Focus on Employee Engagement to Bolster Talent Retention Efforts
Workspan Daily
June 10, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Seen, valued and heard. Organizations that create a culture that allows all employees to contribute and use their strengths are more likely to retain workers. 
  • Frequent, “light touch” communication. As opposed to annual employee surveys, managers need to communicate weekly with their employees, addressing issues before they become problematic and cause turnover. 
  • The value of HR to employees. Employees who perceive the HR function as adding significant value to their employee experience are 3.7 times more likely to have no intent to leave compared to those who don’t see value in HR activities. 
  • Role of HR and HR technology. Technology shouldn’t replace HR but enable HR practitioners to be emotionally attentive and available for the most important interactions with employees. 

In today’s highly competitive labor market, retention is more important than ever. To confront the issue head-on, some organizations are urging their managers to conduct one-on-one interviews with employees who are considering leaving. But the reality is, the time to keep someone in your organization is not when they’ve already told you they’ve got another job offer.  

While pay is often a significant contributing factor in an employee’s choice to stay or leave, workplace culture has become a tipping point as well. There’s a greater focus now more than ever on employers providing an environment where people can contribute.  

The goal for employers should be to head off problems and frustrations before the employee starts looking elsewhere. It begins with creating the right conditions for success. This means giving people the opportunity to be seen, valued, and heard for all that they are. When you create those conditions, you get the best outcomes and people want to stay connected to your organization.  

The Employee Experience  

Creating a culture that sustains and supports employees is ultimately the responsibility of leadership, but HR has a seat at the table too. What if you could identify precisely how HR influences the employee experience and retention?  

In September 2021, the ADP Research Institute (ADPRI) issued a study that uncovered the HR XPerience Score (HRXPS), a metric to measure HR service quality and the impact of the human resources function, as well as identified the key factors that directly correlate to a strong talent brand as seen through the lens of the employee’s experience. The intent of this comprehensive study was to isolate the impact HR can have on employee experience and engagement. The study identified specific factors that influence the talent brand, what factors influence intent to leave, and factors that influence people to actually leave. The result is a valid metric to explore and reliably measure employees’ experience of HR. 

The study uncovered some remarkable connections between employee engagement, retention and the HR function.  

Intent to leave. The data showed that there is a strong relationship between high HRXPS and lower intent to leave and lower active job search. Employees who saw the HR function as adding significant value to their employee experience (“Value-Promoting”) were 3.7 times more likely to have no intent to leave compared to those who don’t see value in HR activities (“Value-Detracting”). The latter were also 3.4 times more likely to be actively searching for a new job. 

Performance attention. Interestingly, in a time when so many organizations are throwing out their performance appraisal systems, the survey respondents identified this aspect of HR as essential. Those who received the most frequent attention on their performance were 4.4 times more likely to say HR is Value-Promoting than those in the “No Attention” category. Even though the HR function may not be delivering that performance attention directly, if an employee is having weekly or quarterly conversations with someone, they still think much more positively of their HR service quality. The focus becomes on creating frequent touchpoints for employees to connect in with their leaders and receive real-time feedback and guidance. 

Single point of contact in HR. Employees with a single point of contact in HR were twice as likely to say HR is valuable than employees with multiple HR contacts and 5 times more likely than employees with no HR. So, while we know that engaged employees are more likely to see HR positively, having a single HR point of contact makes a measurable difference in HRXPS, regardless of how engaged the employee is. 

Holistic Approach to Retention and Employee Engagement 

Both leaders and HR have a role to play in retaining good employees and strengthening the employee experience.  

Role of the leader. A manager’s task is to create an environment that helps their employees be the best they can be. This requires three key skills: 

  • Be approachable. Make it comfortable for your employees to come to you. 
  • Be clear about expectations. Be clear about what you want them to get done then give them the freedom on how to accomplish the goal – as opposed to telling them what to do. 
  • Be open to feedback. Model the behavior you want to see. If you want your people to receive feedback graciously, be willing to do the same. 

The hybrid workplace is an additional challenge for leaders. Many businesses are still trying to find the right balance between in-office and remote working. Again, frequent communication is essential. Scheduling time to talk to your people, being open and listening will go a long way towards keeping them in your organization. 

Role of HR and HR technology. The HRXPS study suggests that each HR interaction, when carefully thought-through and executed, is an opportunity to create genuine value in the heart and mind of the employee.  

The role of technology shouldn’t be to replace HR, but instead to enable HR to be emotionally attentive and available for the most important interactions with employees. The role of HR, then, is to devise ways for the employee to feel that each interaction with HR adds to their overall experience of being seen, heard, and understood as a whole human at work. This isn’t an easy task but as the data shows, each HR interaction can drive higher HRXPS, thus improving retention and the organization’s talent brand. 

Strengthen Employee Engagement with Technology  

As we’ve seen in the past two years, employee engagement is highly variable. An annual employee survey just doesn’t do the job. The right HR technology enables managers to stay in touch with employees on a regular basis – even weekly – to surface issues before the employee starts answering recruiters’ calls.  

It can structure this communication process, reminding managers to connect and listen, with questions that measure factors most likely to predict engagement behaviors that lead to performance. In this way, when employees bring up their challenges or concerns, they can be addressed immediately before they result in turnover. 

Related WorldatWork Resources
As Union Activity Rises Nationwide, There Are Positive Ways to Manage It
Making a Business Case for DEI Amid Concerns of Legal Challenges
Supporting Digital Nomads as the Great Resignation Comes to an End
Related WorldatWork Courses
Committing to Pay Equity
Performing a Pay Equity Analysis
Pay Equity Course Series