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Always top of mind these days,  employee turnover is a critical and costly issue for companies across the U.S.   The demographic pressures and the tsunami of retirements are high level barometers of more to come.  The number of people changing jobs has increased dramatically over the last few years, sneaking past pre-recession levels of more than 3 million “quits" as of December 2016.

Although constantly recruiting and training new employees is expensive, it is the ancillary effects on productivity, customer satisfaction, manager effectiveness and engagement metrics that truly impact the overall business operations.  It is simply in everyone’s best interest to make employee retention a top priority in our new found “sellers market”. Here are five ways HR can start improving employee retention today.

1) Make Visibility a Priority

For employees to stay with a company, they need to feel like they have room to grow. “The best incentive to retain top talent is to give them challenging work (not more work), ongoing personal and professional development such as training or coaching, or a new role," says Josh Kuehler, an employee analytics specialist for business advisory firm FMG Leading.

According to Cornerstone's Career Trends Report, 75 percent of high performing organizations identify high potential talent, yet only 29 percent clearly communicate this fact to their target audience.

Your organization may have internal growth opportunities, but if employees can't see them, they won't know those opportunities are available. Be transparent and open with employees about current and future needs, and make sure you have systems in place to actively guide employees to those new opportunities.  Personal growth in role is at top of mind for your employees.

2) Establish Formal Career Pathing

Encourage and help employees create formal career paths for themselves so both employees and their managers have a concrete understanding of each other's goals and expectations.

“When employees feel stranded, they leave. When employees have expectations that aren't being met, they leave," says James Pollard, a specialist in financial advisor retention at TheAdvisorCoach.com. “One of the best incentives for retaining top talent is a strong support system."

Among employees surveyed in Cornerstone's Career Trends Report, 74 percent actively monitor the trajectory of their career by setting goals. If managers encourage and participate in this process, they'll be well equipped to help employees achieve those goals by staying with the company.

3) Reward Managers for Developing Employees

All employees are motivated by personal incentives, including managers. If managers have more incentive to keep top performers on their own teams rather than moving them up through the company, then employee retention can suffer.

Cornerstone's Career Trends Report found that nearly two-thirds of high-performing organizations invest in coaching to accelerate employee growth. Actively train and support managers in developing coaching and mentoring skills, and offer them rewards for building and sharing talent pools.

4) Create Opportunities for Career Mobility

Managers know that hiring internally generally costs less and results in better performance that recruiting externally, yet our report showed only 37 percent of positions were filled with internal candidates in the last 24 months.

The commitment to providing employees with career mobility needs to come from the top as a clearly communicated policy. Create a culture where hiring managers think about career mobility in talent review and succession meetings, and look first at your employee pool rather that simply defaulting to external recruiting.

5) Invest in Learning and Development

In order to create a culture where employees can grow, thrive and rise within a company, there should be clear understanding among leadership that learning and development are priority investments.

In Cornerstone's Career Trends Report, only 38 percent of respondents said their employer provides training and career development. Yet companies whose leaders made talent a focus of their culture saw 2.7x higher revenue growth. Start by quantifying the benefits of learning and development to your business strategy to earn the commitment of senior leadership, then create clear and actionable development plans.

“Many companies think this internal promotion is enough, but it's important to take it one step further by giving employees the tools they need to get there," says Evan Harris, Co-Founder & CEO of SD Equity Partners. “By offering your employees resources to increase their knowledge and develop their skills, they'll be more likely to stay."

Research shows us two things, 1) Managers can spend up to 50% of their time working with new hires and, 2) the at-risk period for employees is the first year of their employment.  Putting these simple techniques into place will have true impact in a targeted fashion.

Photo: Creative Commons