Employee Retention: What Works, What Doesn’t?

These days it seems like everyone has their magic bullet solution for how to keep employee turnover down. Some people think the key is to only hire baby boomers; or to only hire millennials; or to pay the most or offer the best benefits; or to let employees bring their dogs to work. If you’re reading this blog right now hoping that I’m going to tell you the real secret to retaining your employees, then, well…sorry.

Unfortunately there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution for employee retention. Certain factors are going to matter more to one person than to another, and you can’t reliably assume what matters to someone based on their demographics. According to a 2012 workforce retention study by the American Psychological Association, the number one reason that employees surveyed gave for staying with their current employer was that they enjoy the work that they do (in case you were wondering, my top answer to that question is the fifth most common answer on the list).

What I take from this is that the reasons people have for leaving or staying at a job are very personal, and the best way to figure out what matters to your employees is to get to know them. One way to do this is to conduct “stay interviews” with your employees. A stay interview essentially gives an employee a chance to let an employer knows what they like about the organization and where they see room for improvement. Obviously, this can only work when a level of trust has been developed between the employee and the company. If your company hasn’t developed this trust yet, think of ways that this trust can be cultivated. How to do this will vary from company to company, but sharing more information with employees (when appropriate) or conducting team building exercises could be helpful.

Trying to figure out how long you will be able to retain potential new hires can be a bit trickier, since you have less familiarity with them than with employees who already work for you. Obviously you should be wary of candidates who have a history of job hopping and should discuss their reasons for leaving jobs after short stays. Also, think of incorporating interview questions that can help you learn about candidates on a personal level: what drives them, what their goals are, etc.

The important thing to keep in mind when addressing employee retention is that your employees are unique individuals, and there is no singular approach that will make everyone spend their entire career at your company. You need to know what makes each of your employees tick. The next step is to figure out how.


About the Author 
Tim Peters is a consultant with Morrison, working primarily in our Business & Accounting Advisory practice. To get in touch with Tim, please find contact information for Morrison here.


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