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How Can Companies Improve Employee Retention?

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Regardless of their role, seniority or experience, employees will inevitably leave the companies they work for. It is a reality in the business world that can’t be ignored, but one that no company wants to see happen. After all, losing an employee means lost time, lost money and lost potential.  

To limit the impact of workers leaving their jobs, businesses must take steps to develop effective retention strategies that focus on identifying and addressing the factors that can trigger a worker’s departure. In some cases, the reasons that prompt a departure will be beyond a company’s control. More often, however, employees leave because they have concerns that are not being addressed or needs that are not being met.  

A recent poll reveals a number of concerns that blue-collar workers have about their jobs. At the top of the list is personal safety, cited by 28% of workers. If workers do not feel that their company has taken steps to address dangerous working conditions, they will have less motivation to stay loyal to that company. Long hours and high performance demands tied for the second spot on the list, each being mentioned as a concern by 20% of workers, while the fourth reason — cited by 13% of blue-collar workers — was a lack of opportunities for advancement.  

When asked about job satisfaction, blue-collar workers pointed to healthy compensation, which they described as “a good living wage,” as a top factor. Few would be surprised to hear that poor pay is cited as the top reason for leaving a job, regardless of workers’ specific roles or industries. The poll also showed that 37% of workers are satisfied with their jobs because they are being challenged, and for 33%, job satisfaction stems from having a sense of purpose at work.  

Companies that wish to improve their employee retention rates should take note of the variety of factors that can inspire or detract from employee loyalty. With these factors in mind, companies can build effective employee retention programs. The following principles can guide companies as they develop those programs.  

Strong retention begins with strong recruiting  

Retention is easier when you start by hiring the right person for the position. This requires a solid recruiting strategy that clearly aligns potential hires with the company’s vision, mission, values and goals. Beginning with the job posting, companies must clearly communicate the full array of expectations.  

Providing only generalities about job responsibilities will communicate the “what” but not the “why.” Most recruiting processes will explain the skills that an employee is expected to have, but a truly effective process will also communicate the attitudes and perspectives that an employee will be expected to bring to the job.  

Clearly communicating your employee value proposition is another step that will help in transitioning prospective hires to loyal employees. It is not enough to communicate basic benefits. Those applying for jobs want to experience a sense of purpose, be challenged to grow their skills and have opportunities for advancement. Explaining what that looks like at your company will help applicants determine if they are willing to make a long-term commitment to your company.  

Effective onboarding dramatically boosts retention  

During the recruitment process, companies should paint an enticing picture of the great employee experience they offer, as the onboarding process is the beginning of that experience. It is the first impression a new employee has of company culture, workplace dynamics and employee experience. If not done well, it can seriously damage a company’s retention potential.  

Employees who find that a company’s onboarding does not match their expectations can rapidly lose trust in their company. To prevent this, companies should have a strong process that quickly orients new employees to all relevant policies and procedures, facilitates interaction with coworkers and invites feedback. Research reveals that companies that have a strong onboarding process improve retention by 82%.  

Employee well-being is critical for strong retention  

Employees in the tree care industry face a number of dangers, including falls, electrocution and equipment accidents. As a result, even the most experienced arborist can feel significant work-related stress on a regular basis. If employers don’t acknowledge and help with the management of that stress, it can lead to burnout and threaten employee retention.  

According to a 2021 Gallup poll, burnout is something that 74% of employees experience. Gallup also found that employees who have a high level of well-being are remarkably resilient to burnout. As such, companies that want to boost retention must have programs that mitigate burnout by promoting well-being. The programs should include assistance with managing stress and achieving a healthy work-life balance.  

Employees stay when they feel valued  

Better employee retention is one of many benefits that companies will experience when they take steps to make employees feel valued. There are a wide variety of steps that companies can take in this area, including providing competitive compensation, public recognition and awards, and career development opportunities. As employees experience these, their dedication to the company increases.  

Involvement and empowerment are two key factors that communicate to employees that they are considered valuable by their company. Involvement relates to employees being “in the know” when it comes to the factors that are shaping the company’s future. When employees are invited to speak to the decision-making process, they feel a higher level of ownership.  

Empowerment relates to employees being “in the flow” when it comes to the success of the company. Empowered employees know that their performance directly affects the company’s success and, consequently, their success. They clearly understand the company’s strategy and the role they play in executing the strategy.  

Retention is easier when you start by hiring the right person for the position.

The statistics that have been gathered on employee retention reveal two key truths that should drive companies to improve their efforts in this area. First, employee retention can be improved. By providing employees with clear expectations, transparency, a healthy workplace and opportunities to contribute and grow, companies can build a team that is committed to long-term engagement.   

The second truth is that employee retention should be improved. The costs associated with rapid and regular employee turnover are high and avoidable. Companies that want to boost their productivity, profitability and morale must make a commitment to be better at retaining employees.  

About the author  

Isidro “Izzy” Galicia
Isidro “Izzy” Galicia

Isidro “Izzy” Galicia, president and CEO of Incito Consulting Group, has over 25 years of expertise in driving Lean and Six Sigma enterprise transformation for a wide range of Fortune 100 and 500 businesses and industries across the globe. He is highly regarded as a subject matter expert in Lean and Six Sigma Transformation, with decades of hands-on experience with the Toyota Production System. He is the recipient of the distinguished Shingo Prize, the National Association of Manufacturers Award and the JD Powers Gold Award. He is also a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt.