16 DEC, 2015

Are You on the Right Track to Employee Retention? 5 Questions to Ask

This post originally appeared on HR.com.

With the holiday season among us, we’ll soon be ringing in 2016 with champagne, good friends, and thoughts about how we keep our best employees from leaving. Even if they’re not actively looking, your star performers are getting emails from recruiters on LinkedIn, receiving suggested jobs in their news feeds, and reading about the latest startup to give employees unlimited vacation time on Fast Company. A recent Mercer study of 3,000 employees found that nearly 37% of US workers are seriously considering leaving their jobs. The number is much higher for those in senior management positions, at 63%. The scary part is, many of those same people said they were happy with their current jobs.

As engagement, company culture, and employee retention continue to become a main focus for companies in all industries, it’s more important than ever to make sure your company has a plan beyond just compensation and benefits to stay competitive with your existing talent, as well as potential recruits.

Here are five questions to ask yourself to see if you’re on the right track to retention.

What is your company’s vision, and if you asked any employee, could he or she explain it?
Employees want to feel connected to a larger purpose. They also want to see how their contributions make a real impact on the business. If you have not effectively communicated what that purpose is, or how their work helps you get there, there is no way they will feel that connection. It is the responsibility of upper management to convey this message, to repeat it often, and to back it up with action. If your company claims to be passionate about customer service but has poor processes in place to support it, your employees will see through that immediately. Those who joined your company because they shared that passion will quickly pack it in and go where they feel they can truly make a positive difference in customers’ lives.

Are you recognizing employees for a job well done?
If your employees only hear about their performance when they’ve done something wrong or during an annual review, your company has a gratitude problem. Once you have grown beyond just a handful of employees, recognition must become a formal initiative or it will not happen on a consistent basis. Upper management should make creating a culture of recognition a priority by clearly stating parameters for being recognized (usually based on the company’s core values) and creating some sort of process for everyone to do so, whether it’s a dedicated web portal or a message board on the company intranet. Recognition messages should be public whenever appropriate so they can be viewed and commented on by others, which magnifies the moment for the recipient. Rewards are not always necessary, but it’s nice to have them available for achievements that have a true impact on the business.

Are you providing career paths for your employees?
If you don’t want your best employees to walk out the door, you need to provide them a path within your company that leads somewhere they want to go. The best way to find out where that might be is to just ask. Not everyone wants to end up in the C-suite; some people value horizontal moves that gain them a better breadth of experience. One-on-one meetings provide invaluable insight into employees’ goals for the future. Even if you can’t accommodate their exact wishes, they’ll appreciate being asked.

Are your managers bringing out the best in their teams?
Find a terrible manager and you won’t have to look far to find a miserable employee. Remember that just because someone was a star performer in an individual contributor role does not make them an automatic choice for management. Even if they do have potential, they will need training and coaching if they are new to managing others. A good manager should set objectives for her team, coach them towards reaching those goals, and recognize them when they perform well. If you concentrate on turning out great managers in your organization, engaged employees will follow.

What is the culture or “vibe” of your company?
Company culture is difficult to define, but we all know what it is. If your company were a person it would be a combination of his attitude, values, and belief system. For example, when you’re in crisis mode, how do you handle it? Do people get in a room together with a white board and problem solve, or do blame-filled emails start flying around? Are people relaxed and able to be themselves or are they constantly on guard? Management sets the tone for culture in several ways: with the way they act, policy decisions, organizational structure, who they hire, and even the way the office is set up. You can supply unlimited beer all you want, but if management has built a bad foundation it’s just going to leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.


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