Recruiting employees is tough, especially these days: there’s a lot of competition for the best candidates. And once you’ve got some of that coveted talent? It can be just as hard to keep them. On both of these fronts, the so-called Great Resignation seems to have reset things for businesses and employers, meaning that you’ve got to work harder than ever when it comes to not only finding great employees, but also finding ways to retain your top talent. So if you’ve got the employees you really want, what can you do to keep them around for good?
The State of the Job Market for Employers
If anyone thought that the Covid-19 pandemic that began in 2020 would mean soaring unemployment rates for the long term, they were dead wrong. The unemployment rate was just 3.6% this past spring and summer, and businesses were adding around 400,000 jobs a month, while just around 330,000 people were entering the workforce.
So it’s not surprising that 44% of employers report that hiring new employees is more difficult now than it was pre-pandemic. Employers have been scrambling to compete for workers, and are offering more flexible schedules, better benefits, and higher wages. In fact, in May, hourly wages were 5.2% higher than they were a year ago. But many businesses are still having trouble, and that might be because they’re just out of sync with what today’s choosier candidates want.
Why Employees Say Sayonara
So why are candidates not saying yes to some offers, and also why are employees leaving the jobs they do have? Well, let’s first look at what we mean when we say that part of the problem is employers are out of sync with what workers want:
- Workers list ‘flexible schedules’ as their top priority, but only one-third of employers give workers the option to create their own schedules
- 59% of people are looking for higher pay, but only 40% of employers have raised salaries
- Workers are also seeking jobs with good health insurance and retirement benefits, but only about 1 in 5 employers have started offering or improved benefits in these areas
But it’s not just about the nitty gritty practical stuff. According to Pew Research, while low pay is the top reason that people leave their jobs, the other top two reasons are lack of opportunity for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work. Think about this: Gallup found that two-thirds of workers don’t feel they have a supportive, respectful leader who helps cultivate a working environment that promotes engagement. That’s certainly something to think about, while also thinking about ways to support employees practically, like offering healthcare or help with childcare.
How to Get Them to Stick Around
You don’t have infinite money to offer your employees giant raises, but you can pay them fairly, and also use other strategies to keep the best of the bunch from jumping ship:
1. Start by recruiting right
Keeping employees for the long run starts with recruiting the right employees. For example, when looking at candidates, in addition to focusing on their skills and experience, you should also take a look at:
- How long they have stuck with previous jobs
- If they have other things they commit to, like team sports or volunteering
- If they seem to share your and your business’ values, since this will make them more likely to stick with you
2. Help them unleash their passion
Why do employees waste time at work, why do they fall down on their productivity levels – and why do they sometimes ultimately leave their jobs? Because they’re just not engaged enough at work! Employees want to be challenged and engaged; they want to be able to use their talents, so it’s up to you to know where what they’re passionate about, and how you can align their projects with their passions. That means asking questions and getting to know what makes them tick, so you’ll have a better idea of how to fire them up. Not only will they be at peak performance, but their feeling of commitment to your organization will grow and grow.
3. Use “stay interviews”
Speaking of asking employees questions, you can do that by conducting what’s known as “stay interviews.” You’ve probably heard of exit interviews (and might be feeling frustrated right about now for having to do so many of them!), but they only allow you to hear about what employees were dissatisfied with when there’s no chance of resolving the issues. But with stay interviews, you get a chance to talk to your employees while they’re still on your payroll, and get a sense of what they need and how you can keep them motivated (both to work hard and to stay with you).
What should you ask? Focus on questions that are more open-ended and will give your employees the opportunity to open up, like:
- What excites you about the work you’re doing right now?
- What would you like to learn in the near future?
- What do you look forward to/dread about work?
- What talents do you feel you’re not using in your current role?
- What would you cut out of your job if you could?
- Do you feel you’re getting clear goals and objectives?
- What would make your job more satisfying?
- What can I, as a manager, do more or less of?
- Do you feel valued and recognized?
- How would you like to be recognized?
4. Provide clear paths to advancement
Glassdoor research shows that 73% of workers end up quitting just to get the position they want. Other studies show that 80% of younger workers would leave their job if not offered career advancement opportunities, so you have to be able to give them what they crave. After all, you wanted workers with ambition, so that means you can’t expect them to stay satisfied in their current position forever. This can mean giving them clear paths to advancement in any ways that make sense for your company, like offering a mentoring program and/or continuing education opportunities, guiding them through your succession plan, or even creating new positions that would be a better fit for the more experienced employee they have become.
5. Allow your employees to cross-train
Speaking of succession planning, you might have thought about cross-training some of your employees so that you have people who can step up if you lose an employee. But you can also use cross-training to keep employees from getting bored, especially those who have pretty narrow roles. Cross-training can provide fresh experiences and stave off the boredom that can boost turnover, while also allowing employees to tap into unknown strengths and skills -which could end up being surprising and enlightening for you, too!
6. Never dismiss their ideas
Here’s one for the “don’t” pile. You might have the final say on everything from the direction that your business is going in, to the little everyday decisions, but the brightest stars on your team are out there, doing the work that needs to be done to keep everything keepin’ on. That means they’re bound to have their own ideas – and the worst thing you can do is frustrate them by continually dismissing their ideas out of hand. Even if you don’t think the idea will work, give them the respect of talking it through with them, and explaining your position. And when they come up with something brilliant, well…
7. Don’t forget to give props!
There are so many practical things you can do to make sure you keep your employees happy: offer a comprehensive benefits package, give them the most competitive compensation you can, offer advancement opportunities, and be open to a flexible work environment, to name a few. But there’s one thing you shouldn’t forget to do that isn’t as complicated as all of the above: give shout-outs and recognition to your team! After all, they’re what makes your business tick, and without them, where would you be?
So treat them like the assets that they are, let them know how much they would be missed if they left, and always give credit where credit is due. Consider offering bonuses, whether monetary or gifts, but also remember that publicly acknowledging the work they’re doing can be more powerful than you might think.
We hope you’ve put together your dream team – after all, that’s looking more and more like a tall order these days! So it’s more important than ever to hold onto your talented employees; you can do so by following the tips above, and by being a respectful employer that really listens to the needs of the employees. Do all of that, and you’ll build a loyal and productive team that keeps your business growing for years to come.