A Four Point Plan for Employee Retention in 2019

For a second year running, the biggest challenge facing employers is how to keep employees from leaving.

Report after report including the recent 2018 Job Seeker Nation Study confirms that employee engagement and retention will be the most pressing HR struggle of 2019. Recruiting software company Jobvite interviewed 1,500 U.S. workers about their attitudes toward future career opportunities and found that 8 in 10 workers are open to leaving their current job to pursue different options.

“Almost a third of respondents (30 percent) have left a job within the first 90 days of work, with 43 percent indicating that their day-to-day role wasn’t what they expected,” reported the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in their article on the study. “Another third (32 percent) said the company culture drove them away.”

The reasons behind employee overturn vary widely and many of them are beyond the employer’s control.

“In some cases, it’s due to a candidate’s lack of self-awareness regarding what they really needed and wanted,” says author and career expert Vicki Salemi; “in other cases, it’s due to a horrible onboarding period, a lack of training, a lack of even the right technology or tools available for the individual to be successful. I’ve also heard of people hired for one thing only to have their role completely changed once onboarded.”

In a tight job market, company culture can be the deciding factor. “Sure, [a company] may look good on paper, but what’s the culture like?” explains Salemi. “If it’s toxic and clashes with [an employee’s] personal values, it’s game over before it begins.”

No matter what causes employees to leave, the total cost of losing an employee can be staggering. By one estimate, it can amount to as much as one and a half to two times the annual salary in question. The best option is to stop talent turnover before it starts.

In an article titled “How to Create a Winning Employee Retention Strategy,” Entrepreneur.com highlights a recent Watson Wyatt survey which found that more than 50% of companies don’t have a formal strategy for retaining employees once they’ve been successfully recruited. An essential for any organization struggling with employee turnover is a “proven retention strategy for holding onto the employees you’ve worked hard to recruit into your company,” as Entrepreneur puts it.

Importantly, this plan doesn’t have to involve “golden handcuff” issues such as wages, benefits, and other incentives. Instead, “the drivers go much deeper into the human psyche to the actions and attitudes that make employees feel successful, secure, and appreciated,” according to Entrepreneur.

Entrepreneur’s recipe for a successful employee retention plan emphasizes the following four points:

  • Performance: “Human beings are often the happiest when they’re in the process of achieving a goal,” states Entrepreneur. “Clear, achievable objectives that gauge personal, team, and company performance provide the feedback employees need to confirm they’re making valuable contributions and accomplishing desirable goals.” Set measurable objectives and reward employees for meeting goals in a way that recognizes how their talents and capabilities are benefiting the business. When this process is concrete, employees “begin to develop a sense of belonging and a feeling that your company is their company.”
  • Communication: Set up a “communications process that’s structured to inform, emphasize and reaffirm to employees that their workplace contributions are having an impact,” suggests Entrepreneur. “An effective and sensitive communications plan can provide you with insight on exactly what’s driving employee morale and how your staff members feel about your company.”
  • Loyalty: “Remember that people don’t begin their employment with you as loyal employees, but will develop loyalty over time as they’re trusted, respected, and appreciated by you.” How do you increase employee loyalty? There are many ways, but a good option to start with is to make clear to the employee exactly how they are needed, and therefore appreciated. Also be sure that your employees have a crystal clear understanding of the company vision. A shared vision ties employee success to the company’s success.
  • Competitive Advantage: Why should employees stay with you and not go to a competitor? Identify and emphasize the qualities that are unique to your organization. “What sets your company apart from your competition?” asks Entrepreneur. “How are you, your employees, and your company making a difference in your industry, in your community, and for your customers?” Take the time to get on the same page with your employees on these points.
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