Employee Retention: 5 strategies for retaining top talent

Employee turnover is a natural part of business.

But when that turnover number starts to creep up, it can be a sign that employee morale is low, engagement is falling, and that others are considering leaving too.

So how do you know when your employee turnover rate is getting too high?

Do you have an employee turnover problem?

Some turnover is a good thing – having no turnover could be a sign that your organization isn’t helping people to grow and be ready for new opportunities.

What does ‘normal’ look like? Well, according to LinkedIn, global employee turnover is about 10.9%. If your employee retention rate sits comfortably around this average, you’re in good shape.

But if you’re experiencing high turnover, it’s a problem that needs addressing – and it goes well beyond simply employee happiness.

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The cost to replace employees can vary from 16% of salary for a lower-salaried, high-turnover role (like retail), up to as much as 213% for executive positions, like CEOs.

But it’s about more than just money – there’s also the time lost and delays, the experience that can never be fully replaced, the reputational risk of having new-starters, and much more.

In short, employee retention makes a world of difference. And, to keep turnover in check, you need an effective employee retention strategy.

5 actionable strategies for employee retention

Offer each new employee a great start

Many companies invest a lot of their time in building their employer brand, yet research has shown that 31% of workers have left a role within the first six months of being hired.

If nearly a third of new starters don’t stick around, something is going seriously wrong.

Be honest in the hiring phase

When it comes to employee recruitment, you don’t want just anyone – you want the right fit.

Someone who will embrace your company culture, work hard, and be a valuable employee for a long time to come.

For your part, you need to be honest about what you’re offering, including wages, the level of seniority, the perks, and the expectations you have for them.

If everyone’s on the same page from day one, there’s less chance for miscommunication, and hiring someone who’s a bad fit.

Offer an effective onboarding process

When someone new starts, you need to make the process as simple and seamless for them as possible.

This isn’t just the responsibility of the human resource team – it’s everyone they interact with. 

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That means setting up meetings with all relevant people, offering information on the company (both official information on the business and industry, but also more casual information about company culture, or good places to grab lunch), and making them feel welcome.

Helping them start life with you on the right foot means they’re more likely to stay.

Keep the contact going

When a new employee starts, they’ll need frequent contact with a lot of relevant people to keep them on track.

The manager and team are obviously a key priority, but you should also keep them in regular contact with your HR professionals so they have somewhere to talk honestly about any problems within the team (just in case).

In fact, having a strategy for open dialogue that lasts from the first-day onboarding to final exit interview can be an effective tool for employee retention.

And remember, feedback goes both ways, so listen to what they’re saying.

Help employees feel like part of something bigger

A simple way to boost employee retention is by helping people to feel part of something bigger than themselves.

Not only could it help with employee engagement, but it helps to take the work they do from strictly economic thoughts around wages.

Have a mission

The best companies have a clear way that they, and by extension, their employees, are making the world a better place. 

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Tap into the reason you do what you do, and remind employees of it regularly.

If you don’t do that, you’d better be offering industry-leading wages and benefits, as that’s all your people will be basing their decision to stay on (making them easy pickings for a recruiter offering more).

Share stories on why your work matters

We often think about case studies for customers, but the same mechanics can work just as well internally.

Seeing for themselves the value that their contribution brings can be a big boost to employee satisfaction (and retention).

Plus many of those same resources can be invaluable for hiring.

Build a team

It takes a conscious effort to turn a group of people – existing employees and new – into a cohesive team. And it’s far too important to leave to chance.

Getting a strategy in place to help this process along is likely to improve the employee experience for everyone. 

Plus people who enjoy working with their coworkers and consider themselves a part of the team have more of a reason to stay.

Build trust with employees

As we saw in step one, you should only hire people you trust.

But trust is a two-way street, and once they’re part of the company you need to demonstrate your trust by empowering each worker to do their best work, however, it is they choose to do it.

Communicate with people

You need to build a habit of communicating openly and honestly with employees, and sharing everything that they need to know (within reason, of course).

Create a company culture where people feel able to talk, to share feedback, and to receive it in turn. 

And remember that feedback can be positive too – it’s easy to get into the habit of only sharing the negative for improvements, but taking the time to say thank you, or well done, can have a huge impact.

(Struggling to find the right words to say thank you? Check out our blog on 15 employee appreciation messages (and 5 GIFs) to say thank you).

Help with work-life balance

Employees know the way that they work best. 

If you trust them, then you should be doing everything you can to make the most of their natural rhythms and life commitments by offering flexible working.

Plus it can save you a lot of money in the long run – 30% of employees value flexible working more than a pay rise.

You get increased employee productivity, they get a better work-life balance, and you cut the risk of them leaving.

Wins all around.

Trust your employees

Ultimately this all boils down to one idea – you should trust your employees.

You shouldn’t feel the need to monitor them every minute while they’re working. You shouldn’t feel the need to micromanage them. And you shouldn’t make them feel they can’t take a lunch break, or that they have to stay late to give the appearance of working harder.

After all, if you want people to trust you enough to stay with you, you need to offer the same trust in return.

Give employees a future with the company

Most people would agree that career growth matters far more than their job. If workers feel like they’re being held back by staying with you, they’ll look to leave (and, many would argue, rightfully so).

If you’re looking to boost employee retention, you should aim to avoid that situation entirely.

Offer training and development

Training and development should be a key part of your retention strategy. 

Investing in someone’s skills clearly demonstrates that you think they have a future with you, which can be a big boost to employee engagement.

(Plus it’ll mean people are better at their job, too).

Then, when you consider that healthy ‘baseline’ turnover, you’ll have a pool of well-trained people ready and willing to step into a more senior position. 

External hires are paid an average of 18% more than internal (while also incurring all those additional hiring expenses)

External hires are 61% more likely to be fired (vs internal who have lower rates of both voluntary and involuntary exits) and upskilling people is definitely the way to go.

Encourage mentorship

Mentorship is often an undervalued resource for organizations.

You have a team of workers eager to learn more, and a team of talented people willing to teach them, so sometimes it’s as simple as pairing people up and watching them fly. 

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Of course, managers can be mentors – but it doesn’t have to be confined to strict organizational hierarchy. In fact, more junior employees can even mentor senior staff, such as in how to effectively use social media.

Ultimately the key is to build strong relationships within the organization that people will want to stay with you for.

Build an employee progression plan

All of this work that you (and the employees) put in should have some kind of tangible reward at the end – a goal that shows the employee it’s worth the time and effort.

That might be more responsibilities, a wage increase, a promotion, officially managing someone – it really depends on the individual and your organizational needs.

But if you aren’t clear on where people are heading, they won’t be either. Then if a recruiter comes knocking with an offer that is the next logical step for their career, it’ll be harder for them to say no.

Just remind them that career development doesn’t mean they have to leave.

Offer employees regular, personalised rewards

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be huge gestures. In fact, it’s often better to give people regular reminders that their work is valuable, and appreciated.

People value money (but that doesn’t have to be wages)

Let’s face it, money is a big driver at work. So it’s no surprise that 45% of leavers list salary as the main reason for going (with benefits coming in at number three on the list).

But there’s plenty more you can do to keep people feeling valued beyond just boosting salaries.

In fact, one-off rewards can be highly effective – after all people adapt to their salary so it stops feeling special (no one ever bragged to their friends that they got paid their usual amount last month).

Little and often can be more effective than a big annual bonus

An annual bonus – like around Christmas time – is a lovely gesture. But as it becomes something people expect, that starts to lessen the value as a ‘bonus’.

It also means people have a long wait until the next one. And, perhaps worst of all, it offers people a perfect opportunity to think about leaving – after all, if they’ve just had their bonus and know they’ll have to wait another 12 months for the next one, why not take a look around?

More frequent, less predictable rewards will mean people have a fear of missing out, and less of a ‘perfect’ time to think about leaving.

Rewards can offer people a reason to give a little more

People want to feel appreciated. They want their effort to be rewarded.

Tying regular rewards to actual performance incentivizes employee engagement.

What does that look like? Well, consider rewarding creativity and new ideas, performance, milestones (company-wide and individual).

After all, this is especially important for retaining each particular talented employee (and they’re the ones you should be most worried about losing).

But how can you make sure that you offer employees the kind of regular rewards that matter to them, without expensive, complicated processes?

That’s where WeGift can help.

Show your people what they mean to you with WeGift

Some employee turnover isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but poor employee retention often hides deeper issues around job satisfaction and disengaged employees. 

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An effective employee retention program is essential in a modern business organization – and regular rewards will be a huge part of that.

With WeGift, you get a simple, effective way to deliver gift cards directly to your employees, offering a bunch of benefits, like: 

  • Scalability – you can build up the system as fast as you need to
  • Global relevance – you can choose suitable options wherever your employees are
  • Customizable lists – you can even give people the option to choose where their gift card is from (from a list you’ve pre-approved, of course)
  • Discounts – you can save on the face value of cards, often by as much as 20%
  • Reclaim unspent cards – automatically get back the value of unclaimed cards, so you’re never out of pocket

Ready to boost your employee retention and build an easier way to show your people what they really mean to you?

Find out how you can instantly send employees gift cards of their choice (and save up to 25% on face value). Get started with WeGift rewards today.