Staff retention and employee engagement. It’s a challenge that comes up time and time again. It’s one that we never seem to be able to resolve. Quite honestly, I don’t think it is something that will ever be fully resolved but it is definitely something that is worth stopping for and thinking about. The issue of staff retention feels like a insurmountable hurdle – and it seems to grow by the minute.

Staff turnover rates for some companies are as high as 30%. This poses a risk to our businesses and also an impact to our bottom line. Not solely in terms of hiring and training but also for the customer service impact this can have. About 80% of staff turnover happens in the first six months of employment. It poses the question: 

What are we doing or not doing to be able to retain talent beyond this initial period?

Aside from some of the economic factors, there is also a large generational impact on staff retention. Our first guess is usally that our wages are too low and we therefore are not able to keep employees engaged past the first six months.

But this is not necessarily our number one problem. 

So, what has changed then, from 20 years ago?

Not only throughout my corporate career but now also through my work as leadership trainer and coach, I am able to observe that our main challenge is to figure out how to keep our workforce engaged. Long ago we moved away from the “order taker” approach towards our employees, when they took the order, executed it and received a paycheck for it.

Employees today want more. They want to be heard, included and be able to connect with their purpose. They also want to have the opportunity for growth and development and a constant feedback flow. 

I know this sounds very intangible and like something that doesn’t seem to belong in a demanding environment such as running a successful business. But no matter where these are the basics for employee engagement in 2019 – and beyond. 

What, then, can we as employers do to increase employee retention?

There are several methods that can help increase retention in our environments and I want to share some that seem to qualify as the proverbial “low hanging fruit”:

  • Leadership Development 

Traditionally, we have promoted our technically-savvy employees, which makes complete sense. They are good at what they do, so why wouldn’t they blossom as leaders? The challenge with this is that if we do not spend the time to teach these employees how to lead others, they won’t have the opportunity to succeed and will quickly become frustrated and demotivated. Additionally, we are running the risk not only to lose a highly engaged employee but also that this employee might affect others with their demotivation and frustration, especially when in leadership positions.

We need to start making the development of our people a priority – it will affect the bottom line immediately by reducing staff turnover, increase engagement and customer satisfaction.

  • On – Boarding of Employees

As mentioned earlier in this article, the bulk of the attrition happens in the first six months of employees joining our companies. 

The millennial generation is one that requires constant feedback and needs to be connected to their work. So, what can you do to create this? Once your leadership is trained, giving feedback to their employees should be something that they should be able to manage. This will allow employees to understand what they are good at and what needs to be developed. I understand that time is of the essence, but something that has worked well with clients of mine is that they have paired them with senior employees of the organization for mentorship and on-the-job training. One thing that is incredibly important here, is that they are matched with people with the right attitude.  

  • Employee Recognition

Employee recognition goes beyond the bonus or the additional extra time off. Recognition today, means to stop, to have a conversation and point out to the employee what they have done well. Recognition is not solely tied to a monetary reward anymore, it is the trust that is instilled in the workforce, letting them come up with their own ideas and solutions and letting them experiment with that. And it is the development opportunity. Investing in your employees and their skills is a form of recognition. It is telling the employee: “I see you, your efforts and what you are trying to achieve – therefore I am supporting your growth.”

This then closes the loop back to the leadership development and the cycle starts again. By far this is no comprehensive plan of what you can do with your employees and how to reduce your employee turnover, but it is a first step. 

We need to understand that doing the same thing over and over again will not get us different results, so it is time for us to start looking at this differently. Our workforces are already compromised by 75% of Millennials and now is the time to embrace it. 

The closer look

Although we are up against time, tight deadlines and very slim margins, I highly recommend taking a closer look at the people development of your organization and what is possible.

I can say this with confidence: It will directly impact your bottom line and the culture of your organization.

In closing, I wish you continued success in your endeavours.

Desiree Perez