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Retaining Top Talent
Listening to employees and addressing their needs and desires is critical to keeping your highest performers on the team.

by Kristen Dowd

Finding quality employees is a challenge for any company, but many would argue that it’s figuring out how to keep those high-performing staffers from leaving that’s the bigger obstacle.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, by the time Americans are 56 years old, they’ve held an average of 12.7 jobs. And for those who started a job between 35 and 44 years old, more than 60% quit within five years.

Further, the World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report 2023, which predicts job evolution over the next five years, found that employers do not express confidence in upcoming talent availability.

When determining the best methods for employee retention, it’s important for company leaders to realize it’s not only about the big picture: The little things matter, too.

“It can be as simple as making sure to say ‘thank you’ or ‘good job’ when something goes well, to granting salary increases, title changes or promotions,” says Christina M. Renna, president and CEO of Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey. “It’s always key for leadership to be tuned in to the overall productivity of their team, their stress levels and mental health needs. Post-pandemic work is busier than ever before. Identifying when employees may need to take a time-out is appreciated and will lead to a better work product in the long run.”

Sometimes, the easiest way to know your employees’ needs is simply to ask. An open dialogue with staff, where they can voice both praise and criticism of the company, can be incredibly beneficial in the long run regarding employee retention rates, according to Berkley Harmon III, MBA, CBPA, Insperity’s business performance advisor.

“Have an open culture, meaning employees are free to express both what they love about the company as well as what they would like to see change,” Harmon explains. “You can only have this with the right leadership.”

A direct mindset works at Workplace HCM, too. Human resources generalist Marlie Stock says the company starts with confidential surveys and one-on-one meetings to assess in-house needs.

“We want to hear directly from our team about their motivations, challenges, and career aspirations,” Stock says. “This feedback helps us identify areas for improvement, like compensation, work-life balance or professional development opportunities. By tailoring solutions to their specific needs, we can demonstrate our investment in their growth and keep them feeling valued.”

After finding out what employees want, company size may impact what can be offered. Figuring out how to achieve these needs is important.

“The tactics used by employers vary depending on the size and industry of the company. For example, larger organizations usually have more flexibility as it relates to salary and benefit adjustments as a retention tool,” Renna says. “Smaller businesses rarely have those types of incentives to leverage, so are forced to think more creatively: more paid time off, flex scheduling options, greater work from home options. Especially with the younger generations in the workforce, sometimes these offerings are more valuable than a salary increase would be as it relates to increased flexibility and independence.”

Harmon is also seeing a greater desire for schedule flexibility among employees.

“More and more talent are not necessarily requesting to work from home, but they do want added flexibility to give above 100% effort,” Harmon says.

When things don’t go as planned and employees do move on, it’s also important to analyze that turnover and understand why they left. For instance, if a company faces high turnover rates, that’s a signal for leadership to take a step back and figure out why that’s happening, according to Renna.

“Company culture starts at the top and trickles down, and a strong culture—one bought into by the employee base—is key to employee longevity at any organization,” Renna says. “Assessing turnover rates on a regular basis is a necessary and important tool that tells a clear story of internal culture and morale.”

Stock likens understanding company turnover to “taking the pulse of your workforce,” giving a company the ability to identify areas for improvement.

“This could be compensation, work culture or even professional development opportunities,” says Stock. “It can be expensive to replace employees, so by understanding the reasons behind turnover, we can take steps to retain top talent and build a stronger, more stable team for the future.”

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Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 14, Issue 6 (June 2024).

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