As a business, retaining the best of the best, that will generate the best results for your business is in your best interest.
I know, that’s a lot of bests…
But the best businesses are defined by the performance of their best employees.
And in this article, I want to provide you the best strategies you can use to retain top talent, regardless of the industry. So let’s start with the basics:
What exactly is Employee Retention?
Employee retention refers to a business’s ability to keep its staff intact. It is one of the trending topics in HR and overall management; since there are an increasing number of opportunities for the skilled and the talent-hunt has never been this fierce. With an increased demand for guidelines on this topic, more and more strategies are emerging, some of which I’ll talk about in this article.
Why is Employee Retention crucial for businesses?
Especially for small businesses, most members of the staff will be irreplaceable; so providing them with the best environment to work in must be a top priority.
In bigger organizations, there might a number of individuals capable of replacing others in terms of responsibilities, but, talent and work-ethic can’t be replaced. If you work in a company that aims to hire the top talent in the industry, you also must be ready to dig deep into employee retention.
Top Strategies to Effectively Retain Employees
1- Polish Your Recruitment Technique
Employee retention truly begins with recruitment, of which there are two kinds.
- One form of recruitment is geared for temporary ‘gig-based’ talent. Folks who aren’t supposed to stick around for the long-term and get company t-shirts. They tend to dip in, complete a task or part of a project, and then skedaddle. All project-based employees require is competitive pay for their work and a smooth experience.
- The other kind of retention is designed for long-term talent (the dream builders).
What should your recruitment experience be like for a gifted passionate developer, product designer, or marketer?
Honestly it should almost feel a bit like being recruited for a professional football team or university.
At your initial meetings, whether formal or informal, in person or online, salary and benefits are what count. Get right to the point (most would send a packet before the meeting). It’s like a kitchen remodeler giving you the price of their replacement cabinets and installation upfront rather than making you wait through a long manufacturer presentation.
Start with salary, then benefits, then perks.
THEN if they’re still interested you can walk them through their role’s requirements and the fine print.
If your company needs to rent the minds of brilliant people and direct them towards your goals, you’re going to have to offer a competitive salary and benefits/perks package.
These people are your most important investment!
The good news is that when we get to the heart of the matter, what we’re talking about is reducing human pain and increasing satisfaction. We all have different needs and personal desires. We all find ourselves in this strange thing called life and it’s scary!
Some Basic Recruitment Tips
- Consider crafting initial perk packages around the individual’s personality. What are they into? What kind of food do they prefer (vegan, organic, gluten-free, etc.)? What kinds of stores do they shop at? What if this person is currently living with an elderly family member, caring for them? Can you see how that would influence the types of personalized bonuses you could offer?
- Wellness programs. Everyone, and yes that’s everyone, is concerned with their health. Are you currently offering your employees anything that relates to their health aside from perhaps insurance-related benefits? It’s about food, fitness, and mental wellbeing.
Do these sound a bit too complex for where you’re at right now?
No problem. No retention strategy is perfect or static.
Like dating, it’s simply impossible to know exactly who you’re dealing with until you start dealing with them. Not the person who was trying to win your affection/get hired. Just make sure to aim for a) folks who are naturally friendly, b) are inspired by what your company IS more than what the company DOES, and c) has demonstrated loyalty in their lives.
2- Build Proper Onboarding Systems
This also comes in two parts. The first has to do with onboarding new staff. The other has to do with helping current staff onboard into new systems, solutions, and processes.
Let’s address the latter first:
A- Onboarding Current Employees to New Systems
If you want to get a decent portion of your critical staff to quit, try shoving dynamic change on them without any notice or proper onboarding.
Abrupt company-wide change can crush retention!
- An Example: Imagine you’re the CEO of a company called RAM. You’ve been providing hand-to-hand courier services throughout South Africa since the late 1980s. Today your fleet of cars is over 1,000 and you maintain 40 branches. You’re losing ground and going under because a complete lack of modern technological solutions.
- The Task: You’ve come to us, UserGuiding, and asked us to use our software to help you effectively onboard your ENTIRE ORGANIZATION. This is directly after you’ve completely changed and upgraded your legacy framework into one agile, efficient IT system.
- The Goal: To get your courier-based staff onboarded and trained on how to use the new system without crushing retention QUICKLY, so you don’t have to completely shut down operations for weeks.
- The Solution: We worked with key stakeholders and management to build simple interactive walkthroughs and an embedded ‘IT Assistant Avatar’ program within their system. In many ways, the onboarding proved to be more effective than in-person training for their situation!
The important point is to clearly stamp into your mind and company culture, the connection between onboarding and medium to long-term retention.
B- Onboarding New Employees to Your Company
How you introduce your company can be a key point in retaining top talent (as long as you maintain the impression you’ve made with actions.)
That’s why employee onboarding is one of the most buzzing keywords of HR communities at the moment.
There are a bunch of ways you could mess up this part, especially in terms of aligning them with the company vision and introducing a sense of responsibility. Here are a few key points to avoid all that:
- DO create a detailed roadmap plan for their onboarding.
- DO learn and provide for their individual needs.
- DO begin onboarding employees in the hiring phase by providing them with a way to interact with your company.
- DON’T forget to introduce employees to the company structure and key people.
- DON’T assume because they’re familiar with how things work, they’re onboarded. Onboarding goes on for a long long time.
In fact, I’ve written a great piece of content about this phase of the employee experience, here’s my Guide to Employee Onboarding.
3- Cover The Basics of ‘Work’ Redefined
Now we can briefly skim over a handful of fundamentals.
These are some ‘must haves’ for any company to retain driven and hyper-productive professionals.
- Ultra-Flexible Work Schedule: While some SaaS teams keep it very local where they all live in the same city, most are composed of people from, well, everywhere! Teams today must accommodate different time zones, different cultural norms, different dialects, and so on.
- Work Is Everywhere Now Too: Work isn’t at ‘work’ anymore, and it’s not just at home either. It’s wherever you are. Ask a copywriter or a web developer what their work schedule is and they won’t really know how to respond. Technically, they could ALWAYS be at work. All you have to do is plug in. Many SaaS companies are having to ENFORCE breaks, otherwise really involved employees can burn themselves out.
- Praise: Rewards. Awards. Bonuses galore. High-performing SaaS companies are generous with praise because it’s a fundamental human need. Pats on the back won’t do. You can be as creative as you want. Sales bonuses. Reviews bonuses. Customer Service-based bonuses. It’s sort of like layering elements of gamification into your company processes. When done in the true spirit of promoting a strong cohesive working unit, these approaches are often well received.
- Travel: Digital nomads. Unattached twenty and thirty-somethings. Moms and dads. Who doesn’t love to travel once in a while. Go ahead, look around, it’s a thing. Whether we’re talking about offering to send design or marketing teams onsite to client locations, or having the entire team go on a vacation together once a year — huge perk!
But let’s not stop there. Let’s get Fruedian. Let’s get psychological.
4- Cover The Psychological Needs of Hard-Working People
We’re in a brave new world. Without going into a collegiate-level mini-course on the norms of SaaS teams, here are three easy perspectives.
The Wikipedia definition:
“…an overarching concept or philosophy that is characterized by an emphasis on transparency and collaboration. That is, openness refers to “accessibility of knowledge, technology and other resources; the transparency of action; the permeability of organisational structures; and the inclusiveness of participation” Openness can be said to be the opposite of closedness, central authority and secrecy.”
How open is your company, especially for relatively new people? Professionals today have a ton of choices, growing everyday as the digital world brings us closer together.
Because teams can be composed of people who don’t work under the same roof, across vast distances, a feeling of connection and cooperation is essential.
Tons of COMMUNICATION isn’t enough. You can talk to your sweetheart on the phone for as long as you want, but it’s not the same as really connecting.
Find ways to promote more synergy among team members to increase retention rates.
“We appreciate you.”
That right there, that statement, is HARDWIRED into the human psyche. When we hear it and when we say it (and mean it), we get what can only be described as temporary euphoria. On the other hand, if we’re part of any kind of team, unit, or organization where we don’t get this…
Remember, the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts.”? That’s actually a profound POWERFUL truth. It’s not just that you tell your team you appreciate them, but how.
- Small perks go a long way: a mug, a surprise day off, a book, a picture, anything thoughtful that holds some personal value to the individual on the receiving end. Otherwise there is NO psychological reward. It’s JUST a mug. It’s just a card.
- Monetary appreciation is tricky. Throwing money at people is nice, and we all love it when you do that, but it doesn’t have the same impact. Instead of the money, what could you give this person using that money that would have a positive impact on their lives and demonstrate your appreciation?
The trick is to anticipate what they would do with the cash, and give them that!
5- Effective Leadership
Oh wow, leadership.
We could summarize this section and just go with: Great Leadership = Great Retention.
In fact, if you have rockstar leadership then retention will NOT be an issue. You’ll have so many people begging to work for your organization that you’ll be looking for ways to fire people!
Not really. But you understand the emphasis and burden placed on management.
What is one component of fine leadership we can touch on for you here and now?
How about the ability to provide feedback and constructive criticism in a way that DRIVES people to do better; exceed their expectations?
6- Ongoing Development & Team Member Growth
Another hallmark retention strategy of the 2020-2030 era is self-improvement.
Professionals today LOVE IT when they get paid to learn and increase their value not just to your business but the society.
What kinds of education are you offering your employees?
One effective way to show people you APPRECIATE them is to invest in their skill set.
- Training Programs
- Mentorship Programs
7- Providing Outlets for Team Creativity (Moonshotting)
In short, moonshotting is a process by which a company invests capital in creative ideas that could feasibly and scientifically work, but have a low chance of ‘reaching the moon’ so to speak.
Or, it could just be a way of approaching internal company improvement.
Let’s imagine you’re the CEO of a company again. This time you get a call out of the blue from one of your employees. Turns out they’ve been tinkering around behind the scenes and come up with something pretty neat that could revolutionize…
You’ve probably seen this scenario before: after listening for about thirty seconds your eyes pop open wide, you begin to salivate and dance the jig, etc. Their idea is THAT good.
This kind of thing can only happen in your company if:
- You promote or encourage it.
- You reward it.
- You celebrate it as a company culture.
Even if your team members rarely take a swing, having the freedom to try is psychologically rewarding.
8- Be Visibly Prepared for Turnover
Of course you’re prepared for turnover. It’s more than that.
No matter how wondrous and magical your organization may be, the ‘EXIT’ sign should always shine brightly within eyesight.
Do your employees enjoy tenure?
Don’t let it get so comfy and cozy like a padded room that people get too comfortable. This is when your company graces begin being taken advantage of.
It’s also a good way to turn hungry, highly-productive people into…well, the polar opposite.
At the end of the day, you need to be well-prepared for turnover and be visible about it. Don’t be shy. Along with all the positivity, creation, and innovation injected into your company culture there needs to be this underlying statement:
“As long as you’re here and pull your weight you’ll be treated like a world-class individual and a crucial part of this company. MASSIVE APPRECIATION. And if you lose inspiration or begin to underperform or experience problems, we’ll help you ALL we can. But once you become irreparably toxic YOU’RE FIRED!”
There should also be clear and present ‘Deal Breakers’ where distinct LINES are drawn. Make absolutely no mistake, people RESPECT order, discipline, and knowing what the boundaries are. Without them, you have no hope of being taken seriously by real professionals.
Your red lines should NOT be excluded from company culture.
Call them your don’ts.
Call them deal-breakers.
Call them company commandments.
Call them whatever you want,
just make sure they’re etched in stone.
Retaining employees should be the top priority of any manager or a business owner.
At the end of the day, your employees don’t work for you; you work for them as they generate revenue for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can be done to better retain employees?
Improving employee retention is all about providing your employees an environment they feel comfortable and can grow freely; so providing for them in every aspect of their professional life will help you better retain employees.
How can I calculate the Employee Retention Rate?
Employee retention formula is: Number of employees who’ve been active for the whole period / number of employees at the beginning of the said period x 100 = your employee retention rate.
What is a good Employee Retention Rate?
Anywhere above 80% can be considered a good employee retention rate, judging from the much lower industry averages. However, don’t stop trying your best to achieve higher rates.