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Employee Retention: Ideas to Help Foster Long-term Company Success

Even with seemingly loyal employees on board, business owners should be aware of some effective ways to retain their workforce, particularly in today's competitive labor market.
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The strategic rollout of new employee retention ideas can help businesses keep their top talent and maintain productivity. Losing even one employee can cause a significant disruption in workflow, and it may take time for remaining employees to get back on track. Often, the added cost of hiring and training someone new can be higher than the incremental costs of retaining an experienced staff member. Although targeted strategies can be put in place with the goal of improving employee satisfaction, it's also wise to consider that long-term worker retention is a holistic effort, inclusive of benefits offerings, HR insights, analytics, quality hiring, and providing career development opportunities.

Though it's impossible to retain every employee who chooses to move on (for either personal or professional reasons), there are many employee retention ideas that can work to mitigate turnover and create a desirable workplace.

Why is retention important?

Employee retention can help companies reach their strategic goals and may decrease the cost of employee turnover. These costs can be measured in many ways, including:

  • The expense of recruiting, hiring, and training replacements, especially given today's tight job market and the increase costs of finding and hiring the right people.
  • The negative effects on a company's culture and employee morale stemming from dissatisfied workers or constant turnover of positions.
  • Loss of valuable knowledge about the company's internal operations when trained employees depart for outside opportunities. If the departing employee has not documented job procedures properly, or there isn’t adequate training put in place, there is a risk that a new hire will take longer to learn the procedures of the position.
  • The disruption of workflows that occurs when someone leaves the company and their manager needs to redistribute workload to other employees as well as invest additional time in time training/developing a new employee in the position.

Standard retention ideas may be highly effective

To ensure you're doing the most you can to retain employees at a basic level, consider the following common retention tactics:

Offer competitive salaries: Make sure you're offering employees a competitive salary and keeping up with the current standards in your industry and locale. In fact, a low salary was the top reason why individuals reported leaving their job in a 2016 Paychex survey on employee retention.

Provide superior benefits: Desirable traditional benefits, including health insurance and retirement plan offerings, may attract and retain top talent in any job market.

Pay employee bonuses: If your industry pays bonuses, consider also offering them as well. When combined with salary and benefits, an annual bonus can help recruit and retain high-quality employees that your business values most.

Prioritize career development: Top employees may want to continue their career growth and may seek other jobs if they aren't provided the right opportunities within your company. Consider career development tools, including on-site training, higher education tuition reimbursement — as either a percentage of the cost for college courses or the full amount — so employees can expand the range of skills needed to improve their professional skillsets. Provide customized e-learning materials with the use of an advanced learning management system a retention idea that can be implemented at a manageable cost for employers.

Personalized retention strategies

In addition to salary and benefits, offering employees something that they may not find anywhere else may be an effective way to help increase retention.

Company-specific products: Offer discounts on company products to employees, or give away branded merchandise.

Employee recognition: Employees may want to be recognized for the work they do. While it's often desirable to demonstrate recognition through a raise in salary or a holiday bonus, many employees also respond favorably to gestures that extend beyond financial rewards. Such programs and initiatives may include:

  • Monthly or annual high-performance awards — Recognize an employee for his or her contributions at a staff meeting or other departmental gathering.
  • Offer additional responsibility/visibility — Invite key employees to head a new project or lead a committee exploring changes in business operations.
  • Peer recognition programs — Encourage fellow employees to nominate a colleague for outstanding dedication and service.
  • Make it a point to notice the efforts and achievements of your employees with perks such as rewards, gift cards, or printed certificates. Work with your management team to devise a way to add more recognition into the routines of each team.

Low-cost retention ideas

Many ideas for employee retention can be cost-effective when compared to the expense of hiring and training a new employee. Still, companies should keep an eye on the benefits budget to ensure they aren't overspending. Monitor who is taking advantage of programs offered and gauge satisfaction levels. Also, remember that retention tactics aren't always defined as "benefits." Jessica Totman, Paychex HR generalist, believes that recognition, appreciation, and encouragement are also important components of employee retention. Creative employee retention ideas can simply reinforce a desired workplace culture favoring diversity, support, and fairness. In this way, each employee can feel empowered with the opportunity to advance, learn, and feel like they're contributing to the company's success.

Some relatively low-cost retention strategies include:

Onsite health and wellness support: To help employees become happier and more productive in the workplace, adding the benefit of corporate support for health and wellness goals can be highly effective. Implementing health and wellness programs at work can reduce employee tardiness and absenteeism, plus it may help save as much as $1 for every $3 spent on health care premiums, according to an International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans report.

Employee paid supplemental benefits: If your current employee benefit plan covers just the basics of health care and retirement, you can augment these benefits. Supplemental benefits give employees the chance to buy extra insurance like dental, vision, life, and to obtain catastrophic illness care plans at group discount rates. The employees choose what they want and contribute out of their own paychecks using payroll deduction.

Self-service benefits and payroll 24/7: Today's employee is on-the-go, trying to find that balance between the demands of a professional and personal life. To help add a perk to your current benefits, allow them to access benefit and payroll information from a secure Web-based portal. Give employees the option to view pay stubs, set up direct deposits, and get important benefits information.

Corporate sponsored celebrations: Enjoying the fruits of labor is one of the benefits of team work. Your business can make it a point to thank your hard-working employees on a regular basis with celebrations. They can be as involved as something such as planned activities or entertainment, or they can consist of employee downtime.

Using non-traditional benefits for retention

Another source of retention strategies comes from non-traditional benefits. According to the 2018 Pulse of HR Survey, some of the top non-traditional benefits offered included:

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Employee discounts on items such as local area events or transportation 
  • Financial counseling
  • Student loan repayment

Take a look at your workforce to determine which of these items makes the most sense for your company, both financially and from a utilization standpoint. 

Find additional retention ideas through employee feedback

Employees may value feedback centered on their individual performance as well as opportunities to share knowledge with the executive team. Employees may also appreciate having a say (within reasonable guidelines) about the company's future direction. The more a business shares with employees, the stronger the bond may be between them. When people are given an honest view of the company's big picture — its current strategies and long-range vision — they may feel greater motivation to do work that makes a difference to the business. It can be a powerful method for tying individuals to an organization.

For business owners who are unsure of what it will take to motivate employees to stay, seeking feedback can be useful. Town hall meetings or employee surveys can help determine how receptive the workforce would be to proposed employee retention ideas, prior to implementation. Exit surveys can also provide a wealth of information about areas of dissatisfaction that ultimately caused an employee to seek out other opportunities.

Measuring retention success: data analytics and retention trends

Once you incorporate retention strategies, how can you measure success? Quantifying the value of retention strategies can be challenging, but if you capture the right data, you may be in a better position to determine what's working and which strategies aren't adding value. Employee turnover rates, combined with exit interviews and employee satisfaction surveys, are great sources of data. You may also wish to examine overall company productivity and employee participation in certain benefits or career development programs.

By tracking data and analyzing trends, companies may be able to identify issues early on. For example, when HR teams notice an uptick in employees leaving, this could signal a need to shift retention strategies and try something new. This can be accomplished through the joint efforts of HR and front-line managers, who often carry out the retention strategies. If expert advice is needed, consider seeking HR consulting services and an assessment of your retention practices, which can help you identify new ways to encourage employees to stay for the long-term.

Some employees will come and go, regardless of the benefits offered to them. But with the right combination of tangible and intangible benefits, many businesses can help retain the right ones. Those same benefits may also prove invaluable as part of an aggressive recruiting strategy. Nothing demonstrates an employer's desirability like a workforce of satisfied and hard-working employees. If you're looking to improve retention at your company, seeking assistance with benefits administration or HR support can help you drill down on areas of potential improvement, where small changes can make a large difference in overall employee satisfaction.

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* This content is for educational purposes only, is not intended to provide specific legal advice, and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice of a qualified attorney or other professional. The information may not reflect the most current legal developments, may be changed without notice and is not guaranteed to be complete, correct, or up-to-date.

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