Worried About Retention? The Best Way to Keep Employees Is to Be Useful to Them

According to Gallup, 51% of employees are looking for a new job, and 68% of employees believe they are overqualified for the job they have. Even engaged employees are job hunting at an alarming rate—37%. Employees who change jobs cite career growth opportunities, pay and benefits, management, company culture, and job fit as reasons for doing so.

Employees surveyed said they want to do what they do best while maintaining a good work-life balance. They desire a secure and stable job that pays well and contributes to their personal well-being. They’re likely to leave their current employer if they can get a more flexible work schedule or a significant pay increase elsewhere.

To retain employees—especially top performers—employers often look for perks they can offer to make employment with them more attractive and to keep good employees from leaving. We believe perks are nice, and they can encourage retention, but providing an assortment of distinguishing perks won’t keep employees long-term unless those perks meet essential employee needs.

The best way to retain employees is to remember why they became your employees to begin with—they have wants and needs, and employment with you enables them to meet those wants and needs. In other words, you’re useful to them (as they are to you). When your organization ceases to be useful or becomes less useful than another employer, employees might start looking for the next best (most useful) opportunity. The more useful you can be, the more inclined employees will be to stay with you. Fortunately, meeting your respective needs can be a solid basis for long-term collaboration and shared success.

Here’s how:

  • Talk to your employees about what knowledge, skills, and abilities they think would help them do their job better or make additional contributions to the organization. By involving employees in the discussions and decisions about what training they receive, you help them gain a sense of ownership over their work, their professional development, and their futures.
  • Provide coaching and training opportunities that bring value to your organization and the professional development of your employees. Yes, training may make your workers more employable elsewhere, but it also prepares them for a better future working for you. You can increase the likelihood that your employees will use the training they receive for your benefit by giving them opportunities to put what they’ve learned to immediate use and rewarding them when the new skills and extra effort pay off. Prompt application of what they’ve learned will help solidify their knowledge, while the positive reinforcement will encourage continued use of the new skills.
  • Involve employees in company initiatives that make use of their skills or teach them new ones. Not only will this help prevent their jobs from becoming too repetitive, they’ll gain valuable experience and form a connection to the organization that goes beyond their initial job duties.
  • Make work meaningful and highlight the good that your organization does. This is especially important if the typical job duties of an employee feel mundane or uninspiring. If you’re paying someone to do a job, that job is essential to the mission of your organization. And that mission has value. Make sure employees know that their work, however repetitive or unexciting, matters. Take pride in the good you all do. Show your appreciation and gratitude. Recognize workers for a job well done. People want to feel appreciated, that they’re important, and that they’re involved in valuable work. You can help fulfill these wants.
  • Encourage social interactions among workers. While money might be the primary reason people get jobs, it’s not the only reason. People tend to seek social connections and enjoy interacting with others. They like doing things with other people, and the workplace can be a great place to make friends, build community, and collaborate on a meaningful enterprise.
  • Offer bonuses when your company meets its financial goals and when employees meet their individual and team goals. Bonuses motivate employees to be more engaged and productive by rewarding them with a tangible return on their investment.
  • If feasible, offer raises to account for cost-of-living increases, job performance, and individual accomplishments. Like bonuses, raises encourage efficient and productive work by rewarding it. Of course, huge pay increases simply aren’t an option for many companies, especially small to medium-sized businesses. As much as these employers might want to pay higher salaries and wages, they don’t have the extra funds. If you’re unable to offer substantial raises or bonuses, the non-monetary rewards mentioned above become all the more useful and important.

There’s no guarantee that every hire will be the right fit and stay with your company as long as you’d like, but you can help improve retention—and cut down on its costs—by remaining useful to your employees. Your employees want to succeed in their professions as much as you do in your business. By aligning their individual success with your organizational success, you give them huge incentive to stay, improve their skills, and put those skills to good use in your organization.

Finally, if you’re not exactly sure how you can best be useful to your employees, ask them. Stay interviews are a proven way to learn and understand what your employees hope to get out of being employed with you. Check out the links below for more information and ideas.

Learn More

Stay Interviews – October 2017

How Conducting Exit Interviews Can Help You Increase Retention – September 2017

The Real Costs of Employee Turnover—And How to Measure Them – May 2017

Why Training Your Employees Is Good for Retention – February 2017

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