Employee retention has been a favorite management topic for several years now - and it looks like the situation is going to get even worse. In Summer 2018 the US Labor Dept. announced that, for the first time on record, jobs outnumbered job seekers. Since 2016, US unemployment has been at or under 5% and in May 2019 was at just 3.6%. The current power pendulum is definitely on the side of the job seeker.
Additionally, the skills gap between current talent and what is required by companies today is ever widening, so there is an unprecedented need to retain workers so that companies can train them in the skills needed, without them jumping ship to go elsewhere.
A popular "solution" to these retention issues is to bump up employee perks. Popular perks that have made it into the media lately include - ping pong tables and bean bag chairs in the break room, fully stocked kitchens and employee massages, free car washes and dry cleaning pickup just to name a few. However, research tells us that although these niceties might lure an employee to your company, it won't keep them there.
So what will do the trick? The answer - a strong company culture. I have focused on company culture in a number of my blog posts, but feel this deserves repeating.
What makes a strong company culture?
Create a culture where employees feel valued
Employees want to feel like they are making an impact. Recognizing and "catching workers doing good" reinforces the behaviors a company wants to encourage and shows employees that the company really cares about them. Acknowledging and rewarding an employee's accomplishments has priceless benefits, but must be done regularly or the effects will be lost.
Establish trust and communication
Upper management can inadvertently become very closed-off from everyday employees. Managers needs to recognize this tendency and work hard to regularly schedule luncheons or meetings with all employees to communicate information and encourage questions and feedback. Don't assume that ALL employees are aware of changes happening, the current health of the company or even matters that managers may think are mundane (like annual healthcare renewals, etc.). The more transparent the better. You may think it is over-communication, but in fact your employees will appreciate it. At the same time, be open to feedback from all levels. Don't immediately brush off a suggestion. Consider it, and if you ultimately choose not to pursue it, answer the person respectfully and with supported reasoning. If you do decide to act on a suggestion, see if there is a way to include that employee in the group that will implement this suggestion.
Provide career growth, with training and development
It is easy to get into the mindset that employees should come in to do the job they were hired to do and not expect more from the company. However, if you wanted a "contract-employee" then that is what you should have hired. If you are hiring someone for a full-time permanent position, then you should consider their whole career - not just the position they interviewed for. You owe it to all permanent employees to help them develop their skill sets. This will take time, investment and effort, but over the long haul will benefit the company. Trained and developed employees will not only have more skills to offer you, but they will be the employees that feel valued and stick around through the years.