7 tried-and-true ways to retain employees

Every company, regardless of its product or service, needs engaged employees. Despite the impact of Covid-19, some companies have managed to retain their staff. But this is not the majority. Employees are more likely now to take a chance and leave their current jobs for something new as part of the “Great Resignation.”

What is causing this sudden willingness to leave one company for another? Well, there are several factors at play, including a lack of fulfillment in one’s job, reduced flexibility, and lower levels of engagement due to remote work, among others.

And though industries such as retail have had a significant amount of turnover, professional and business services are no exception. Forbes recently reported that out of 30,000 Microsoft employees, 41% considered quitting or changing their job.

So how can you avoid being a victim of the Great Resignation? Can the workforce be saved? Let’s look at 7 things you can do to improve employee retention.

Method 1: Be the kind of manager that people want to work for

It has long been said that employees don’t leave jobs, they leave their managers. While this isn’t always true, one affirmative step you can take toward employee retention is to make sure that your managers are well equipped with the EQ (emotional intelligence) needed to engage effectively with their team. Even if someone is going to leave for all the right reasons, it should not be a surprise to the manager.

Method 2: Make development a top priority

Being intentional about career development lowers the likelihood that employees will see other companies as offering opportunities that they can’t find at their current employer. Avoid the trap of allowing your career development processes to become a “check-the-box” exercise. When people feel their leadership team truly cares about their development and knows their motivations and their goals, as well as their concerns, they are more likely to stay.

Method 3: Prioritize professional relationship building

With the increase in remote work, we must work harder to maintain professional connections. Many aspects of building professional relationships happen in the moments that aren’t available to us when we work remotely. From shared moments before and after meetings to coffee breaks, the lunchroom, collaborative projects, and even bathroom trips…these are all moments that build the relationships that connect us to a team. Regardless of length or purpose, people need to be around other people. When that element is missing, employees are at risk of losing the connections that drive the desire to stay.

Method 4: Focus on strengths

We tend to “help” people by instructing them in the areas where they are not strong and need to improve. But the reality is that our DNA is our DNA – and when we spend all our time working on areas where we are not strong, over time it wears us down. If we flip the switch to focus on providing challenges that feed into an employee’s strengths, they will experience greater levels of success – and that’s good for employees and employers. There will always be times that we work to make necessary improvements in pursuit of a career or performance goal, but the essence of our work needs to center around the things we’re good at.

Method 5:  Look forward, not “up”

Oftentimes, corporate structures emphasize moving up: if this equates to improvement. But moving up and moving forward are two different things. Traditionally, there are fewer roles as you move “up” the levels of an organization.  By presenting opportunities for employees to move forward in their careers through skill development, increased financial rewards and expanding the breadth of perspective, you can avoid the trap of losing employees when everyone can’t be promoted to leadership roles.

Method 6: Make connections to the mission

Simon Sinek famously said, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” At a minimum, employees need to be able to articulate the mission of your company. Retention is about making employees feel connected to the mission and purpose of the organization. Do they understand how the company makes money? Do they understand the key metrics that measure success? Above all, do they care? If employees feel like they are a part of that mission, not just a number, then that reflects in their work, attitude and loyalty to the company.

Method 7: Turn your mentoring program upside down

Mentorship is most often seen as a tool for more senior employees to “teach” less experienced employees about how to navigate career decisions. However, when your leaders recognize that they have as much to learn from more junior members of the team, this invites a healthy and open workplace dialogue. Practicing the art of reverse mentoring is encouraging your leadership team to benefit from the knowledge, thoughts, and perspective of team members newer to the workforce. Not only will it enrich your leaders’ view, but it will make your team members feel heard and valued, and therefore, more likely to stay.

In a nutshell

The key to retaining staff is to provide an environment where they feel that their needs are prioritized – where they feel valued, heard and, most importantly, involved. This leads to increased engagement and decreases the likelihood that they’ll depart for what may look like greener pastures.

Realistically, there’s no sure-fire way of retaining employees. Sometimes, you can do everything right and employees still leave. But, if you can say that you intentionally create the environment most conducive to retention from the employee’s perspective, then you’ve crafted the kind of workplace that’s healthy – for all of the employees who stay.


About the author

Serving as Vice President of Human Resources, Leona Rapelye is responsible for ensuring that our people programs are aligned with Synergis’ business strategies. She is also tasked with driving talent and culture initiatives that deliver strong business results and a world-class employee experience. Having established a solid foundation in a variety of human resources roles in the financial services industry, Leona focused on human resources and people development, as well as operational and business roles that gave her a well-rounded breadth of perspective. She has a master’s degree in Human Resources Management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and holds the SHRM-SCP designation. In her spare time, she is an avid reader and movie buff. She is also an unapologetic Disney-phile and enjoys spending time with her husband at “the happiest place on earth.”

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