How to retain your best employees during The Great Resignation

How to retain your best employees during turbulent times

There has been a lot written about “The Great Resignation” a term coined by Texas A&M University professor Anthony Klotz earlier this year to refer to the mass number of people who are considering a new job as we emerge from the worst of the pandemic. Statistics vary but according to a new report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over 40% of U.S. workers are actively searching or planning to search, for a new job, a number that is twice the rate of 2019.

As a business owner, company recruiter, or HR manager, this number should concern you, even if you aren’t seeing quite as much “churn” in your ranks. As you probably know too well, every time you lose a valuable employee, it may cause a ripple effect among everyone who was associated with that person. Ignore this and you might watch some of your best employees walk out the door.

The truth is that it’s been a generation since people started a job and stayed with it for a large part of their careers. Depending on your industry, it may be normal for people to stay only a few years before leapfrogging to the next opportunity. But even if there is more staying power at your company, fostering employee loyalty may be more of an uphill battle than it was 50 years ago.

And while offering generous salaries with benefits is a great way to attract people to your company, there are other less transactional and more nuanced ways to build employee loyalty for the long term. Here are some tips that may encourage your best employees to stay with you for the long haul.

Keep open lines of communication to retain your best employees

Talk to your employees and direct reports regularly and often. Employees want to feel “seen” in an organization and believe they are making a real contribution to its success, from your front desk receptionist to the controller. Regular status meetings, annual evaluations, and candid chats about career goals, interests, and struggles are imperative. And share your plans for the company and listen to their input and criticism, even if it’s harsh.

Keeping the lines of communication open can help you spot smaller issues before they become bigger ones.

Evaluate your managers

Think about your last few resignations. . .what do they have in common? If you find that your departing employees share a manager, you may want to find out if that is the reason you are losing staff. This doesn’t necessarily mean you should then terminate a manager or take away their direct reports—but find out what the issues are and deal with them directly.

Perhaps you have a manager who would like to provide better training to new employees but feels like they can’t do this and keep up with their day-to-day assignments. Or do you have a manager who tends to ignore remote workers, or waits until there is a big issue–and lots of stress–to address it? Most people do not want to be bad managers but may feel like they are not getting the support they need to do both their job and the job of supervising others.

But if you have a truly toxic manager? They are doing your company more harm than good.

Give your employees a sense of belonging

Employees that feel out-of-touch or like “cogs in the machine” won’t feel pangs of remorse when they submit their resignation. Find ways to help your employees feel like they matter to the company and are part of a larger team that relies on them.

You might do this by sharing your employees’ contributions with the rest of the company. Create common goals and then work toward them together. Share your company’s goals and hurdles with employees and when things are good, celebrate! When things are tough, be honest and draw people together to talk about how to overcome hurdles.

Group lunches, off-site or virtual team-building activities, and even fun events like our own South Shore Staffing games, can bring employees closer together and make them feel like they are part of something bigger than their job title.

Encourage professional development

Are there any skills deficits that need to be addressed or areas where your employees want more training? Do you have a valued employee who just needs a couple more classes to finish a degree or who wants to go for their MBA? Foster an environment that encourages professional development either with in-service training or tuition reimbursement–even partial–if possible.

At the very least, give them time and space to get the training they need or to attend important webinars, conferences, and roundtables. What they learn can be brought back to the workplace and will benefit your company.

Trust, but don’t abandon, those who work for you

If you’ve been burned by an employee before, it may be hard to trust that you can let the next person do their job without micromanaging their work. But, you must.

Set realistic deadlines with regular check-ins instead of lurking around desks or (worse) poking around someone’s desk to check the status of an assignment.

At the same time, make sure you offer aid when it’s requested. Maybe a project is much bigger than you anticipated or needs more admin help to be finished. Let employees know they can ask for help if they need it.

Be flexible in order to retain your best employees

We are still feeling the effects of the pandemic: Kids can be sent home from school to quarantine at a moment’s notice; common colds still need to be treated as potential Covid until a test proves otherwise. Adults with senior parents may feel pulled to provide more assistance on an ongoing basis which may not always be convenient to a standard 9-5 workday.

In addition, as New Englanders, we all know that winter storms or power outages will leave many of us cut off from our offices.

But, fortunately, after more than a  year of remote work, many companies can function well even if employees are signed in from their homes. You may find that offering remote on an as-needed basis to deal with weather, childcare, or illness may be quite attractive to your current employees.

Even if you follow all six of our tips for retaining your best employees, you will have to say goodbye to some Very Important People at times. The hope is that this will be infrequent and that the safeguards you have in place will keep others from following their colleague out the door.

If you find yourself in need of new employees—or want to start your own job search—give us a call at 781-575-0500. We can help you find the people or position you need right here on the South Shore.

Other smart articles about this topic:

‘Great Attrition’ or ‘Great Attraction’? The choice is yours.-McKinsey & Co.

Bosses at breaking point on churn. – LinkedIn/Bloomberg

With So Many People Leaving, Don’t Overlook Those Who Stay. – Harvard Business Review

The Great Resignation: Why People Are Leaving Their Jobs In Growing Numbers. –  NPR