Insights for HR Professionals

Benefits to attract, engage and retain top talent.

The Biggest Employee Retention Mistake You Can Make

Posted by Patrick Ball on 28 Jul 2015


You know employee retention is important. You know that turnover means big bucks, costing companies 20 percent or more of an employee’s salary.

This knowledge is important, because the economy’s been on the mend and private sector quits have been on the rise. When employees grow more confident in the job market and opportunities arise and the talent wars heat up.

But you can forget just about everything else you thought you knew about retention. Because employee retention, while vital to organizational health, is a reaction. And when you’re reacting to this problem, it’s already too late.

“Retention is a strategy or a program that’s a reaction to a problem that’s already been identified,” says Kelly Russell, vice president of account management for Workplace Solutions. “If you flip that conversation on its head and start to think about how do we attract the talent and maintain a culture that wants us to all be successful, then retention is not going to be a program and it’s not going to be a problem.”

If allowing employee retention to be a reaction is the biggest mistake you can make, then following these 5 simple steps to more proactive retention strategies is a start toward reducing turnover.

  1. Start at the Beginning
    From your first touch with a candidate through their last day with your organization, it’s important to nurture the relationship and ensure the employer-employee relationship is a good fit. “Retention starts with recruiting,” says Russell. “Retention starts with attracting the right people who are going to help build the culture and facilitate engagement across the entire team.”  Engage employees in educational and professional development opportunities early, show them you’re willing to invest in their careers and you’ll be rewarded with loyalty.

  2. Understand Why They Leave
    A variety of factors – lack of opportunities, bad managers and toxic culture to name a few – can drive away even the most dedicated employees. One of the biggest reasons employees leave is that they don’t like their managers, but another common complaint is that companies will pay top dollar for a new person off the street, but won’t reward their top performers the same way.  Understand why your employees leave, and you’ll be able to inform your retention strategies.

    Learn More About Why Good Employees Quit Good Jobs

  3. Make Culture a Priority
    The importance of company culture is not a myth. Employees truly care about working for a company that has an engaging culture, that cares about their employees as people and provides opportunities for growth and development. What makes a great culture isn’t the perks like “Thirsty Thursday” happy hours, pool tables and free snacks might; it’s about transparency, entrepreneurialism and work-life integration.

    Once you’ve defined your organizational culture, let your culture guide the hiring process. “The companies that do this well have thought more proactively about their culture, their engagement, what their employees need, and how to create their company as an employer of choice,” says Russell.  

    10 Steps to Finding and Hiring Your Perfect Cultural Fit

  4. Support Healthy Work-Life Integration 
    Managers need to recognize their employees have lives outside of the office that impact their work performance. The work needs to be done, but there are many ways companies can foster a healthy work-life integration without sacrificing performance and productivity. A few examples include offering family care benefits, making flexible work arrangements available to employees and modernizing performance evaluations to focus on results rather than time on task.

    Find Out How Helping Employees Do Their Chores at Work Is a Competitive Advantage

  5. Communicate 
    Employees value open and honest communication. They want to know where they stand, and they want to know where the company stands. Supplement those tired annual reviews with regular informal feedback sessions between employees and mangers. These less formal conversations open the lines of communications, making employees more aware of their goals and what’s expected of them – and they also provide opportunities for employees to ask questions.

    An important element of employee engagement and job satisfaction is an understanding of one’s role within the larger organization. Company meetings, regular updates from department heads or team lunches are opportunities to demonstrate the kind of transparency that fosters loyalty among employees. 

Employee Benefits Communication


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