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How To Improve Employee Retention: 5 Unique Steps

Beth Thornton

February 14, 2018

Employee management is complicated, and leaders of all levels are constantly in search of the “secret ingredient” to just about every part of the process. Unfortunately, the answer changes depending who you ask, and while there are more than a few important parts to building a successful talent management strategy, everything boils down to retention.

After all, you can’t satisfy and engage a workforce that is in a constant state of turnover, nor can you reach optimal productivity. We may not have the secret ingredient to boost employee retention overnight, but we have perfected an amazing recipe to lower your turnover. Below is everything you need on how to improve employee retention.

Is turnover a challenge for your organization? Check out these 5 steps to boost your employee retention:Tweet This!

Step 1: Establish and Align Corporate Values

Values are critical to just about every part of an organization and should direct everything from business plans to overall culture to talent acquisition initiatives. This doesn’t mean painting motivating words on your office walls and reciting them back to candidates in an interview. Value alignment requires a bit of legwork that is first initiated with deep consideration to what it is that drives your product/services, leadership and employees. And that’s just the beginning. Once key values are uncovered, the organization should understand the connection between those priorities and their work - everyday tasks and overarching annual expectations included. Any dissonance should be noted and amended.

“Rather than actionable corporate values statements that truly capture the essence of the organization, leaders often lean on single, powerful words or phrases that they think people want to hear. Examples of this might be ‘Integrity, Community or Service.’ They look good. They sound good. But they are all but meaningless if people within the organization fail to live them in their day-to-day interactions.”

- Chris Cancialosi, @gothamCulture

Another key perk to aligning corporate values with your employees’ is increasing their engagement. In fact, Harvard Business Review found 71% of employers said engagement is extremely important, but only 24% said their employees are highly engaged with their work. In 2016, Gallup found 72% of Millennials who had their managers help them set goals were more engaged doing their work. If their manager holds them accountable for these goals, they are 2.5 times more engaged.

This is a critical step on how to improve employee retention for more than a few reasons. For one, when employees know how their work translates to the overarching business goal, they can see and feel the importance of even the most mundane tasks. The HBR study referenced above found the most common success characteristics were tied to the alignment of goals throughout the company. Additionally, solid values are easily introduced into the hiring process so your new employees will be hired with fit in mind. If they hold your values, they will better integrate into your business and their new team.

Step 2: Develop Goals and Define Roles

Begin to develop goals that align to your established values. Corporate values should align to business decisions, as well as play a big part in goal development, both company-wide and individual. Start with the accomplishments you hope to make as an organization. With the final destination in mind, coordinate the small individual goals that will move the needle in the right direction.

Establishing SMART goals is an effective way to boost engagement and improve employee retention. A SMART goal is defined as Specific, Motivating, Attainable, Relevant and Trackable. Setting these goals help develop employee skills as well as align their goals with their role so everyone can see how they’re contributing.

  • Specific goals mean instead of a blanket statement like “boost revenue,” you place a number and timeframe with your goal.
  • Motivating goals align with the values of your company and achieve autonomy, competence and relatedness. This helps individuals find meaning in what they do. connecting it to the bigger picture.
  • Attainable goals refers to goals being reachable and not outpacing your organization’s ability or budget. However, you should always strive to stretch the goal to achieve more, if possible.
  • Relevant goals keep you on track. Wasting time on goals that don’t impact the entire organization or the completion of the goal isn’t relevant.
  • Trackable goals are the key to completion. If you cannot track them, you won’t know if the goal was actually accomplished.

Defining goals by team is great for segmenting a complicated chain of events, but you should bring alignment down to the individual employee level and role. Take time to understand their talents and interests so they can be used to their full potential while considering the specific needs of their department or team. If you aren’t already, begin discussing professional goals in performance reviews and one-on-one manager meetings. Encourage employees to share what they love about their role, duties they struggle with and any additional skills they have or plan to develop. For future reference, managers should consider recording feedback and one-on-ones so they can be listened to for growth assessment, goal tracking and compliance.

Step 3: Elevate Collaboration and Transparency

A recent study by Melcrum uncovered impressive, if not predictable insights: successful organizations aren’t just building great products or engaging employees, they’re “actively empowering” their workforce. Sustainable and effective collaboration are at the center. Those that succeeded in developing effective internal communication saw an over 40% increase in customer satisfaction, 30% improvement in profitability and boosted overall performance by 36%.

Collaboration isn't just for performance and engagement, it’s also for retention. Poor communication and an unsupportive company culture is a retention issue for 20-30% of companies. Collaboration can lead to friendships because your employees are working closely together. This increases your retention because employees won't want to leave their friends. Creating an enjoyable atmosphere for your employees will improve their attitude toward their work and the company.

Collaboration and transparency go hand in hand. For employees to feel confident and empowered, they need to know their leadership is completely forthcoming with business motives and their employment. Unfortunately, some organizations fear honesty will create friction or instill doubt, when in actuality, transparency creates opportunities for discussion, feedback loops and innovative solutions. Begin building a transparent workplace by drawing those lines between individual contributions and company goals, as well as inviting employees to provide input on decisions that affect their role.

Step 4: Give Real-Time Feedback

Feedback is defined as “information given in the present, about the past, that you hope may influence the future.” Feedback helps transform behavior to getting the right outcome in the future.

With transparency and collaboration comes more frequent feedback conversations. Again, the process of giving or receiving feedback stirs fear, but the rewards are exponential. In fact, 92% of respondents in one survey agreed that properly administered negative or redirecting feedback improves their performance. So while the process might be a bit uncomfortable, it is welcome. The good news is that once you’ve built a workforce open to honest communication, feedback becomes second nature.

Providing feedback is a positive tactic every leader needs to use. Experts link the implementation of feedback and reviews with an increase in productivity along with decreasing the stress employees experience at work. A decrease in stress will lead to a happier and more engaged employee. Feedback gives direction for those who are an asset to your company.

Be sure leaders aren't only offering feedback to employees, but asking for some in return. It will help build trust while giving workers the chance to offer their own observations. And remember, real-time feedback frees your team from the overhyped, overly-structured performance review. Instead, think in terms of bi-weekly or monthly one-on-ones, quick emails or intranet messages, encouraging office chats or off-the-cuff advice sessions. There should be structure in the frequency, but it doesn’t always need to be the same in delivery. Each of the methods above should be used based on the personality of the employee. Being flexible with your feedback is essential.

Leadership should create a process for employees and managers to request feedback as well. It will ensure the team receives the touchpoints and redirection that meets their needs.

Are your corporate values aligned to company and employee goals? If not, your employee retention could suffer. Here’s the 5-step solution you’ve been waiting for:Tweet This!

Step 5: Prioritize Leadership Development

Last but not least, be sure your organization is effective in managing each of these elements, and all other employee management initiatives, by providing leadership development opportunities. Even the most well-intentioned manager or executive can stunt or completely halt well-laid strategies. While there are many causes of turnover, leadership or management tend to be one of the leading contributors to retention problems. A Gallup poll found that half of the participating employees admitted to leaving a job just to get away from their manager.

As stated earlier, frustration with a supervisor is a major reason why people leave their job. Working with supervisors to improve their skills can help decrease your employee turnover immensely. A few skills to develop include working on their “soft skills,” giving feedback, flexibility and leading by example. Specifically, soft skills are key to becoming an effective leader. Emotional intelligence, active listening and building trust are critical factors when you are developing soft skills in your leader. While the other aspects are important when it comes to leading, taking control of your skills will increase your effectiveness as someone in charge.

There are times that personalities simply don’t mesh, but in most cases, an employee’s idea of a good manager comes from that manager’s ability to lead, motivate and support their professional goals.

This is by no means the only recipe on how to improve employee retention. However, if each step is successfully implemented, employees will feel appreciated, respected and supported. All that translates to better retention. Are you struggling to find the right way to start a process like this in your organization? Inspire Software is designed to improve organizational performance and lead employees to success. Explore our unique approach to performance management today!