How to improve employee retention: 8 strategies for keeping your people engaged

Written by: Deanna deBara | Edited by: Jessica Romera | Illustrated by: Mathieu Labrecque
Updated on: Published on: June 21, 2022 |  Reading time: 7m

You may think that you have a happy and motivated team, but then one day, your star performers hands in their resignations, citing unhappiness for months before seeking new opportunities.

According to Officevibe’s recent Data Report, a jarring 53% of survey respondents admitted to having searched for new professional opportunities in the last year.

With record-high resignation numbers and companies starting to feel the stress of high employee turnover, understanding why employees leave is more important than ever. It has become clear that it requires more than just offering a livable paycheck to retain employees, but modern executives still find themselves scratching their heads over how to improve employee retention. 

Why you should improve employee retention

Turnover is expensive. According to a 2019 Gallup study, employee turnover costs American companies up to $1 trillion per year. The same study estimates that replacing a single team member can cost up to twice the exiting employee’s annual salary. Investing in employee retention efforts can help mitigate these costs and save your company countless expenses in the long run.

Not only does turnover have a tremendous impact on costs, but it also has a significant impact on team performance and employee morale. It can take some time for a new hire to build up the skills necessary to feel comfortable in their position and keep up with existing workloads, which can lead to frustration and conflict within a team.

Similarly, having one of your best employees suddenly up and leaving can have a devastating impact on the rest of the team. It can leave your remaining employees feeling discouraged and even suspicious of current leadership and company practices.

If your organization already has challenges with the employee experience, this resignation could be the tipping point that leads to even more employee exits. 

Employee retention strategies

The link between employee engagement and employee retention is clear. According to Gallup, low-engagement teams suffer significantly higher turnover rates (between 18% and 43% higher) than their happier and more highly engaged counterparts.

From a practical standpoint, managers should combine their employee retention strategies with efforts to increase employee engagement. High engagement reduces turnover, but it also boosts productivity and overall work performance. In many cases, employee engagement is the key to your company’s success.

one-on-one employee feedback session

So what can you do to ensure that your new hires become experienced, long-term productive employees? Here are some of the best tips on how to keep employees engaged, improve employee retention, and boost productivity and morale.

1. Support a healthy work-life balance

Suppose your company culture encourages employees to devote 100% of their attention to their work at all times, even requiring working outside of office hours. You might risk creating a burnout culture that will ultimately result in an unhappy workforce and higher turnover rates.

Many human resources departments have started looking at shorter working days or even reducing the number of days employees work per week. Toyota was an early adopter of two six-hour shifts instead of one eight-hour shift for its service workers.

This change increased productivity by 114%, despite employees only being on the job for 30 hours instead of 40 per week. Toyota also reported 25% higher profits and a significantly reduced turnover after the change.

So how do you, as a manager, promote a productive work-life balance, especially as 47% of people say they regularly feel overwhelmed at work?

Here are some of our top tips to help your employees find a comfortable work-life balance:

  • Offer flexible schedules and remote work options
  • Use one-on-one meetings to review workloads
  • Lead by example; don’t email employees outside of work hours
  • Make sure employees take mandatory time off
  • Increase parental support for both mothers and fathers

2. Set clear expectations

Setting clear expectations is foundational for a positive work experience. Employees that have clear objectives and know how to achieve them are usually more motivated and productive. Even highly engaged employees may spin their wheels if they don’t have a clear direction.

Here are some general guidelines to help you set expectations that get everyone on the same page:

  • Develop goals collaboratively
  • Make expectations as clear as possible and confirm understanding with all involved parties
  • Foster excellence by encouraging creativity and asking for more than the bare minimum
  • Individualize expectations according to employee strengths

3. Celebrate successes

Almost two-thirds of employees feel that they don’t get enough recognition at work. Even worse, employees who don’t feel appreciated are twice as likely to quit.

Employee recognition can be a powerful incentive for several reasons. It makes the employee or team feel valued, but it also may encourage individuals to up their performance to get recognized by their peers and managers.

Implementing employee recognition programs may lead to gains in employee engagement and employee retention. Some tips on celebrating success in the workplace include:

  • Taking time to thank team members for their contributions and providing a platform for their peers to do the same
  • Tailoring rewards for important milestones to the individual or team
  • Highlighting successes during performance reviews and other formal occasions

The most important aspect of recognizing employee success is to make it genuine. Trying to encourage employees with traditional and potentially outdated rewards such as gift cards or “employee of the week” posters often feels more condescending than motivating.

4. Focus on professional development

The key to retaining top talent is to focus on their development. High-performing employees may become bored with their work, especially if they aren’t feeling challenged or don’t see a path forward in the company.

It’s vital to talk about professional development during one-on-ones. Find out what the employee wants from their job as well as their future goals. Some employees may need leadership development opportunities that will transform them into successful business leaders. Others may benefit more from mentorship programs or formal training that fosters professional growth and expertise.

In addition to teaching new skills, training and development are often motivating for new and existing employees. By offering continuous development, you ensure that employees stay motivated and engaged with their work and are ready to meet any new challenges.

5. Ask employees what they need

Many disengaged employees report a disconnect between themselves and management. This disconnect is readily apparent in companies where managers don’t ask their direct supervisees for feedback, and it’s this disconnect that results in managers getting blindsided by top employees leaving.

The best way to know what your employees need is to be a better listener and simply ask them. Employee feedback can encompass everything from the work environment to management styles and goal setting. Establishing a positive feedback culture in a company can help managers build relationships with their staff members, leading to higher engagement and improved employee retention.

Tip: A great way of getting honest feedback from employees is to send out anonymous employee engagement or employee retention surveys. These surveys can range from five-question Pulse Surveys to long-form questionnaires that cover the four corners of the employee experience.

6. Follow through on employee feedback

If you’ve asked employees for actionable feedback, make sure to follow through. There’s nothing worse than asking employees for feedback and then ignoring it completely, which can tank morale as it becomes clear that you’re just paying lip service to employee engagement.

By taking feedback seriously, you show employees that you value their input and are willing to put in the time and effort. In many cases, employees have a deeper insight into their environment and the obstacles and challenges they face. Listening to them can help your team achieve its business goals faster and more effectively.

7. Have a clear onboarding process

A haphazard onboarding process can drive a new employee away from your company. According to SHRM, your company can lose up to one in six new hires due to poor onboarding within the first three months.

A good onboarding strategy should:

  • Create and reinforce a good first impression
  • Set clear guidelines for the first week
  • Establish expectations for the first month as well as for the new employee’s future in the company
  • Connect new employees with their team and mentors and foster strong relationships
  • Provide opportunities for feedback on their new employment, company culture, policies and procedures, and even the onboarding itself

8. Pay a fair salary

Competitive wages are essential in the recruitment process, especially for new employees seeking out financial stability. However, increasing pay has diminishing returns as an employee retention strategy. Once you’ve reached a point where employees feel financially stable, extra benefits and pay do little to alleviate other factors that affect retention.

Simply increasing pay is like putting a plaster over an open wound: it may stop some of the bleeding, but it’s much better to address the underlying cause of disengaged employees and high turnover.

Work smarter, not harder

Higher engagement can reduce employee turnover and boost employee retention, but it requires a lot of work and buy-in from all levels of the company.

Having a performance management platform like Officevibe will make it easier for managers to connect to their employees, collect honest feedback on company issues and employee concerns and get the most out of their employee retention strategies. 

From Pulse Surveys to one-on-one meeting templates, Officevibe’s platform and resources help develop relationships, improve employee retention and engagement, and streamline the implementation of employee retention strategies. Make the move to a more feedback-focused workplace today!