Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce
Business Sense

High turnover=high stakes

Three cost-free ways to increase employee retention

The headlines of today’s workforce and economy support an overall theme of change. While change can certainly be a catalyst for positive growth or a renewed focus on products, services, innovation and market share, other kinds of change, such as turnover, can result in major challenges for organizations. The workforce has changed over the past few years and employees, even long-term employees, are more likely to leave an organization today than ever before.

What can organizations do to increase their retention? The bad news is that retention is directly associated with individual motivation, and motivation is a difficult emotion to impact. It’s different for each person. What motivates one employee and engages them in their work may be completely different from what motivates and engages another employee. The good news is that this is a universal challenge in today’s economy, so there’s plenty of research and data to support effective ways that organizations can strengthen their retention. Incorporate these types of initiatives into a strategic plan:

1. Foster humanistic business practices

Drive sales, streamline processes, innovate and improve your products and services, but do not do these things at the cost of treating employees like numbers. Align business metrics with the engagement and involvement of your employees. There’s a distinctive sense of urgency in today’s business climate that seems to give very little space to the intangible aspects that motivate employees to stay with an organization. Humanistic business practices maintain a “people-first” approach to their operations, policies and rules. It is imperative that managers take the time and energy to connect with their employees and learn about their strengths, their professional goals, their personal goals and what aspects of their work are most important to them. Schedule weekly one-on-one discussions with your team. Ask how things are going, be supportive and responsive to issues and concerns and utilize that time to establish strong connections with each person.

2. Prioritize engaged and effective listening

Communication is more than just talking and hearing others. In fact, hearing differs a great deal from true listening. Listening requires concentrated effort. When employees work with managers that are engaged and effective listeners, it impacts retention. Minimize distractions during conversations and focus all of your energy on the person speaking. Challenge yourself to be fully engaged in interactions with others. Use techniques such as paraphrasing, asking thoughtful questions, summarizing and responding in positive and curious ways. Be intentional about seeking input from your team, inviting ideas and suggestions, and allowing space for creative solutions or business practices.

3. Demonstrate authenticity and humility

The relationships we develop at work can sometimes feel transactional or superficial. As an organization, it is important to communicate in ways that are real, transparent and even vulnerable. No one person has all the answers, so be comfortable asking for help and seeking input from others when challenges arise. After all, the benefit of having a team is the collective impact, value and energy that comes from working together toward a common goal. Recognize the value that every employee brings to the organization and communicate that value and appreciation on a regular basis. But be authentic. Be genuine. Give credit to others. Teams bring ideas, solutions, collaboration, and healthy conflict – all these things strengthen the organization. Right now, you have a team of outstanding employees. Do they know how much value they bring and how much they are appreciated?

Retention isn’t merely about employing people to do a defined set of responsibilities. Retention relates to a person’s intrinsic attachment to an organization and their team. Compensation, benefits and work schedules matter as well. But those are extrinsic motivators for employees to stay with an organization. Intrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is what differentiates between an employee that is happily engaged in the work they do and an employee that is merely waiting for the next opportunity.

Meet the author

Sarah Meusburger

Sarah Meusburger, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an HR Consultant with Alternative HR, LLC. She has 20 years of experience in human resources and has supported several businesses throughout the region.