When you hire a new employee, that person is already looking for a new job and at risk of quitting. That rather dire warning is offered by Dan Schawbel, research director at Future Workplace and one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” list. Schawbel cites a study by his company showing that one-third of American workers are at the risk of quitting and looking to change their jobs within the next six months. Employee turnover, he points out, “costs companies a fortune,” and the numbers agree: Losing an employee in the first year of their tenure can cost your company up to three times the person’s annual salary. Clearly, employee retention is a top priority for every organization and it’s HR’s duty to build a strategy that can prevent employees from quitting. Here are four HR best practices to strengthen work culture and protect your company from the high cost of worker churn.
1. Provide Relevant Training Opportunities
As Schawbel investigated the underlying causes for employee attrition, he found a major perception gap between management and workers when it came to a training and development. Sixty percent of managers reported that they provide their employees with a clear path for advancing their careers, while only 36 percent of workers felt that this was true. This discrepancy needs your attention, because you ignore it at your peril: Employees (especially the highly talented ones you’d most like to retain) have more power than they once did, because their skills are in demand. Schawbel’s study found that 41 percent of employees say that they would leave their present companies if they found a position that offered better career advancement.
These numbers suggest that there is more to this equation than simply providing opportunities for training and development. That’s the first step, of course: A study of 4,300 workers found that 74 percent don’t feel that they’re achieving their full potential in their current position, and only 12 percent feel that the training they did receive is actually applicable to their job duties. Along with offering appropriate pathways for your workers to develop their skills, you should ask for frequent feedback to make sure that these opportunities are perceived as being relevant and useful.
2. Encourage Healthy Work-Life Balance
Thirty-nine percent of employees state that a negative balance between work obligations and the rest of their lives constituted a “major pain point” in their careers. These statistics are highlighted by Rich Hein, senior managing editor of CIO Magazine. He points out that the average tenure for an IT worker these days is less than four years, and an unmanageable set of work demands is one of the main culprits for this high turnover rate.
While you can’t necessarily relieve each employee’s outside personal challenges, Hein points out that your organization will benefit by offering flexible hours or telecommuting options. Multiple studies reflect the fact that providing flexibility to employees results in fewer sick hours, greater employee happiness, higher productivity and less stress.
3. Keep Your Managers in the Spotlight
It’s an old truism that people don’t quit jobs — they quit bosses. Even if you’re well aware of this basic human resources principle, it never hurts to be reminded that your management-level staff are key to retaining your workforce. “One manager with poor people skills can do damage to the culture and effectiveness of a company in a short period of time,” points out Maricopa County CIO David Stevens. Too often, people with outstanding technical know-how are promoted to leadership positions, where an entirely different skillset is needed. Fortunately, management training and coaching can be highly effective, and can enable your middle management staff to perform at their full potential.
Productivity consultant Laura Vanderkam adds an interesting twist to this standard advice. She points out that a manager may feel attached to keeping a “rockstar employee” in his or her department, and may be reluctant to provide development training that would advance the person’s career. For this reason, Vanderkam encourages executives and HR specialists to specifically reward managers who successfully move their outstanding employees forward into different departments. The manager’s individual loss will be the organization’s gain, as employee alignment will be strengthened by new career opportunities.
4. Show Your Employees That You Appreciate Them
Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah identifies employee rewards and recognition as one of his three key ways for retaining employees. He acknowledges how easy it is for busy managers to put employee retention “on the back burner,” and he finds that continuous positive feedback is his go-to method of letting employees know how valuable they are to the company.
There’s an art to employee recognition best practices, however: It’s important to provide feedback on an ongoing basis, but workplace expert Lynn Taylor points out that it can’t be “robotic.” Your appreciation needs to be authentic and varied, delivered in a variety of forms. To keep a sense of freshness present in your appreciation, you can change up the channels: Providing your workers with a chance to recognize and praise each other’s contributions will nurture teamwork. Similarly, you may sometimes recognize the unified efforts of a whole team or department, so that it’s clear that everyone benefits from strong employee alignment.
You invest significant resources into recruiting and hiring. Once you’ve onboarded those top-notch employees, however, your HR challenge is only beginning. Lynn Taylor reminds managers, “Retaining the best and brightest is what ultimately matters. The most innovative and successful companies today [have] taken retention efforts to an advanced level.” To learn more about the current retention epidemic and how to prevent your employees from quitting, check out our latest report highlighting key findings from a survey taken by 1,724 employees across the U.S., Canada, UK, and Australia.
How would you prevent an employee from quitting? Share your comments below.