It’s Not Enough to Retain People. It’s About Retaining the RIGHT People.

Makenzie Rath Makenzie Rath

April 14, 2022 Blog Leadership

The Great Resignation. The Great Reshuffle. The Great Renegotiation. Whatever we call it, people are changing jobs, retiring, or quitting work altogether in record numbers—over 4 million each month since July of last year.

I’ve seen firsthand that reducing turnover can save millions, so retaining employees is critically important. The problem is that leaders don’t always have the resources to retain all employees. There’s no one-size-fits-all for retention. First, you need to identify who you want to retain. Then apply retention strategies tailored to those individuals. Let me explain the why and how to do that.

There are too many jobs and not enough workers 

It’s extremely difficult to be in the business of hiring people right now. About 33 million Americans have quit their jobs since Spring 2021. In December, the state of Nebraska recorded a 1.7% unemployment rate, the lowest on record for any state ever. Even though that’s gone up a bit, right now there are still only 0.75 candidates for every job opening in Nebraska.

Some turnover is okay

Because hiring is tough, many organizations double their retention efforts. But retaining everyone is not only expensive and takes a lot of effort, it’s actually not a good goal. Organizations should never want 0% turnover. Depending on the industry and organization, 5-15% turnover is healthy. At Talent Plus, we try to aim for that. Healthy turnover creates internal opportunities for upward mobility, keeps your organization agile, and encourages diverse ideas. It also frees you to celebrate the people who are moving up or moving on, or to recruit former employees (boomerangs) to return to your organization.

Retain the right people

To focus your retention efforts on the right people, make sure you’re trying to keep the people you want customers to remember. The process doesn’t have to be difficult. Managers can identify the “right” people based on what they observe. The right people are the people who want to be there and enjoy what they’re doing. They’re really good at their role today, and they’re likely to be good at their step up tomorrow. And of course, we offer Talent Assessments which can be very helpful as well.

Retention strategies

Studies have shown that turnover increases around day 90. Because this window of time is so limited, you should rely on proven retention strategies rather than a gut feeling. Here’s what I’ve seen work time and time again.

  • Ask and listen to what people want
    • More than anything, listen to what employees need and want. When we get back to “normal,” you may need to change company policies. Ask for feedback early in the decision process and explain why you’re making a change. Without asking about and listening to what employees want, all other strategies are shooting in the dark. If people don’t feel heard, they’ll feel a waning sense of loyalty, which can drive them to other jobs.
  • Invest in hybrid work
    • Many companies are now embracing a hybrid work style, and new technologies have made that easier. While it’s sometimes harder for me to engage with our remote and hybrid employees, it’s worth it to keep them. In my experience, hybrid works best if you have employees who are self-managed and work collaboratively. You also need the processes, technology, and rewards in place to support and motivate these employees.
  • Give people better schedules
    • Leverage technology to set smarter work schedules and deliver schedules earlier so workers can better plan their lives. For example, Kawasaki recently implemented a ‘parent shift’ from 9 am to 2 pm. They needed more workers, and the modified schedule allows parents to work (and get access to benefits) while still being present when their families need them. 
  • Increase benefits and compensation
    • Even if you’ve already raised salaries, consider doing it again because chances are your raises haven’t kept up with inflation. You can also customize benefits to your employees’ needs like one of our clients did. They realized the vast majority of their employees are women, so they increased fertility benefits as a retention effort. 
  • Provide lateral career opportunities
    • Providing lateral career opportunities is even more powerful than compensation. One way I do this is by creating paths for employees to move to a different department—even without a promotion—so they can take advantage of a fresh perspective and new challenges. Engaging with employees to help them explore their “why” at work, providing a variety of experiences and time for passion projects—these are all activities that help re-engage and re-energize employees within an organization. 

Recognize the value of your best people

The real work of retaining your best people begins on day one. Recognize their talents and welcome them to your organization. Then regularly ask about and listen to them. Engaging with them fosters trust as you also develop their skill sets over time. This approach takes a lot of trust, and it has to happen every single day.

Makenzie Rath

Makenzie Rath

Makenzie is the President of Talent Plus where each day, she leads with a focus on our mission, “We know every person has talent.” Through supporting and partnering with our colleagues and client partners, Talent Plus works to create a world where people do what they are good at and enjoy.

“Talent Plus is positioned for unprecedented success and growth because we have the premier science in the industry alongside extraordinary colleagues.”

Talents: Focus, Intelligence, Individualized Approach, Conceptualization, Persuasion

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