With the economy on the rebound, employees today are all about job hopping — so why are they all leaving you? Where are they all going? What causes them to leave, and how can you convince them to stay?
The good news is that increasing employee retention is one of the most well-studied and well-documented phenomena in the entire human resource field. The bad news — at least if your company has trouble holding onto employees — is that employee retention is linked to employee happiness.
That means in order to reduce turnover, you’ve got to address the big, difficult problems at the heart of your organization. Here are five tips to help you do that, and avoid losing your new hires:
- Gather Better Data
For many companies, the only source of information about why employees leave is what can be gathered during the exit interview. But trying to figure out why employees are leaving while they’ve got one foot out the door is a bit like asking a stampeding herd what’s got them so spooked.
Instead, talk to your employees early and often. Ask them difficult questions — questions you know will have answers that could make you uncomfortable. Poll them with survey apps that offer quantifiable results, and look at those results long and hard. Coordinate data. Roll up your sleeves, open Excel, and make a pie-chart or two.
Your chief purpose here is to figure out when employees are leaving and why, in order to establish what we’ll call “choke points”.
- Stop the Bleeding with Preventative Incentives
It’s hard to address systemic problems in an organization if that organization is in a constant state of turnover and turmoil. So, as a stop-gap measure, start getting creative with how to open up your choke points, and convince employees to hang in there while you work to fix their concerns.
One way to do that — in the short term anyway — is to offer time-based pay incentives. If you notice the majority of your employees are taking off at the six-month mark, offer new hires a pay-bump after six months if they’ve performed well during training.
Consider it an investment, because however much money it takes to hold on to employees, it almost certainly takes more to train new ones.
But while you’re establishing preventative incentives, why stop at time-in/money-out? The best way to design reward-structures is by establishing clear and achievable goals.
Goals are key to the ongoing sustainability of any organization. Put simply, fair but challenging goals allow employees to connect more with their work.
Engage your employees by giving them goals that matter. Then, encourage employees to set their own goals in addition to yours. These should be SMART goals that help them grow personally and professionally in their work. Schedule routine check-ins in addition to semi-annual reviews, and have them evaluate themselves prior to each meeting so you can go over the progress together.
One of my favorite goal-oriented strategies is to have a set progression path with specific, measurable, and timely goals that, if accomplished, will result in a promotion. There’s no better motivation than a promotion, and employees love knowing how they are performing. With the ambiguity removed, they’re more likely to work harder towards their goals and stick around so they can get promoted to the next level.
- Hire for soft skills first, and hard skills second
Unless you’re a cut-throat IT company in the heart of Silicon Valley, chances are your skill/degree requirements are more flexible than you think. Your skill and degree requirements are based on hard skills, which can be taught to someone who has just joined your workforce.
A growing body of evidence, however, shows that soft skills, such as communication and adaptability, are what actually drive success in the workplace. That said, trying to teach soft skills to someone who does not already possess them can be a dicey endeavor. Teaching hard skills, on the other hand, is not only possible, but it’s a canny business decision.
In addition, the skill-gap between higher education and the workforce is increasing every year. It makes sense, then, that the best place to learn hard skills is on the job, and those in charge of the workforce should not shy away from the teaching these skills.
So hire someone for the position who possesses soft skills even if he or she may not have all the skill or degree requirements you’re hoping for.
- Have an actual onboarding process
The perils of the recession taught companies a lot of smart habits, but as the recession lifted, many of those smart habits became dumb ones. One of the worst offenders has been the disappearance of entry-level positions.
With the elimination of the ground floor, onboarding has also fallen by the wayside. Increasingly, employers expect new hires to hit the ground running on day one. New hires are saddled with exactly as much work as veteran employees, and the onboarding mentality equates to “sink or swim.”
Unsurprisingly, that results in a lot of sinking. And when employees start to sink, most won’t wait around to drown. They’ll jump ship and swim for better shores.
Don’t let your employees sink. Pass out water-wings and swimming lessons the second they set foot in the door. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, better employee training results in higher productivity and increased retention.
Remember to Take Human Resources Seriously
There’s a reason human resources are called human resources. It’s because those who make up the human resources department offer an implicit reminder that, just like any other business capital, your employees are a precious and finite commodity. Retention and productivity are linked to employee happiness — so think about happiness as a concrete currency. You can trade it, spend it, invest it — or waste it. Everything you do has a cost, and if your employees are jumping ship, that means somewhere in the budget, your numbers aren’t adding up.
So start moving proactively. Get there first. Retaining employees is not a patch-job measure. It’s proactive maintenance, and it has to be ongoing.
If you want to keep employees, figure out why they’re leaving. Then, get busy fixing the problem.