The job market changes constantly, but in the last few years those changes have become even more pronounced, necessitating innovative employee retention strategies. A lot of retention comes down to the at work. In this article, we will discuss the job market and why employees shift companies so readily. Then we will go over how to set up your working environment to send the right messages to employees, and give you the best, innovative strategies for employee retention, including why they will work – and what definitely won’t.
It seems on the surface that something like employment doesn’t change. People have jobs, work for a living, and that has remained true for millennia. However, the way that we find work and the kinds of jobs available mean that the job market is constantly shifting and changing. Competition is fierce, and more than ever people are feeling the strain of locating employment that will mesh with their lives.
Technological advancements are changing the job market exponentially. Programming has exploded, content creation is more prevalent than ever, and with the connectivity of the internet, the job market has expanded in ways nobody would have even conceived of fifty years ago. In short, we are in a world where employees can be gathered from around the globe, can work from anywhere, and can find work in just as many places. This means that competition is fiercer than ever before. Instead of recruiting from a local talent pool, you are looking at a ground of people that includes the global population. Instead of employees needing to look for work in their area, they can find work all over the planet.
Furthermore, employees no longer expect to stay with one company for their entire employment tenure. How do you retain a worker in this environment? Have you given a thought to the or how can help you retain your best employees? Advancement can be a great motivator and reason for a worker to stay on-board, and advancement could be in the form of development; don’t just think of it in terms of raises and promotions.
Offering your employees something different can be an excellent way to both attract and retain your best employees. BeMo took this to heart with our employee benefits program. Through this partnership with employers and businesses, BeMo can offer your employees and their family members unlimited professional coaching and admissions help to any undergraduate or graduate school program. By partnering with BeMo, you can ensure your employees advance and succeed and reap the benefits of satisfied employees.
Technological advancement has led to gargantuan shifts in the business strategies of companies, the kinds of industries available, and the way that employees look at businesses. What are the most-desired traits in a business that employees seek out?
- Work-life balance flexibility
- Benefits and opportunities
- A sense of purpose
- A positive work environment
The population no longer has it in their minds that sacrificing for the company is of paramount importance. Rather, they are focused on ways in which they can find satisfaction at their job but not at the expense of family life and leisure time. With this increase in an interest in work-life balance, many employees will be very interested in some , such as the which allows both the employee and their children to grow as professionals and individuals. Even employees who don’t yet have a family might be planning to start one, and those benefits will seem like a good future investment to them as well.
Advancement is always important, and this is one area where the job sector has not changed. Feeling the possibility of upward mobility at a company, being rewarded for good work, receiving wages, and “getting ahead” is one constant in the employee’s mind. A company with the will be able to show employees that there is a good future in their business.
Employees often want compensation beyond simple money and seek out benefits packages that will enable them to lead a healthy life without anxiety over how much money they’ll need to spend on expenses. They often look for packages that are flexible, or for to suit their needs. Either way, the will give you an edge in retaining workers.
Remote work is ever more accessible and ever more popular. There is a rise in work-from-home jobs like , or . Both in terms of schedule and work location, employees are interested in a workplace that will allow them a certain amount of freedom. Being able to make their own hours and work from home are often important factors that employees will weigh out while considering a job.
What is it like working with coworkers and a boss? It can be very positive or very negative. Employees want their relationships at work to be smooth and friendly. They don’t need to be best friends with everybody, but dreading interactions with other people is going to weigh a person down.
Likewise, the workplace will make a difference. Is it clean, welcoming, and accessible? Or is it forbidding in every way?
Never underestimate how much an employee will value a job if they feel that job has a true purpose – if it is more than just a paycheck or meaningless labor. A person will put up with a lot of hardship to fight for a cause they believe in or to provide a service they feel is essential and appreciated.
Contrariwise, if your worker feels like they aren’t contributing to society, bettering themselves, or making the world a better place – even in the smallest ways – they might feel dissatisfaction with their job.
Let’s talk about the signals that are sent – usually unintentionally – by certain policies that employers take, or attitudes that they strike. These signals can be positive reinforcement for your workforce that your company is the one they seek, or conversely, they can be a negative reminder of why they want out.
Before implementing a policy, or when reviewing an old one, consider how the policy comes across to your employees. For instance, if you have policies in place to protect your company from theft of products, that’s good for your bottom line, but depending on how it is worded and presented, it might come off as accusatory. Let’s use that as an example.
Anti-theft Policy – negative
Notice to all employees: whether you are taking product or an extra-long break, this is THEFT. Don’t be a thief. Any employee who takes company product, company materials, or who misrepresents their hours on their timesheet will be investigated and dealt with.
What’s wrong there?
It’s accusatory and aggressive. You can see by the all-caps “THEFT” that this notice has an angry tone. It also makes it feel to the reader like they will be working in a draconian environment. Try this:
Anti-theft Policy – positive
A reminder: while we want you to feel welcome and part of the Industri-Co family, we also expect you to respect the workplace and your coworkers. Office supplies and company materials can be used freely within the office, but make sure that you don’t take anything home or deplete supplies without letting your supply manager know. Any removal of company equipment or properties will be investigated. Actual cases of theft will not be tolerated.
We also remind you to be mindful of your coworkers. If you are late, or leave early, your remaining coworkers have to cover for you, don’t have enough staff members to handle the workload, and their jobs become more difficult.
Whether it is an office supply or time, we ask you to be respectful of Industri-Co and your coworkers.
What’s the difference?
The second memo is still firm – it must take an anti-theft tack after all – but reminds employees that these policies are for a smoothly-run office space and caring environment instead of just angrily threatening them with actions if they step out of line.
This is an example of the ways that you might be sending a negative message you do not intend.
Clear statements of your expectations and ideas, as well as being open and listening to your employees, will send a transparent message that your priorities are to have an open environment where people can speak their minds. Obviously, you don’t have to put up with rudeness, cursing, or vile behavior, but you should allow for communication, even if the employee is frustrated, and grant them the grace to express that unhappiness.
Employees who feel heard will feel valued.
How do you pay your employees? Presumably you offer fair compensation and pay on-time, but there is a potential message sent with the way that you calculate those wages to begin with. Hourly wages have, for a long time, been an accepted method of paying employees. It is a good way to measure payment for somebody who must remain on the job for a certain number of hours. In the customer service industry, for example. You need a person on your customer service desk, so it makes sense to pay the employee for the hours they work there.
The problem is that this can become an unconscious message sent if you have a slow day – in a restaurant for example – and need to send a worker home early. That employee now loses out wages. If you pay full wages for a missed shift, you’re out of money in exchange for no labor. But what if you keep the employee on anyway? You’re paying them for four hours, why not keep them that whole time?
Well, if you don’t need them there and there is nothing for them to do, they will be bored, counting down minutes, knowing that they are being kept on-shift solely because you’re required to pay them for four hours and you won’t let go of them whether they should be there or not.
The unconscious message sent is that you don’t care about wasting your workers’ time. Face it, if you have to – by law – pay out for four hours of their shift if you’re sending them home early, you’re out that money either way. If there’s nothing for them to do – literally nothing – why waste their time? It honestly comes off as spiteful.
This won’t work for every business, but consider alternate pay structures. A weekly salary with expected work targets and work hours holds employees accountable for tasks accomplished and you accountable for not demanding they come in on evenings and weekends to finish those tasks. Offer overtime if they need to come in on extra days to finish.
Or you might have a task-based system where employees have certain jobs to do. Every job finished is rewarded with money that you both think is fair for the estimated hours worked. If the employee does a good job in less time, they get a break. Everybody gets what they want.
Understand that the message sent has now changed. An hourly wage, implemented poorly, can send the message that what you care about is the employee being in the building. That’s not motivating them to work. Compare this with a task-based system where the message sent is that work getting done – to expected standards, of course – is more important to you than just being in the office.
Now, of course, some jobs can’t work on a task basis. It would make no sense for a barista, for instance, to be paid per cup of coffee poured. Some jobs will need the hourly wage to make sense. But consider the alternatives and always think about the message that your wage structures send to employees.
1. Host a Dinner
Let’s go bold right out of the gate. Breaking bread together is such an essential component of community in human civilization that it fosters a closer relationship within a group just by having a meal together.
Take an evening and host a dinner at the office. If you have a full kitchen, so much the better. Eschew catering for a hand-prepared meal – if you can swing that – and just sit and have dinner together. You’ll be amazed at the bonding that happens and how much closer you all feel afterwards.
2. Random Incentives
Pick a day next week and buy your whole staff doughnuts and coffee. Thank an employee who put in a lot of overtime with a bottle of wine. Put up a dartboard in the breakroom.
Sometimes it feels nice to be generous, and you can indulge that by recognizing that it always feels nice to receive an unexpected vote of confidence. Providing little perks for your employees almost apropos of nothing will send a message that you value them and you will sometimes just step in to let them know that value.
3. A Show of Trust
Know your employees and whether or not they will take advantage of something like this, but imagine if you put up fewer CCTV cameras or gave employees an hours-worked submission form. The honor system might backfire, or it might be a much-appreciated show of trust for your employees. If you are worried about an employee taking advantage of you, just track your expenses and see if an unreasonable spike in the data shows up; you might wind up weeding out a dishonest employee, but really, that person wasn’t a good asset anyway, were they?
4. A Choice of Environment
One of the most desirable perks for employees today is the ability to work from home; another is the fine-tuning of work-life balance. Therefore, giving employees as many options as possible about where they work is ideal.
Let employees, as much as possible, dictate their own hours and work stations. Allow them to customize their workspace. Can they work from home? Let them. Come up with a system so that they still get their work done. The worker saves money on commuting and childcare, and they save time and stress. This gives them work-life balance.
If you cannot allow this – if they need to physically come to a location to work – allow them as much freedom as possible to customize their workspace and uniform. For instance, if you are a software company, why not allow them to dress down? Unless they need to make an impression on clients, is there a reason they have to wear a full suit to the office?
Workstations should be open to interpretation, given the obvious limits that must be imposed regarding size. But if the employee wants to hang up posters or pictures – so long as they aren’t offensive – why not? Let the employee set up their environment how they want. They’ll feel more at home.
5. Topsy-turvy Day
In the Middle Ages there was a holiday where the nobility and the peasantry exchanged places. Called the Feast of Fools, it was a way to satirize class distinctions. In Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, the prince exchanges places with a peasant and understands hardship in ways he never could before.
Do you know what it’s like to be an employee in your company? Odds say that, whoever you are, you certainly aren’t unfamiliar with hard work. You got where you are because of it. However, it can be easy to forget what it’s like to be a low-ranking member of an organization.
The suggestion is this, then: work with your employees. Take a day every month or so to take on the responsibilities of one of your staff members. Maybe do this on their day off. Whether working in the copy room, the accounting department, HR, or sales, just give yourself a reminder of what it’s like to be lower down in the hierarchy of your company. Maybe you’ve forgotten what it’s like, or maybe the expectations have sharply changed, but in any case, a refresher will be a good way to understand your employees better.
One important point: never get a feel for an employee’s job by following them around. Speaking of wrong messages sent, this will seem like you are checking up on them or suspicious. They will spend the day anxious and uncomfortable, and they won’t be able to perform as well as they ought to.
If you’re feeling really bold, allow employees a day to perform as a manager. Sometimes employees don’t realize how hard it still is at the top, and their respect for you might increase if they know what you deal with on a day-to-day basis.
6. A System for Reliable Feedback
Employees need a way to give feedback, if they so choose, that is anonymous. No matter how welcoming and open to feedback and criticism you are, there is something disquieting about being an employee who has to complain to the boss about the boss. Set up a mechanism whereby they can register any difficulties they are having in a 100% anonymous way. Of course, if your company is big enough to have an HR department, this is less of a concern.
You could use a website like Survey Monkey to send out regular feedback forms for them to fill out. The advantage is that a known survey company will put employees’ minds at ease. They know this is going to be truly anonymous. On the other hand, it might be bothersome to fill out regular forms. Sometimes they’ll want to deliver feedback quickly. Even a monthly form might be too slow to affect good change on a project, and at the same time, a monthly survey would become obnoxious to many employees.
An alternate method would be to set up a chat room or message board for the office use. Create a number of anonymous profiles, put the passwords and usernames on slips of paper, and deal them out at random in the office. Then discussions could happen online in an anonymous manner, whenever feedback needed to happen. The only downside is that a new employee throws the system off – the newest account is the newest employee. But all you need to do is re-distribute the profiles. Have everybody swap around which restores anonymity.
1. Cosmetic Changes
A new look, new fonts, or new policies which are just “hip” or have language in them that sounds casual or friendly might help with messaging, but if you are just applying paint to rust, you still have a rust problem.
Aesthetics do matter – ask a chef – but they cannot make up for bad policies or a toxic work environment. Make sure changes you make are impactful and make a difference. If they are merely surface level, they will be even more destructive than changing nothing. Another subconscious message: they will appear like hopeful progress, but when found to be hollow, they will dishearten your workers.
2. “Wacky” Offices
Companies, particularly in the tech sector, often established office environments that were unique or “quirky”, installing slides or trying to look as much like a playground as a workspace. This might seem like it will send a message of fun, but all it will accomplish is another surface-level change full of impractical elements. It sounds fun to slide down a floor at work, but after a week, it’s just tedious and hasn’t really changed the employee’s workplace in a meaningful way. Furthermore, offices and factories are designed to be functional. Form and aesthetic are very important, but don’t lose sight of the purpose of the job site: work.
3. Insubstantial Incentives
Picture yourself in a poisonous office, with callous employers and a substandard wage. Then an announcement to increase motivation, employee of the month will be named!
Do you care?
Neither do your employees.
Genuine praise and recognition from you personally will matter, to some extent, but if all you do is pat them on the head and give out meaningless prizes, they’ll stop caring about these contests in a day. Even supplying a gift certificate might make such ideas more worthwhile.
Although you should also beware an overload of competition or even the perception of playing favorites.
The bottom line is that if you implement incentive programs, make sure they mean more than a framed photo on the wall with a nice, brass plaque.
Employee retention isn’t easy. In a job market where the pace moves faster all the time, it can be particularly tricky. But you owe it to yourself, your company, and your employees to find the best balance that will keep them interested in your company.
1. Is innovation the only way to keep my employees?
The answer is “no”, but it’s somewhat complicated. It really depends on your employees. If they are happy, don’t change anything. If they aren’t, you need to innovate fast.
Prevention is the best cure, however, and you will want to stay up-to-date with the way employment opportunities are changing, because they are. Don’t risk getting caught in some kind of stagnancy undertow.
2. Are hourly wages bad?
Not inherently, and depending on your business, they might make sense. The point is not to pay your employees by accomplishment or with set salaries, but to make sure that you send the right messages. If you pick a pay scheme that makes sense for your business, it should send the right message to your employees that you are sensible.
3. Does this apply to old employees, too, or just new hires?
Everybody needs to feel welcomed, wanted, valued, and excited by their job. Even a loyal employee might come to the conclusion that they will be better off elsewhere if they feel they aren’t needed, wanted, or valued at your company.
If anything, this should apply more to long-time employees. These are the people who know your business best. Their work will be better, they will be faster, and their loss will be felt most keenly if they decide to exit for a better opportunity. Make your workplace the best opportunity for them.
The flip-side of this equation is, of course, that if they have stayed with you, they probably like something about your company or their job. Retention is easier with long-term workers, but it doesn’t mean you can afford to be complacent or allow an atrophying of your relationship with your employee.
4. What is a normal employee retention rate?
So much of this answer depends on the industry and the position in question. It is normal to see a higher turnover rate with baristas or servers, for instance, than with a lawyer in a law firm.
It’s as important to know why an employee is leaving. Find out why they left, what the job they are going to has offered them that yours didn’t, and whether it was due to factors outside of your control. They might be moving to a new city, for instance. In that case, you couldn’t have retained them. But if they are leaving because they are frustrated by unclear objectives, you need to look at your communication transparency.
5. Should I do all of these at once?
Do what’s best for your office. You might need big, sweeping, immediate changes, or you might need only a little fine-tuning to stay current with the job market. Only you can really answer that. The best strategy is to gather information. What is your turnover like? Why do people leave when they do decide to seek employment elsewhere? Getting answers to these questions will really help you.
6. What if these don’t work for my company?
If you can’t implement something like task-based wages or topsy-turvy day due to the nature of your work, don’t worry about it. Do a survey of what your employees look for, look over the list of suggestions, and see if you can use those as a jumping-off point to find a way that you can shake things up to stay current. Don’t let suggestions hem you in – this is about innovation, after all.
7. If my employees are happy, should I change anything?
There is logic to thinking that you shouldn’t mess with a winning formula. If you try to change something radical, it could negatively affect a good balance you have.
On the other hand, a good system can often be improved. What are you missing? Is there anything are you aren’t leading your sector or industry in? Look into ways to innovate, even if the office works. Just be sure that you know what your employees appreciate, and get good lines of communication going so that any changes or experiments you make can receive due feedback. If they are liked, push onward; if employees hate the changes, revert and try something else.
8. How do I know if I’ve innovated enough?
When you have happy, healthy, focused, and driven employees. You should keep abreast of the changes in your industry, though conferences or written materials, etc., and be prepared to change at the drop of a hat if things start shifting.