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Welcome to Cooleaf's Employee Retention Guide

Building an employee retention strategy is essential to the overall health and success of your organization. This comprehensive guide will help you equip your people, improve employee retention, and boost overall engagement.

Introduction

Retaining key talent

Employee retention is a difficult challenge facing today’s organizations. It requires an organization-wide approach to leadership, management, and culture. But it ultimately comes down to managing the talent your organization needs to succeed. Your ability to retain and engage talent will be key to your company’s success.

The 2020 Pandemic changed the landscape for employees and how we work, leading to fluctuating changes, new remote and hybrid models, and increasing employee burnout. This all added up to a wave of increased employee resignations.

But why do employees leave and how can you keep key talent on? This guide will help you look at those main drivers for employee retention and share examples and effective strategies.

Chapter 1

The Importance of Employee Retention

Your employees are your best marketing tool to attract talent, encourage customers, and push towards success. Keeping them engaged and motivated isn’t impossible, but it does require thoughtful programming. Turnover is an expensive practice, eating away at your bottom line and disrupting your workflow, which is why it’s essential to understand the root cause of turnover.

According to Gallup, a leaving employee can cost your organization up to double that employee’s salary. Hiring a replacement takes up resources to field applications, hosting interviewing rounds for candidates, not to mention onboarding and training replacement hires.

Productivity is also affected. On average, it can take a new hire about 90 days to a year to get up to speed, before their productivity reaches its peak.

Turnover for those remaining employees can lead to burnout, low productivity, and even more turnover. Understanding the root causes of employee turnover can help simplify your efforts, so you can spend more time on things that have a direct impact on retaining talent in the long run.

The 2020 Pandemic changed the landscape a bit for employees and how we work, and it's not all bad. Prioritizing employee retention can drive success for your organization.

But why do employees leave and how can you keep your people on or even attract the best talent? Through this guide, we’ll provide you with critical information on drivers of employee retention to help you reduce your employee turnover. 

What causes Employee Turnover?

Employee retention is a difficult challenge facing today’s organizations, and to solve your employee attrition we need to start by looking at why employees choose to leave in the first place.

According to the 2021 Bureau of Labor Statics report, the national turnover rate is 57.3% and is increasing. Following fluctuating change and stress from the start of the Pandemic in 2020, 95% workers are seeking new opportunities in The Great Resignation. And while shifting social and economic conditions can impact an employee's choice to stay, most attrition is voluntary with many citing issues in lack of flexibility, benefits and compensation, and job satisfaction as to why.

Chapter 2

Main Drivers for Employee Retention

Now that we have an idea of why an employee might choose to leave. Let’s look at the drivers that make up an employee retention strategy:

Rewards

Consider employee rewards as the larger umbrella that encompasses an employee’s generous base salary, potential for annual bonuses, as well as financial benefits such as retirement/savings contributions, and paid time-off. These are more standard benefits that most organizations should consider or communicate to potential hires and existing employees.

Beyond those benefits or rewards, companies are now diving into additional rewards. Many have largely focused on perks and benefits packages to engage with their employees. Incentives such as employee happy hours or health and wellness programs such as access to health and wellness apps, comped exercise classes, or wellness days can go a long way toward attracting and retaining good talent.

Rewards programs are an additional way to incentivize employees for performing tasks and showing appreciation for everyday things too! 

Employee Engagement

Employee engagement means taking a holistic look at how your employees interact and align themselves in what they do: from their relationship with their coworkers, their sense of purpose in their work, their work-life balance, or the lack of development programs and strategies to motivate and encourage upward mobility.

Organizations who fail to recognize the direct correlation between employee engagement and turnover are not investing into the right strategies to create a focused, engaged environment that encourages employees to stay. Not to mention attract the best talent. 

But high turnover tells us that it’s time to revisit employee experience and to put the human experience first in the workplace. Diving into the facets in your employee programming can help create a whole ecosystem that communicates how your organization supports and puts your people first.

Learning & Development Opportunities

One of the most important ways to keep your employees engaged is through a solid learning and development (L&D) program. But what does a good L&D program look like? It takes practice, commitment and dedication from your managers to undertake the program and to make it a priority.

Learning and development programs or mentorship initiatives are a critical part of this key strategy, it shows you have confidence in your current employees, and are willing to invest in their success. Offering only the bare minimum of L&D programming can give off the wrong message and show growth only goes such a long way at your organization.

Consider creating opportunities cross functionally for employees to work with other departments. Offer a mentorship program and actively pair employees with mentors. Incentivize and celebrate taking additional training or courses to upskill. A culture of learning helps everyone stay motivated and encourages employees to dive into work and skills important to their interests, and it helps the business get closer to success too.

Employee Appreciation and Recognition

The best companies know their employee retention strategy has to start with rewarding and recognizing employees for the good things they do. Recognition might sound simple, but truly fostering a culture of employee appreciation ensures your workforce is both engaged and fulfilled in their roles – reducing attrition and increasing productivity. 

Employee appreciation is a huge driver of engagement and motivation, but one that can fall by the wayside when it comes to meeting routine benchmarks. Studies have shown that employee recognition is one of the most important factors to keeping employees engaged and committed to their employer. It makes sense. No matter how good an employee feels about their job and their employer, they still need to feel seen and appreciated for their individual contributions.

Health & Wellness Program and Perks

Employee wellness programs are a great opportunity to keep the mind and body fit, while lowering health care costs. Your health plan may offer discounts on gym memberships or cash incentives— as well as provide other services such as wellness screenings.

These programs can also include premium discounts, cash rewards, gym memberships, and additional incentives to encourage participation. Some examples to include in your own organization’s wellness program include diabetes management programs, flut shots, fitness challenges, and preventative health screenings.

To support employees and manage employee burnout and other mental health needs, organizations have also added comped memberships to mental wellness apps like Headspace or Calm, along with more workplace flexibility and remote options so employees can have a more manageable balance of work and personal time.

New ways of doing things – like flexible schedules and mental health days – are ways to put employees and their needs first. And many workers are looking for remote options in order to live in new cities, spend more time with their families, or just have a healthier work-life balance.

Alignment of Core Values

Core values are often overlooked as a driver for strong employee engagement, but they aren’t just words on your organization’s website. It’s a way to keep teams motivated, supported, and aligned to an organization’s success.

Core values unite an organization not with their purpose but how they will work to achieve that goal. Core values motivate your employees, set goals for everyone, and remind all employees what they stand for and direct how they should accomplish success. 

These core values should apply to all stages of your business, whether employees work remotely, hybrid, or in-office. And employees should have a sense of the core values, instilled from onboarding and in their everyday employee journey. 

Companies that don't utilize core values might not see its intrinsic value or how it can empower and motivate their team.

Chapter 3

Solutions to Employee Turnover

An employee retention strategy is a set of initiatives that work together to keep your talent engaged and motivated. Any effective employee retention strategy has to start with a focus on the employee experience. Whether it's creating an environment where they feel safe, a shift in your benefits package, or re-examining your onboarding process and training, a retention strategy needs to incorporate feedback from your people first to create an place where people want to stay.

This all comes to employee experience, which is the key to developing an employee program that’s fulfilling and empowering. Read on to learn more!

Employee Engagement

When it comes to employee retention, there is no single cause and no easy solution. But job satisfaction is one of the biggest factors when it comes to long-term employment. When employees are happy with their team and enjoy their work, they're more likely to remain loyal and stay with your business for the long term.

Your people are one of your organization's most valuable assets, and creating a fulfilling experience not only helps your team feel connected with one another but it also helps everyone feel connected to the company’s mission.

When you consider your employee experience, look at your company’s mission to drive your approach.For instance, is diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) important? What programs or hiring practices do you have in place to support that with your team? How are you communicating that to your organization?

Maybe health and wellness is important to your employees, so what does your health and employee programming include? Comped workout classes? Or maybe you motivate everyone with a fun step challenge each month.

Employee programming from wellness activities, to discussions, to even learning and development are just a few strategies to approach the employee experience that resonate with your organization’s mission and core values. And diving into each strategy will help you create a holistic experience that supports your employees and creates a more meaningfully connected workplace.

Onboarding

Onboarding new people can be a challenging affair no matter where or how you work, but even if you don't have a physical office, building a robust, customized onboarding experience is easier than you think!

When it comes to helping new hires feel engaged and supported, the first weeks are critical. Research shows that employees with adequate support during onboarding are 54% more productive. 

Onboard is a good time not only to get them up-to-speed with the basics of the role and the company, but to also get new employees familiar with the team’s culture and engaged with core values. 

Starting any role, no matter in-person or remote, is intimidating so companies can include a welcome-buddy program, an onboarding class, or an onboarding mentor to ease the transition. Showing examples of core values in action or how your organization’s mission drives success in business and for employees can help empower and familiarize new employees too

Your onboarding experience is an opportunity to make an employee an advocate for your team, so think holistically when it comes to planning the start of their employee journey.

Creating a Culture of Recognition

People want and need to feel valued by their organization – not just for the work they do, but for who they are as individuals. In order to achieve this, organizations must re-examine how their company culture meets the needs of their employees – and not the other way around. And that’s through creating a culture of appreciation and recognition.

Although that can be the case at times, it’s not just about a big bonus or promotion that is long overdue. When we talk about recognizing employees, we mean recognition that’s meaningful, spotlights an employee’s hard work, and invites other team members to celebrate. Employees want to feel remarkable and acknowledged for their efforts. It matters because it touches them in a real way, in the moment, and it doesn’t only feel like lip service.

It’s also important to engage your managers when it comes to employee recognition. Managers should recognize employees often and publicly to show appreciation. Recognition should not just be for achieving big wins. Recognizing the everyday tasks and strategies that go towards those larger successes.

Managers can lead the charge in creating a culture of appreciation, and by setting an example, employees will follow suit and show appreciation for working cross-functionally and for the help coworkers give everyday.

You can launch your own employee recognition program by doing routine shoutouts during meetings or you can utilize platforms like Cooleaf which focus on making recognition public, celebrated, and easy.

Appreciation goes beyond saying thank you for anyone on the receiving end. It’s a way to celebrate an employee’s contribution to the work at large.

Supporting Learning and Development Opportunities

Offering training and development to upskill is one key to successful employee retention. Training could be aligned to business goals, more informal than classroom training, and tailored to the job. 

A well-designed learning program is the top way to retain employees. A successful employee development program should be focused on short-term and long-term goals, include rewards and incentives to motivate employees, and be shorter than three hours to retain interest. Everyone’s a different learner so consider offering training or courses available on demand, mobile-friendly, or even in-person on a quarterly basis.

Many teams use learning management systems (LMS) to integrate training into other HR systems and track the performance of each employee. Organizations also offer an upskilling stipend for employees who want to upskill or learn something new with online courses on their own.

Three out of four employees feel that they don’t work in an environment that provides them with the tools and opportunities they need to grow their careers. It’s time to change that and create a welcoming and encouraging learning and development program that shows your employees that they’re worth investing in.

Bring Your Core Values to Life

Core values aren’t just words on a page. Core values can attract new talent— especially since more and more job seekers look towards an organization’s mission or values to see if it aligns with their personal ones. More importantly, core values empower your employees and show how your organization will achieve success in business. 

Core values are a powerful tool, and they should guide everything you do at your organization, most of all your employee experience. When embracing your core values, it’s important to communicate them clearly, share how facets of your organization will embrace them, and give examples as to how they’re utilized. 

Include them when you recognize or shout-out great work, and create employee programs that are extensions of them. As an example, look for non-profit organizations that match those values in your corporate giving or volunteer projects. Bring in speakers that lead with that value for learning and development talks. Organize book clubs to support your DEI initiatives. It’s an opportunity to get creative.

You can also keep those core values front and center on a communication channel or bring them back at routine all-hands meetings. Core values empower your people and help guide your progress and highlight ways to improve.

Chapter 4

Tools for Retention Strategy

Now that you have an idea of what solutions you can utilize for your team, it’s time to think how you’ll plan out your strategy, and that starts with your employees. 

Talk with your team, utilize surveys, and host routine 1:1 interviews to uncover what factors keep employees coming to work every day. Then, pay attention to and enhance those factors, letting your employees be the key in keeping them stimulated, motivated, successful, and content while they stay with you.

Read on to see what tools you can utilize to help create an effective employee retention strategy that resonates with your organization.

Manager Survey

Get manager support for your initiatives. Managers will have a better understanding of their people’s day-to-day and can positively influence an employee’s experience overall. They also can set the example when it comes to adopting any new programming.

Engage your managers first with a manager survey to see what tools or needs they have for engaging their teams. Or you can host 1:1 manager meetings to gather detailed information on what programs would be helpful or what communications they’re missing to support their own goals.

From their feedback, you’ll be able to determine what additional programs you’ll need to offer, whether that’s additional training or even team-building opportunities. You can also look into tools like recognition platforms which give managers the ability to award gift cards or even points for earning manager recognition. It’s a simple way to give recognition that’s tangible and meaningful to the employee and that’s seamless for your managers. It’s also an additional empowering tool that gives managers the freedom to award and share behavior they want replicated from others on the team.

Employee Sentiment Survey

The best way to recognize your employees is to build a company culture that engages them, but how do you start? With an employee sentiment survey you’ll have an avenue to ask questions and gather signals on what’s most important to them.

You can host a large sentiment survey before a large structural change or on an annual basis so you can create an employee program for your team’s needs at that time. Sentiment surveys can be longer, with a range of likert scale questions and open-ended questions. Results will show you the trend of how employees feel over certain initiatives and what they’ll need more support to understand.  You want to be timely with sharing the results with your organization and communicate your plan of action, so you can show that your employees’ voices are heard and valued.

Along the way, you can track sentiment with shorter surveys, also known as employee pulse surveys, to keep you on track and keep your employees involved every step of the way.

Welcome Kits

In your onboarding process with your new hire, have you considered a welcome kit? Welcome kits are a tangible way to greet new employees, whether your team is remote or in-person. It kicks off their experience with the organization and builds upon that anticipation (and nerves) of starting a new role.

In your welcome kit you can include items they will need from tech, branded swag, information packets, and actions they can take for their first week. You can also include personal welcome messages from the team or manager, your core values, and even a culture handbook so they have an idea on some fun trivia about the team.

A welcome kit is very much an extension of the employee’s experience, so have fun including additional swag like yoga mats if you have health and wellness programs, books for any learning and development, or even stickers for their laptop. A welcome kit is a fun but effective way to get new team members excited, feel appreciated, and engaged right off the start.

Employee Stay Interview

A stay interview is a proactive one-on-one between a member of management and an employee. It’s a tool to help your organization better understand what facets are important to them and what is your organization doing right and what can it do better?

Stay interviews are a true conversation and dive deeper into job and company satisfaction. Because they’re in-person they’re an opportunity to ask follow up questions on anything from supervisor satisfaction, role responsibilities, promotion opportunities, and more.

More importantly, stay interviews should be conducted routinely and not in response to an employee leaving. It’s important to continue the conversation with your people and ensure that your organization is doing what it can to keep that key talent onboard, not react to when they have an offer on the table.

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