How to solve six of the biggest employee retention challenges

Recruiters are enticing workers with new opportunities on an increasingly frequent basis. Give your employees plenty of reasons to stay by addressing the top retention challenges.

Robot workers may be coming to your organization in the near future, but for now, you need to hold onto your human workers if you want to ride the road of success. And in today's candidate-driven market, that's no easy feat. Indeed, overcoming employee retention challenges should rank at the top of your to-do list.

"What people often overlook is how much a full employment market impacts retention," said Corey Berkey, director of HR at JazzHR, a recruiting software vendor and application tracking system. "A happy and engaged team is always less likely to entertain recruiter outreach."

To help you make sure your employees are "happy and engaged," here are six of the most common employee retention challenges business and HR leaders face and how to address them.

Start by measuring engagement

Because so many factors affect whether your employees stay -- or start looking elsewhere -- knowing how to begin addressing employee retention challenges can be overwhelming.

Berkey suggests companies start with measuring employee engagement. "We all have room to improve ... but you really do have to start with listening to what the workforce is telling you," he said.

Good practices include routine check-ins, weekly one-on-one meetings and open feedback to understand these ever-changing dynamics. These can be combined with a thoughtful survey to shine a spotlight on specific employee retention challenges. "You might be shocked at what the results show," Berkey said.

He pointed out that the person who owns and administers the survey needs "thick skin." Hearing what the team doesn't like about working at your company is not easy. But instead of getting defensive or dwelling on how you missed these issues, focus on improving them. "Keep your chin up and focus on the improvement moving forward," Berkey said.

Address negative PR about your workplace

One of the most critical employee retention challenges today centers on the employment brand. If new employees do not view the organization's brand positively, they will most likely look for other employment options elsewhere. To overcome this issue, there are a few basic things an organization can do, said Robin Erickson, vice president and talent acquisition research leader at Bersin by Deloitte Consulting LLP.

Erickson recommended conducting an audit by looking at every website and job forum for both positive and negative reviews about your organization. In addition, interview employees to find out their perception of the workplace and culture. You can also consider committing a dedicated resource, whether person or department, to collaborate with the talent and marketing departments and foster a positive work experience. These efforts can result in workers communicating more about their positive experiences on social media and job forums, Erickson said. And don't assume the perception of the brand is consistent across a large organization, she said, adding that large organizations may need to customize HR messaging for different regions.

Focus on employee development and mobility

Employees are more likely to leave if they don't see a career path at their current company. "Organizations often have structural hurdles with promoting and recruiting from within," Erickson said.

An employee feeling stuck or being held back is the opposite of them feeling engaged and can lead to that employee quitting and leaving -- or worse, quitting and staying.
Burt Reamanaging director, Deloitte Consulting

To overcome this issue, organizations should ensure the talent and career management, learning and development, and talent acquisition functions are all working together to create effective processes and implement the best technologies. These groups can help to create a culture where leaders encourage and support each employee to develop the skills that prepare them for their next role and, subsequently, create a career plan.

Another important component to overcoming this employee retention challenge is to implement an internal talent marketplace. Create an internal source where employees can access internal job postings and career development resources and where recruiters can find and contact internal candidates with the right skill set.

It's also important to get over the idea of wringing every last bit of ROI made in hiring, training and developing an employee. This can lead to employees feeling stuck. Burt Rea, managing director in the Deloitte Consulting Human Capital practice, cautioned, "An employee feeling stuck or being held back is the opposite of them feeling engaged and can lead to that employee quitting and leaving -- or worse, quitting and staying."

Many modern workers want a faster pace of job growth and change, with this tendency especially true for the millennial generation. A recent survey by Ladders Inc., a career site for $100K and up jobs, found that 80% of millennials wanted a promotion within the first two years at a job. "Giving younger workers shorter 'tours of duty,' where they move onto a new role relatively quickly, can help keep them engaged and happy," said Ryan Sager, editorial director at Ladders.

"Don't let workers feel they're being taken for granted. Let them know that they're valued and that there is a path for them to move up."

Empower and trust employees

If employees don't feel trusted and autonomous, they are more likely to leave. This requires more than just leaving them alone to do their jobs, which can be counterproductive. "Trust is about giving people the tools they need to be successful, letting them try things on their own and then being OK with the fact that they'll get it wrong," said Omer Molad, CEO of Vervoe, a platform offering automated interviews and online simulations.

Telling people how to do their jobs is micromanagement, not trust. Conversely, ignoring people altogether isn't trust either; it's neglect. People want tools, support, encouragement, mentoring and peer review. They also want the opportunity to fail, learn, improve and eventually get it right on their own.

Another aspect of building trust and autonomy lies in giving employees the flexibility to work where, when and how they can be most effective and engaged. Deloitte's Rea said one client the company worked with started off offering its new workplace flexibility program only to high-performing employees whom they felt could be accountable to get their work done without close supervision. But program leaders soon realized they were sending a morale-deflating message that not all employees could be trusted and decided to extend the flexibility program to all employees.

Replace outdated work tech

Many companies offer outdated workplace technology, but this can drive away some of the best and brightest. Employees may wonder why they don't have access to the same tools and apps in their jobs that have become common for doing tasks like booking vacations on their phones. "We've got to keep up," Rea said.

But don't fall prey to the bright and shiny object trap. "There's lots of cool tech out there that hasn't found a business purpose yet," he said. Be on the lookout for new innovations and novel ideas, but always ask what business purpose it can accomplish. Consider from the start how to tell people what's coming and support the transition to new capabilities.

Make employee experience a top priority

One of the most common employee retention challenges companies face today is delivering technology that meets workers' expectations. Even the most useful technology can fail the company if it does not promote a good employee experience. "Employees expect to be able use company channels to interact with HR, just as they do with everyone else in their company," said Adriana Bokel Herde, chief people officer and chief evangelist officer at PeopleDoc Inc., an HR document management service. "Being able to integrate and communicate through Slack or Hangouts are important strategies going forward."

A good employee experience needs to go beyond just better technology for employees. As organizations increasingly move to self-service environments, a lot of people management tasks are being handled by managers instead of HR. Therefore, offering ready access to the communication and information they need to support their employees is vital. "When there is a process to complete, such as a transfer or performance review, it is key that solutions supporting these processes not only build out the employee experience, but manager experience as well," Bokel Herde said.

Prioritizing where to invest in order to improve the employee experience is a huge challenge. This requires measuring when employees request assistance and on what topics. By tracking interactions through a standardized system, companies can identify issues and address them.

"Employee engagement isn't enough anymore," Bokel Herde said. "Employees want to be understood and to be supported as they go through their careers and their lives."

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