How to Improve Retention: 10 Strategies to Support Employees and Reduce Turnover
Employee turnover is an increasingly significant challenge across nearly every industry, and the decline started well before the Great Resignation. Over the last decade, people have been changing jobs more frequently and staying with their employers for shorter spans.
A recent labor statistics study by LendingTree found that between 2012 and 2022, the median job tenure dropped almost 11%, from 4.6 years to 4.1 years. Workers between the ages of 25 and 34 had the largest decrease in tenure, dropping 12.5% from 3.3 years to 2.8 years.
While some turnover is inevitable, not doing all you can to retain your workforce (especially high performers) will make it harder to achieve your other critical goals, like higher engagement, performance, and productivity. These outcomes are inextricably linked, making retention mission-critical to your business.
What causes employee turnover?
Employee turnover is complex, with an endless combination of potential factors and unique circumstances at play. However, there are some factors that tend to be most significant and influential on an employee’s decision to resign from their job.
According to a study by Payscale that analyzed employee survey responses between March 2018 and March 2023, the main reasons workers say they decided to leave their company for a new opportunity include:
- Uncertainty about the company’s future outlook
- Perception of unfair pay
- Negative workplace culture
- A poor manager relationship
To identify and address the underlying issues that drive turnover, HR leaders must adopt a proactive approach to improve employee retention. Applying established best practices and data-driven strategies can help you look at not only why people want to leave but also what would make them want to stay.
10 employee retention strategies that make an impact
Working to improve retention is not only about hanging on to valuable team members. It’s also about creating a workplace where employees feel valued, motivated, and eager to grow.
From fostering a positive company culture to investing in professional development, the following 10 strategies can help you enhance retention and build a more engaging environment for your people.
1. Provide effective onboarding and training
Employee retention strategies should be ongoing and start on day one. That includes helping new hires feel engaged, valued, and motivated right out of the gate with an effective onboarding process. A robust onboarding program goes beyond the paperwork and a warm welcome; it sets clear role expectations, establishes goals, and integrates an employee into the company culture.
Ongoing training and career development are also critical to retention. Incorporating
continuous skill development, cross-training, and mentorship programs allow employees to diversify their skills and take on new challenges while keeping work interesting and preparing them for career advancement within the company.
2. Build a positive workplace culture
Your company culture plays a starring role in an employee’s level of engagement, and, thus, their willingness to stick around for the long haul. MIT’s Sloan School of Management found that a toxic company culture was ten times more likely to contribute to turnover than compensation.
Here are a few key strategies to cultivate a positive environment:
- Foster a sense of belonging. Employees who feel like they belong are more likely to stay. Creating a culture of belonging where every team member feels valued, appreciated, and part of a collective mission is vital.
- Promote work-life balance: When employees can maintain a healthy equilibrium between their professional and personal lives, they’re more likely to remain committed to the organization. Offering flexibility where possible can help reduce stress and prevent burnout. (More on that in #7.)
- Encourage open communication. A transparent culture where employees feel safe to express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas freely fosters a sense of ownership and engagement. Ingraining feedback mechanisms into the culture helps employees feel heard and valued.
- Embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion. When employees from various backgrounds, cultures, and experiences collaborate, it promotes a richer exchange of ideas and perspectives. It’s crucial to establish policies and practices that ensure all employees feel welcome and appreciated for their unique contributions.
3. Offer competitive compensation and benefits
Competitive pay and benefits are table stakes when it comes to retaining top talent today. In a recent study from the Pew Research Center, 63% of workers who quit a job in 2021 cited low pay as a reason.
While pay is certainly not the only thing that matters to retention, it’s still a pretty big deal. High performers need to feel they’re valued and can grow within the organization. The promise of more money can be a big motivator for an employee to leave, especially if they’re already unsatisfied or disengaged in their current role. Reward good work with good pay, and give people a reason to stick around.
4. Prioritize employee engagement and recognition
When employees become disengaged or feel they’re not being recognized for their efforts, they often stop caring about their work and disconnect emotionally. Some will take it as a sign to polish up their resumes and find a company that will appreciate them.
Recognition programs and continuous feedback on performance can help managers prop up their team members and give credit where credit is due. Feedback tools like employee engagement surveys can also help HR leaders uncover issues that may be occurring on specific teams or within certain employee groups, allowing you to predict and prevent future turnover.
5. Be flexible with schedules and work arrangements
Employees today expect their employers to allow for a more flexible work environment. Since the pandemic, many people discovered that working from home fits better with their lifestyle and improves their work-life balance. Some organizations that did offer remote or hybrid options but are now asking people to return to the office are getting blowback and even seeing once-loyal employees leave for greener pastures.
When people feel they’re not being given any flexibility in their work arrangements, many will look for a new company that better meets their needs. Offering remote work options or flexible schedules signals to employees that the organization trusts them to get their work done on time, regardless of where or when they do it. Reimagining what work looks like and offering employees more options can increase engagement and help you retain great people.
6. Make professional development and growth opportunities available to all
Investing in training and development, career pathing, and mentorship programs is critical to retaining high performers. Sixty-three percent of employees who quit a job in 2021 cited “no opportunities for advancement” as a factor in their decision to quit, according to Pew Research.
People need opportunities to continuously learn new skills and see a path forward in their careers. When your best employees feel stuck in their jobs or can’t find room to grow in the company, they’ll start looking for opportunities elsewhere. High achievers want to be challenged and feel like they’re consistently leveling up.
7. Protect employees from burnout
Mental health conditions like burnout are often triggers for turnover, as a person’s job is often a major contributing factor to their burnout. According to the World Health Organization, burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed, characterized by three dimensions:
- Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
- Reduced professional efficacy
- Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job
Managers should be helping employees manage their workloads, and employees should have opportunities to provide feedback when they’re facing challenges. Offering mental health programs and resources—and eliminating any stigma around using them—can also help employees who are struggling before they throw in the towel.
8. Get focused on role clarity
When an employee is clear on what’s expected of them at work and what success in their role looks like, they have role clarity. If there are any gray areas with a person’s responsibilities or an employee and their manager aren’t on the same page, they can become unmotivated or disengaged, making them a flight risk.
Role clarity is about more than a job title or job description. For true role clarity, managers and employees should work together to define job roles, agree on personal goals, and determine how the employee can best contribute to the team.
9. Do exit interviews and stay interviews
Most companies have a process for exit interviews conducted on one of an employee’s last days. But these interviews are too little too late when it comes to retaining high performers. Why not talk to people before things get so bad they decide to quit?
With a stay interview, these grievances can be uncovered before an employee reaches the end of their rope—allowing leaders and managers to take action and stay ahead of preventable turnover.
When conducting a stay interview, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) recommends these questions to ask:
- What do you look forward to each day when you commute to work?
- What are you learning here, and what do you want to learn?
- Why do you stay here?
- When was the last time you thought about leaving us, and what prompted it?
- What can I do to make your job better for you?
10. Track and measure regrettable turnover
While you always want to strive to improve retention overall, focusing on regrettable turnover is key to keeping your best, most productive team members. Regrettable turnover data should include employees who leave unexpectedly or whose departure is seen as a significant loss to the organization. It can also include high-performing employees who believe their compensation isn’t in line with their role and impact.
Some criteria to consider when determining if an employee’s departure is a significant loss to the company may include:
- Current performance level (above level, at level, below level)
- Cost to replace
- Culture and values fit
- Ramp time for replacement
- Hard-to-replace skills
- Irreplaceable knowledge
- Single point of failure
When you can identify and track regrettable turnover, you can look for trends and make the necessary changes to improve employee experience and retain your high performers.
Get the guide to reducing regrettable turnover
Losing too many great employees? A high regrettable turnover rate can be detrimental to an organization, which is why 15Five decided to develop a guide that focuses specifically on combating it.
Learn about the different types of employee turnover, how to identify regrettable turnover, and how to start taking steps to reduce it with this practical guide for HR leaders.