Are you struggling with employee retention?
You're not the only business.
Regardless of business size, experience or industry, employee retention has become a new challenge in 2022 and beyond.
Understanding why and knowing what to do about it can be the difference between leading in your industry or struggling to grow.
We pulled together these 5 tips to help you both better understand and do something about it - quickly.
5 Quick Ways To Improve Employee Retention in 2022
Tip 1 - Understand the new environment (most don't)
The first step to solving a problem is understanding why it's happening. When it comes to retention most businesses are skipping this step, panicking and jumping straight into solution mode.
Your understanding will help you respond better than others.
Two major shifts have been going on over recent years, one of which was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
1) The job landscape has changed. In May 2022 the BBC reported that for the first time since records began there were more job vacancies than unemployed people in the UK. We believed that technology would put humans out of the job but so far it has only created more. The labour shortage issue hasn't been helped by Brexit either. For you, as an employer/people leader, you simply need to understand that it's an employee's market. Employees have a wide variety of jobs available to them so if they don't enjoy yours (regardless of pay and benefits) they'll be looking elsewhere.
2) The mind of the employee has changed. On the whole, Brits have always been known to be hard-working and loyal to their companies. We prioritise careers and happily work over time. Until now. The new generations are showing an increasing focus on health, meaningful work, values and work-life balance. A report from LinkedIn suggested that 9/10 Millenials would consider taking a pay cut for a job more aligned with their values. Additionally to this most of the British population was given nearly a full year off work paid during the COVID pandemic. What this led to was even the older work-at-all-costs generation got used to a taste of life without work. What this means for you the employer is paying people well and providing job security is no longer enough. You have to create meaningful work as well as considering how well you support work-life balance and wellbeing.
Most business systems and people processes used today were created over 50 years ago during a time when mass unemployment and poverty were still rife. During these times any job was appealing because it was salvation from destitution. That's why there was never a shortage of people willing to go into the coal mines and work in conditions most of us could not survive today.
You live in a very different time. A time that has been changing steadily but has changed dramatically in the past 24 months.
Here's the good news. If you re-shift your focus to how you structure and communicate your job roles, people will not only stick around, they'll go above and beyond to make your business as successful as it can be.
Tip 2 - Improve productivity and retention through the Objectives Key Results (OKR) framework
As I have mentioned people want meaningful work. They also want to know they belong, they're valued and they're making a difference. You can understand this with a brief understanding of Maslow's Hierarchy of needs shown below.
The widely accepted Hierarchy of Needs laid out by Psychologist Abraham Maslow details a list of needs that humans progress through. When one is fulfilled they begin to desire and pursue the next. Historically jobs have fulfilled the bottom two layers for people during times of mass unemployment and poverty. Today people look to jobs to fulfil the top 3 components of the pyramid.
That's why, until recently, just providing a secure job with a decent salary was enough to attract and retain talent. People were worried about being unemployed so they flocked to jobs and stayed there. They also willingly worked a lot of overtime because they felt that decreased the likelihood of them losing their job and becoming unemployed.
As we have covered in Tip 1 - that is no longer the case.
For people to feel belonging, esteem and self-actualisation in their roles they need to feel listened to and that they are making a difference.
Old management styles are based on leadership creating strategy and managers disseminating instructions. In today's environment that approach is bad for two major reasons:
1 - Employees don't feel listened to or appreciated, they feel like machines
2 - Businesses miss out on all of the insights and ideas employees have
Yet this is still how most businesses are going about things.
A great system that perfectly addresses this is the Objectives Key Results (OKR) System created by John Doerr and utilised by Google (when they had only 40 employees but still to this day).
OKRs change the dynamic. Your leadership team still come up with a strategy but that strategy is clearly communicated yearly through 3-5 Objectives. These objectives are then passed down to teams and the teams decide how those objectives will be pursued. They meet quarterly or monthly to share ideas and create plans. This way instead of employees receiving to-do lists (which don't excite anyone) they receive a challenge and get to actively contribute to how that challenge should be approached.
This leads to better innovation, higher levels of productivity - people are more excited about ideas they've contributed to - and higher retention.
TIP 3 - Make one of your manager's top three priorities the development and retention of good teams
Being a manager can be a tough gig. Senior leadership teams ultimate roles are to create strategic direction. Employees' roles are ultimately to do a good job. A manager's role is to try and please, look after and support both of those parties as well as producing work. Managers are also trying to navigate through a huge transformational shift in the way they work. It's easy to argue being a manager is the most difficult role in a business.
But as the saying goes, people don't quit their jobs, they quit their managers. I doubt many managers wake up in the morning and think to themselves 'I'm going to be a bad manager today and give my team a hard time'. But most people suffer bad management multiple times throughout their careers. Why? Because managers are often overwhelmed and struggling to adapt. They're often trying to achieve great results by doing what they've always done - working hard not leveraging a team. When they are stuck in this mindset a team seems like a hindrance and often they let them know this.
A manager's role in 2022 and beyond is really to develop and retain a great team. Make this easy for them by explicitly lining this out as one of their top 3 priorities. They are used to achieving success by working hard and being busy. When you make it explicitly clear that their role is now to leverage their team by developing and retaining them, you make it easier for them to make the shift. Don't do this they will carry on with their old way of working, upset their teams and burn themselves out.
TIP 4 - Measure what matters
'Measure what matters' 'What gets measured gets improved' What gets measured gets managed'. There are countless quotes on the link between measuring and performance. Anybody with any experience in business is already sold on the importance of tracking the right metrics. You do it with sales, you do it with customer satisfaction but you probably don't do it with people.
In the old environment where people were desperate for jobs and fearful of unemployment, employee happiness levels didn't matter. Whether they were happy or not, they would stick around. So it didn't need to be measured or thought about that much. Today that's different. Today if your employees aren't happy, they will at least not be very productive and at worst leave - or stay and make your life a misery.
You can't rely on intuition to assess the happiness levels of your employees. You've likely had a high performer who never showed a snippet of being unhappy in role unexpectedly hand in their resignation before. That's all the proof you need of the first sentence in this paragraph.
You have to track the happiness of your employees and this needs to be done anonymously. People are more likely, to be honest through anonymity. There are lots of companies including ourselves that do this but you can do it without any budget. You can be old school and use paper surveys or use a low-cost tool survey like Typeform to get it done quickly and digitally.
Here are four simple questions you can ask your people today that will give you data and valuable insights into what's going on with your people:
- How happy are you at work? (1-10)
- Will you be here in 12 months? (Y/N)
- What do you love about here?
- What can we do better?
I suggest you do this monthly or quarterly. Many companies are now using a weekly pulse survey. Don't get lost in thinking about what cadence works best, just get started. Start with these four questions quarterly and you'll already be ahead of 90% of other companies.
TIP 5 - Create an employee newsletter
I don't care what business you're in, it's stressful. The nature of business is solving problems and those problems never go away. As soon as 10 problems are solved 50 new ones arise. That's what business is all about. The issue is that you can get so focussed on all of the problems all of the time you forget to celebrate the good stuff. The human mind has evolved to hone in on the negative - but that's another post. Guess what happens when all you do is focus on the problems that need to be solved? People get stressed out, they see no joy in their work and they leave.
The human mind needs regular reminders to be positive. Again, your business, I don't care what it is, has tons of positive things happening every day and week. You have to utilise that. Remember that just like you and every other person on the planet, your employee's minds are evolutionarily developed to focus on the negative. A monthly or quarterly employee newsletter is a fantastic way to keep people focused on the positives.
I was re-reminded of the importance of this when sat with an existing client. Employee satisfaction levels had dropped over the period we were discussing and the leadership team were racking their brains on why. There were many things economically that was affecting this particular business at the time no doubt having a role in this but there was another frustration. The leadership team were talking about all of the amazing things that had also happened over this period, the achievements, the positive reviews, the promotions, the training courses etc. Sat their listening to all of these great things that seemed to go unnoticed or unappreciated I asked "how does everyone know about these things".... and the answer was they probably didn't.
The rule of marketing applies as much internally to your business as it does externally. Creating the best product or service in the world isn't going to matter if nobody knows about it.
These guys, like most businesses, were doing tons of great stuff for their clients and their people. They just weren't capitalising on it by making sure everyone knew about it.
AGAIN do not get bogged down in trying to brand, plan and edit the perfect employee newsletter. Get a draft together and get it done. Start with quarterly and get everyone to contribute to it. Some things you could include are:
- Company achievements
- Employee achievements
- Employee birthdays
- Employee bios
- New joiners
- Events on offer or done
- Training being provided
- Improvements you have made in the business for the employees
- A word from the CEO
- Feel good
Personally, I would avoid letting this turn into a company and market update newsletter. Remember, this newsletter aims to get your employee's minds focussed on the positive because like you and I, their tendency otherwise is to only focus on the negative.
People will no longer settle for a job just because it provides security.
People will and are taking pay cuts for a more engaging job.
If you need great people that stick around in 2022 and beyond - you have to create an engaging workplace.
ANY business can achieve this with focus and consistency.
These five steps are easy to implement and cost nothing.
Get started today.
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Mike Jones Better Happy Founder
Mike founded Better Happy in 2018.
He now works with a variety of businesses ranging from small accountancies up to large organisations such as Travelodge on improving employee happiness. Mike's vision and the vision of Better Happy is 'Every employee happy, every business thriving'