Five Action Steps to Improve Employee Retention
#evolve Magazine
June 14, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Prioritize engagement. The Great Resignation has made it imperative for employers to prioritize employee engagement in order to build a loyal and productive staff. 
  • Reward loyalty. Don’t make the mistake of paying top dollar to attract new recruits while letting the pay of loyal employees fall behind. Reward longtime employees generously. 
  • Coach up your team. Be a coach-like leader who prioritizes employee development, initiates open-ended conversations and is empathetic when employees experience stress at home. 
  • Promote career development. Provide programs and services to support employees’ professional growth and personal well-being, including through EAP benefits and services that address these concerns. 

It’s no secret that businesses are facing a huge staffing crisis due to high employee turnover amid The Great Resignation. After two-plus years of a pandemic, staffing has become a major and stubborn challenge. In response, smart leaders are making employee engagement a top priority, since an engaged employee is a loyal employee. 

What’s the secret to employee engagement? In a recent poll, The Workplace Coach asked how leaders can best keep employees engaged. The top response was “provide growth opportunities,” selected by 60% of respondents, followed by “focus on purpose” (25%). 

Both are essential measures that employers should and must take. But while creating opportunities for employees to develop and being a purpose-driven organization should be clear priorities, many employers overlook another equally important employee retention tactic — rewarding loyal employees. 

Don’t Make This Mistake 

All too often we see organizations paying top dollar to new hires, while failing to adequately compensate those diligent employees who have been doing their jobs well for years. 

You can bet that this doesn’t go unnoticed by your staff. And it’s a big reason that many employees are jumping ship — often directly into the arms of competitors offering big salary increases.  

Of course, money isn’t the only reason employees leave. While recognizing and rewarding valued employees by paying them competitively is important, there are other ways to build employee loyalty and, in doing so, maintain a stable and productive workforce.  

Strategy 1: Provide Growth Opportunities 

Action Step: Initiate individual coaching conversations with employees. Ask them about their growth goals. What skills would they like to acquire? What are their career objectives? Act on what you hear by providing access to quality training and development programs along with coaching or mentoring and other supports. Just as importantly, create opportunities for employees to participate in and/or lead projects that require them to stretch.  

Pro Tip: Develop your leaders. Providing developmental support to up-and-coming executives and other high-potential employees is critical to any successful organization, and never more so than in a period of high turnover. 

One powerful tool for developing future leaders and supporting rising executives is executive coaching and leadership coaching. Executive and leadership coaches partner with senior and mid-level executives to guide them in developing essential leadership skills like strategic thinking, facilitating collaboration and learning, influencing others and so on. 

Fortunately, many top-tier employee assistance programs (EAPs) include leadership coaching services as a benefit, and smart employers are providing such opportunities to their most promising and loyal employees.

Strategy 2: Support Employee Mental Health 

Action Step: The pandemic has elevated stress levels for everyone, making this a good time to remind employees to take advantage of your firm’s mental health and wellness programs or benefits. Also, if the firm’s budget allows, expand your EAP benefits to include mental health and wellness perks — both for employees and their families.  

Just as importantly, if you know or sense that an employee faces challenges at home or in their personal well-being, let them know you have an open-door policy and make sure to be an empathetic listener when they take advantage of your invitation.  

Strategy 3: Refocus Your Organization’s Purpose

Action Step: Help your employees understand where they fit in the big picture by exposing them to end products or services as well as to happy customers. In employee conversations, be explicit about the ways their jobs or specific projects support your firm’s mission or purpose.  

The point is both to let employees see the value they bring to your organization and allow them to experience the company’s purpose firsthand. Keeping your organization’s purpose clearly in focus also contributes to a positive workplace culture, which is a huge factor in encouraging employees to stick around. 

Strategy 4: Reward Loyalty 

Action Step: In individual coaching conversations, ask employees questions like: What is most rewarding to you about your job? How can we make your job more fulfilling or meaningful? What obstacles get in your way? How can we help? As always, be sure to act on what you’re told.  

Strategy 5: Be Flexible and Generous 

Action Step: Implement flexible work schedules to accommodate employees’ personal or family needs. Where feasible, offer opportunities to work remotely. Use technology that facilitates flexible scheduling, job sharing, work from home and the like. Look for ways to expand vacation time and other personal time off. 

Pro Tip: Be a coach-like leader
Successful employee engagement efforts depend on open and direct communications between leaders and their employees, especially regarding important issues like employees’ career growth and development, their personal well-being concerns and the value of their work to the organization’s mission.  

Leadership experts widely agree that employer-staff conversations are most effective when you adopt a leader-as-coach approach. In fact, coaching is recognized as the preferred management and leadership style of the 21st century.  

Leaders who facilitate healthy and productive exchanges with their employees by using coaching skills such as:  

  • asking open-ended questions,  
  • listening without judgement, and  
  • being genuinely curious.  

EAP Benefits Boost Engagement 

While there is no one-size-fits all approach to engaging and retaining employees, a robust employee assistance program has the advantage of addressing many of the critical employee challenges facing organizations today.  

For instance, EAPs that provide mental health benefits help keep employees healthy, engaged and productive. This supports managers in ensuring a healthy workforce and lets employees know that you value them as people. That’s a meaningful boost in stressful times like these. 

Similarly, in a talent market where many employees have numerous job options, an EAP that rewards loyal employees by providing them with resources for professional growth and development is a powerful retention tool.  

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