The phrase “employee retention” makes many managers a little queasy — and it ought to. Turnover is costly in a variety of ways, not the least of which is its impact on the customer experience.
According to Gallup: “Engaged employees are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work. Gallup’s extensive research shows that employee engagement is strongly connected to business outcomes essential to an organization’s financial success, such as productivity, profitability and customer engagement. Engaged employees support the innovation, growth and revenue that their companies need.”
Unfortunately, employee engagement is dismally low, hovering around 32 percent, based on Gallup’s recent survey findings. Look around your workplace. Would it surprise you to know that seven out of 10 people you see are basically just showing up for work and doing only the minimal job requirements? They are either complacent or actively looking for another position. Meanwhile, a recent Fast Company article said, “You should plan on switching jobs every three years for the rest of your life.” With advice like that, it’s no wonder that retention is so difficult.
It’s true that staying in one place too long can indeed be a disservice to both employee and employer. The employee only is exposed to how one specific business operates and lacks the broader, more diverse perspective that can be gained from working for a variety of organizations. The employer loses out on the innovation and creativity that often come from fresh blood. Still, the costs associated with constantly hiring, training and developing new people are sky-high. There also is a serious impact on the customer experience every time a more seasoned employee is lost and a new one starts all over again. But if you consider the “What if we train employees and they leave? What if we don’t train them and they stay” adage, those outlays have to be absorbed either way. You may as well figure out a way to keep them engaged and passionate about their work.
The employee experience
To keep great employees longer, company leaders must focus on the employee experience. There are many components of a great employee experience, but the key factors ultimately driving retention are as follows:
- Growth opportunities: If you have ambitious employees (and if they’re leaving every three years, then they are ambitious), you must give them a clear career-development plan and execute on it.
- Professional development: Ongoing education and training about the latest and greatest trends, challenges, products, methodologies, innovations and thinking are essential. Professional development activities should focus on both the industry as a whole and on elements that are relevant to an employee’s particular role. People who aren’t learning and being challenged become stagnant and will end up getting left behind (or leaving you behind).
- Recognition: Make sure employees know how their work contributes to the overall vision of the business, that their work matters and that their contributions are of utmost importance.
- Leadership: Be a leader who cares, is well respected and trusted, communicates clearly and honestly, and encourages and facilitates the development and growth of employees.
Oftentimes, companies don’t find out until it’s too late why employees are leaving. Human resources professionals are keen to conduct exit interviews — presumably for the benefit of the company and for the employees who remain. But wouldn’t it be wonderful to conduct “stay interviews” instead? Although exit interviews are basically postmortems, stay interviews are like wellness visits. They focus on what current employees enjoy about working for the company, any aches and pains they’re experiencing, and ways to promote healthier and long-lived professional experiences in the future.
Remember, there’s really nothing you can do once an employee is walking out the door. Current employees must stay engaged if they are to meaningfully contribute, professionally succeed, and help transform your organization and its culture.
Annette Franz is founder and CEO of CX Journey. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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