How to improve employee retention during times of change

Written by: Deanna deBara | Illustrated by: Mathieu Labrecque
Updated on: Published on: March 18, 2021 |  Reading time: 10m

Hey managers, how has your team been doing? We know change has been a constant these days, and this can be hard on your team. We’re here to help you keep things in check. According to a Gartner study on organizational change management,

75% of change-affected employees experience moderate to high stress levels.

When your team feels stressed by your company’s growing pains, that stress can drive them straight out the door. If you want to keep your employee turnover rate to a minimum during times of growth and change, you need to give your team the right support.

But what is the bottom-line importance of employee retention? What exactly does it look like? How do you keep your turnover rate low and your employee retention rate high when your organization is growing and changing?

The importance of employee retention

Before we jump into how to improve your employee retention during times of growth and change, let’s quickly touch first on the importance of employee retention.

Why is employee retention important? When employees leave your organization, it disrupts teams and causes overall productivity to take a nosedive. In fact, according to the 2012 Allied Workforce Mobility Survey, it takes on average eight months for a new employee to reach full productivity.

Turnover is also extremely expensive. In the 2020 Retention Report, the Work Institute estimates that replacing an employee costs an organization 30% of the employee’s annual salary—and that’s a conservative estimate.

Clearly, keeping your top performers around is a must. That is why we recommend you bring your attention to the importance of employee retention as you lead your team through big changes.

So, as a manager, what are the best ways to support your team through your company’s internal growing pains—and improve employee retention in the process?

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How to improve employee retention during times of growth and change 

Let’s take a look at the key employee retention techniques you’ll need to keep your team on board during your company’s growth period.

Make work-life balance a non-negotiable

🎙 “Given remote work is a massive shift in behavior and culture over the past year, people had to adapt to this new version of normal. I try to give my team the autonomy to build out a schedule that works for them. This can mean they need flexibility to go on bike rides every day or need time at the park with kids. Flexibility to make a schedule that works around family and lifestyle tends to create happier employees. I see a massive reduction in employee churn.

– James Levine, Director of Customer Success, Sisense

The majority of employees struggle with stress during times of organizational change. And for some, that stress can evolve into burnout—which can throw a wrench in employee retention.

According to a 2018 study from Gallup: burned-out employees are 2.6 X more likely to be actively looking for a new job.

So, if you want your team to remain intact through times of growth and change, you need to make a healthy work-life balance a non-negotiable part of your company culture.

Tips to promote a healthy work-life balance on your team:

  • Encourage your employees to sign off at a reasonable time each day.
  • Avoid sending emails during off-hours.
  • Give your team as much flexibility as possible in their schedule.
  • If you notice a team member is especially stressed out and overwhelmed by the changes happening, encourage them to take some time off to recharge.
  • Lead by example. If you live it, they’ll follow in your footsteps.

The better work-life balance your team has, the better they’ll be able to roll with the punches as your company figures out how it needs to change — and the more likely they’ll be to stick with your team.

Identify—and invest in—“domino” team members 

In a perfect world, you’d have unlimited time and energy to spend with each valuable employee to figure out how they’re doing, how they’re adjusting to the changes happening in your company, and how can you best support them.

But unfortunately, the time and energy you have to spend one-on-one with your employees are limited.

If you want your time and energy to have the maximum impact on your team, you need to invest that time and energy into your “domino” employees.

Domino employees are the backbone of your team.

They’re the people that, when you invest time and energy in them, will have a domino effect, spreading positive change to other employees. When identifying domino employees, look for people with the most influence; they can be the leaders within your team, the employees that have been there the longest, or the ones with the strongest relationships with others.

Once you identify your domino employees, schedule 1-on-1’s to gauge not only where they’re at with all the changes happening in your organization, but also to get a sense of how the rest of the team might be feeling. Then, work together to develop a strategy to best support your team as a whole.

Partnering with domino employees is a great way to help and support your entire team through your company’s growing pains— especially if you don’t have the time to meet with each team member individually.

Set crystal clear expectations

When things are changing within your organization, there’s also a good chance that things may be changing within your team.

For example, you may be changing priorities, moving team members to new projects, or overall shifting gears. Things can get confusing, and clarity can definitely get lost in translation.

And that’s fine; it’s all part of the process! But if employees aren’t clear on what’s expected of them through those changes, it can cause serious employee retention issues.

According to a 2018 study from Gallup, lack of role clarity is one of the top three contributors to employee burnout—and, as mentioned, burned-out employees are more likely to look for a less stressful gig.

That’s why, if you want your team to stick around, you need to be crystal clear on how those changes are going to impact their role, responsibilities, and day-to-day experience at work. Make sure they understand exactly what they need to do moving forward.

Don’t forget to celebrate wins

Celebrating your team and their accomplishments is always important—but it’s especially important if you’re concerned about retaining employees through organizational changes.

According to research outlined in a 2019 NBC News article,

80% of employees who left their jobs cited lack of appreciation as a major reason for quitting.

So, if you want your team to stick with you and your company through times of growth and change, make sure you’re giving them the recognition they deserve.

Tips to recognize your employees:

  • Schedule a “weekly wins” meeting where you can call out and thank each team member for their contributions over the past week.
  • Give your employees the floor to do the same for each other.
  • Start a Slack Channel where employees can call out smaller daily wins in real-time.
  • Reward larger wins with incentives, like gift cards or company swag.

Regularly recognizing your employees will have a positive impact on more than just your employee retention rates.

According to a 2018 report from SHRM and Globoforce, leaders overwhelmingly agreed that employee recognition programs drive positive results within an organization; 89% of the leaders surveyed said recognition helps with employee experience, along with driving serious improvements for employee relationships, organizational culture, and employee engagement.

Focus on helping your employees grow and change, too

Your organization is growing and changing— and that presents an opportunity for your employees to grow and change right along with it.

Sadly, however, many employees do not feel supported in their career development.

According to our employee engagement platform,

42% of employees don’t currently feel they have a development plan aimed at improving their skills.

Officevibe survey data

When employees feel stagnant or trapped in their roles, they’re more likely to look for new opportunities where they can grow their careers. So, during times of change, seize the opportunity to help your employees step into their full potential.

Ask them to consider some of the following questions:

  • Where do they see themselves in six months, a year, five years?
  • How do they see themselves contributing within the context of the current changes?
  • What skills do they want to cultivate?
  • What projects do they want to explore?
  • What are their long-term growth goals?
  • How can you support their professional development?

The point is, when your company is growing and changing, you should also work with your team to define how they’d like to evolve.

As their manager, you can motivate and support them (whether that’s through mentorship, career pathing, or opportunities for career advancement) as they progress in their career.

💡 To have better conversations around growth and development, have more structured and meaningful meetings using Officevibe’s one on one software.

Ask your employees what they’d like to see change

Your organization is changing. So why not get your team’s input on what they’d like to change?

Fostering open communication and encouraging feedback from your employees is a win-win. Not only will you get helpful insights into how you and your organization can improve, but it will also help your team feel like they’re a part of your company’s progress. This might encourage them to stick around to see those changes through.

For example, if your company is rolling out changes on how teams collaborate, ask your employees for feedback.

  • What don’t they like about your current collaboration process?
  • How would they like to see the process improved moving forward?

Or maybe your organization is changing the way employees need to submit their projects. Share the proposed policy with your team and ask them if the new policy will make submitting work harder or easier—and why.

If your employees struggle with sharing feedback directly, use our anonymous employee survey to get their insights. They’ll feel more comfortable sharing what they really think—including any gripes or criticism.

Screenshot of the anonymous feedback functionality in Officevibe
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Follow through on their feedback

🎙️ “My success as a manager is dependent on the people I hire. They need to have a voice during change, feel heard, and help influence next steps. I believe this is critical to keeping people happy. While change can be happening around them, at least they know that whatever does happen, they will help influence how we overcome and adapt. I am seeing the direct results of this, my team is happier, stays with me longer, and truly values the contribution they provide.” – James Levine, Director of Customer Success, Sisense

Gathering feedback from your employees is the first step of the process. But if your team feels like their feedback is falling on deaf ears, it’s going to cause employee morale to plummet.

This could drive them to look for a job at a company where they feel more heard.

It’s not only important to listen to your employees’ feedback — it’s important to act on it.

When employees feel like they can impact change and have a sense of ownership in their experience at work, it increases engagement. This not only improves employee retention, but also drives performance.

According to a Gallup report, an engaged employee is 17% more productive, has 10% higher customer satisfaction metrics, and has a 41% lower rate of absenteeism than disengaged employees. And, companies with an engaged team outperform competitors with less engaged employees by a whopping 202%

So, when your employees deliver helpful feedback, make sure you follow through. This is when you’ll see employee retention, employee engagement, and performance skyrocket as a result.

Use these retention strategies to retain your team during times of organizational change

Change can be hard. But with these tips, you have everything you need to craft a strategy for increasing employee retention, avoiding voluntary turnover, and helping you maintain and retain your team through challenges, growth, and change.

Nintex's Officevibe feedback metric shows a score or 8.1

Part of any successful employee retention program? The right tools. With Officevibe, you can gather the feedback you need to better support your team during times of growth and change.

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Key points from the article: identify the employees with the most influence and parter with them to support your team, find out how your employees want to develop within change, make your team part of the chance by asking them feedback
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