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4 Strategies to Help Managers Reduce Employee Turnover and Improve Retention

Elise Jones Apr 7, 2021 7:02:33 PM

Employees are leaving their companies or thinking about leaving at record numbers. The added pressures that many workplaces felt over the last year put the strengths and shortcomings of company culture in the spotlight for many employees, highlighting what they did and did not like about their workplace. And although many industries struggled during the pandemic, others thrived, leaving an ample job market for many high-performers who can be choosy about the types of organizations that they work for. On top of that, spring tends to be the time of year when many companies look to hire new employees, meaning that job openings are more abundant this time of year.

Why are employees leaving?

If your company is experiencing larger than normal turnover rates, exit interviews can be a great insight into what you can change within your organization to improve your employee retention strategies. Some of the most common reasons employees will give for leaving include:

  • Limited growth opportunities
  • Employee burnout
  • Inadequate salaries or benefits
  • Lack of feedback or recognition
  • Disconnect from managers or coworkers

How to improve employee retention

So what can managers do to improve employee retention on their teams? Frequent employee turnover is problematic for an organization for many reasons. 

To begin with, it’s expensive. Recent estimates suggest that losing an employee costs a company from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, which is a conservative estimate according to Gallup. It is also tough on the culture of the company. The employees who do stick around are often faced with taking on the extra work and picking up the slack of recently vacated roles and are required to spend significant amounts of time training new hires. Additionally, frequent employee turnover erodes the kind of tight-knit, trusting relationships that are fundamental to positive workplace cultures. 

According to recent research, the top reasons why employees stay at their jobs are not only compensation and benefits, but also recognition, meaningful connections and relationships with their manager and co-workers, and company culture - all things that contribute to workplace engagement. It should come as no surprise that the number one factor that predicts and determines the likelihood of employee turnover is also engagement or lack thereof. 

At Valor, we leverage and track research-based assessments focused on work engagement and have seen the impact across our client base as teams have been able to increase engagement as one of the many benefits of performance coaching. Teams who are struggling with employee retention should focus on the key areas identified in the research as critical to maintaining or growing employee engagement.

Key Employee Retention Strategies

Identifying values and establishing boundaries

When people say “work-life balance,” what they are really talking about is a misalignment of values or burnout – or both. Values can be different for each individual, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone on a team. Clarity on the company values, the team values, and an individual’s values will help with this alignment. Managers can bring clarity to the table on what the organization and team value, so individuals can be intentional in thinking about what values they personally uphold and make sure these are aligned.   

Setting boundaries can be a solution for employees who are feeling disengaged due to burnout. A looming problem for many organizations is the mounting stress and pressure employees are feeling due to the circumstances of the past few years. Challenges borne from the global pandemic, including health concerns, handling remote learning for children, juggling childcare and other family responsibilities, as well as the blurred lines between work and life, have led to employees feeling exhausted, unfocused, and disengaged. 

Though some of the stress reported with balancing work and non-work responsibilities has been alleviated with many companies working remotely, this switch has produced new pressures. Many employees fear that they don’t appear productive enough while working remotely. This has resulted in pressure to begin work earlier, continuing to work later, working through lunch, and further blurring the lines between work and non-work hours as a solution which leads to disengagement and burnout. 

To prevent this, managers can find out how their employees are doing with the current boundaries and make adjustments as necessary that work for the individual and the team needs. It’s a good topic for one-on-one meetings and should be something revisited from time to time, especially as things change with their workload, projects, or other responsibilities.

Creating connections

Maintaining company culture can be a difficult task for a manager under ordinary circumstances, let alone during a pandemic when employees can be distributed across states and time zones. But maintaining, building, and growing connections–and therefore engagement–while remote should be a priority for managers who are looking for new ways to improve employee retention. Because the casual relationships that develop in a traditional office setting can’t happen when working remotely, it takes intentional communication and contact to recreate those connections. 

There are plenty of productivity and communication tools available for teams, and most companies have adopted a variety of these. Checking in and encouraging employees to check in with each other can mimic some of the casual contact of an in-person work environment. Another way to encourage connection is to take time at the beginning of a weekly meeting to ask a non-work-related question or opportunity to share some personal details that can contribute to the team learning more about each other. Casual meetings and social events, (outings if possible) and other ways to gather the team together without a work-driven agenda also serve to get employees engaged and excited about being a part of the team. 

Equally as important for managers is to keep lines of communication open to employees to stay connected with you and each other, especially when not everyone is working the same hours. Chat or messaging software or other systems where employees can check-in and engage in the conversation without being required to be logged in and active at that exact moment are great ways of accomplishing this.

Incorporating employee feedback 

Many employers and organizations take the steps to survey employees about their experiences, but if nothing comes of gathering that feedback, it does little to help improve the workplace culture. Dubbed “inaction fatigue,” it’s even more frustrating for employees to be excited by the promise of change only to be let down due to a lack of follow-through. It’s not enough to simply gather the employee feedback and sit on it. Managers and leaders need to do something about the results they found. 

Not every topic or concern needs to be addressed. Even tackling some of the smaller issues can feel like a big win for employees who, in some cases, just want to be heard and recognized and feel like their voice matters to the organization. Managers who eliminate obstacles for productivity are able to increase engagement and affect their employees’ ability to get their work done. Providing resources is another solution that demonstrates management is listening and will take action. 

Transparency with the information gathered can also increase engagement. While not every comment or answer needs to be reported, managers can gather themes and share those with team members so that the greater group can see what other concerns have been raised as well as see their own voice represented and acknowledged.

Employee Recognition 

Even before COVID, employee recognition was a top reason why workers stayed in their jobs. Managers who create a culture of recognition see lower rates of turnover, higher productivity, and engagement, according to the study. Appreciating co-workers and employees for their contributions to projects, however small, can have a large and lasting impact on employee engagement. For recognition to be most effective, it should be done frequently and publicly. And by making it a norm to do so means that employees themselves work to reinforce that part of the culture and it doesn’t all fall to the manager to carry. 

Recognition doesn’t only mean praise for a job well done. Making sure employees feel valued, supported, and heard both establishes and reinforces connections across remote teams. Finding small ways to acknowledge employees as people by highlighting milestones like work anniversaries, birthdays, and other events is a small but powerful way to make employees feel like a part of the team. 

Providing support for employees also falls under the umbrella of recognition. Offering resources like coaching to your employees not only shows them you are invested in their professional growth and development but also their personal development. Coaching, in particular, has an incredible impact on employee engagement, as well as other areas that are aligned with team success, such as increased emotional intelligence, improved optimism, and fosters feelings of empowermentall of which have a ripple effect throughout the team and organization. 

While proactive efforts to increase employee engagement won’t solve all employee turnover, it will increase the likelihood of holding onto more employees and will make the team more productive overall. Likewise, a culture of sustainable high performance that fosters engagement will also be more appealing to potential new hires who are looking to make a move from companies that don’t share those same values.

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