing opportunities for employees to gain valuable experience. However, they’re implemented, these programs should be a central component of employee retention strategies.

Employee training and staff development can take several forms. Online learning resource libraries allow employees to learn at their own pace and fit development into their schedules. One-on-one coaching programs pair people with experienced mentors who can offer guidance and suggestions on dealing with new situations and improving in other areas related to their job. Employee training and development programs can focus on hard skills directly related to tasks and soft skills necessary to work collaboratively with others and manage teams effectively.

Investing in staff development also aligns employee career goals with the organization’s long-term objectives. By providing the tools and resources employees need to improve their skills, companies demonstrate that they value professional and personal growth, which helps generate loyalty and improve commitment. It’s no coincidence that a 2018 LinkedIn study found that 93 percent of employees said they would stay with a company longer if it invested in their careers.

2. Improve Engagement

When employees feel ignored or undervalued, they can engage in various negative behaviors that are harmful to the organization. Whether it takes the form of declining work quality, poor attendance, or a negative attitude, employee disengagement can quickly contaminate the workplace to diminish productivity and performance. 

Providing new opportunities is one of the best ways of pushing back against disengagement. When employees are allowed to improve their skills and gain new experiences, they are more likely to feel valued. Engaged employees also tend to be more productive and efficient overall, which is why companies should spend time thinking about how to emphasize development if they want to get the most out of their workforce.

3. Provide Multiple Learning Resources

While today’s employees want development opportunities, they also want them on terms that work for their busy lives and schedules. For many years, companies required employees to attend lengthy seminars or workshops. But this “information dump” approach to learning often left people without a clear idea of implementing the lessons learned (if they even remembered them all after a marathon session). Furthermore, long-duration courses are often inconvenient, either cutting into employees' work productivity or personal time. While some companies have promoted “lunch and learn” or “remote learning” programs, these approaches can create the perception that an employer doesn’t respect personal boundaries.

For many employees, micro-learning resources offer an ideal solution. These programs offer developmental resources in small increments that can be digested quickly and easily during the day. Learning opportunities can also be incorporated into the employee experience more effectively. Providing people with the chance to work on new projects outside their usual responsibilities is just one example of how professional growth can be integrated into employee retention strategies.

4. Use Assessment Tools

It’s a lot easier to help employees understand where they need to improve and what they want to accomplish. Development assessments can provide actionable data detailing what motivates employees to learn, what gaps exist in their natural aptitudes, and what learning and coaching formats are most effective. This allows you to build a customized development strategy for every employee that sets them up for learning success.

Behavioral and cultural fit assessments are also valuable for telling you what environments and situations are the best matches for employees. This can be especially valuable when putting new teams together because it can head off potential conflict sources and help put people in the roles where they’re most likely to be successful. The ability to provide insightful information makes these assessments critical to successful employee retention strategies.

5. Talk (and Listen) to Employees

While assessment data is important, it’s also good to know what employees think about their career goals. If someone is happy in their existing role but would like to improve key skills associated with it, they will require a different approach than someone who has aspirations to move into a different role. This is especially important when it comes to preparing people for leadership positions. Not every employee wants to be a leader, but those who generally want to take consistent steps toward that goal. Understanding what each employee wants will make it easier to put the data gathered in their assessments into a meaningful context.

Of course, employees may also have a lot to tell you about the organization (and the people leading it). When soliciting feedback from employees, it’s important to listen carefully to what they have to say. While it isn’t always possible to take action on every point they raise, taking the time to listen and understand their concerns and opinions makes them feel valued and supported. In many cases, their insights can expose issues within an organization and contribute to positive solutions. 

6. Encourage Employees to Create a Professional Development Plan

One of the most valuable tools for organizations and employees alike is a professional development plan. This document identifies short, medium, and long-term goals the employee wants to accomplish throughout their career. Typically developed in cooperation with a manager or HR director, the employee development plan highlights any skills, competencies, experiences, and education required to achieve each goal. It also identifies potential resources, such as directed learning materials, potential mentors or employee development trainers, and training courses that could prove useful throughout their career journey. With a career development plan laying out a distinct path forward, it’s far easier for employees to see where they need to take steps to further their careers. The plan also helps employers get a sense of an employee’s plans and how they fit into a broader succession strategy.

Organizations that neglect employee retention strategies often discover far too late that they’re actively pushing their best people out the door to seek opportunities elsewhere. When companies implement employee training programs that help people build new skills and become effective leaders, they can significantly improve retention and engagement levels. The combination of development assessments and professional development plans encourages employees to see a future for themselves within the organization.

Wendy Sheaffer

Wendy is the former Chief Product Officer of The Omnia Group. She is a subject matter expert in behavioral assessments and in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. For more information, email or call 800.525.7117.

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