- Create a clear vision for the future
The more clearly a leader communicates a vision that inspires employees, the more likely they will want to contribute to that vision and stay to see that vision through.
Of employees surveyed in the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual Employee Job Satisfaction survey, 77% said it was important to their job satisfaction and engagement to have a clear understanding of their organisation’s vision and mission.
To make sure everyone is on the same page with an organisation’s goals and visions from day one, HR and business leaders must communicate regularly offline and for those who may not always be in the office, it's important to communicate online using content that is fresh and engaging.
- Create a great experience before they've even started
Preparation to retain great people begins before they even join. Starting off on the right foot has a huge role to play in whether an employee feels engaged in their role. In fact, close to 60% of new employees are more likely to stay with your company for longer than three years if their first impression is a positive one. Engage employees before day one with onboarding that gets them up to speed before they’ve set foot in the door. Onboarding and training is when employees learn how to properly do their job, and provides an important chance for them to engage with you as a leader, ask questions and clarify concerns.
If an employee doesn’t have a solid grasp of their new responsibilities, and they don’t feel comfortable speaking up about it they’ll be confused, frustrated and rushed: all of which leads to disengaged, unhappy workers. One survey reports that one-third of new hires leave their jobs after six months, which highlights the need for meaningful, engaging onboarding processes in organisations no matter what size.
- Lead by example
If managers and senior leaders aren't bringing high levels of energy and passion to their own roles, it's difficult for them to expect newer colleagues to do the same.
Managers are often role models and mentors to newer folks in the organisation, in positions that they're aspiring to go into.
But if they see that those potential future roles look stressful, difficult or unfulfilling, then they will lose a desire to get there. And if they don’t see an aspirational progression where they are, they'll start looking around.
- Provide opportunities to grow, constantly.
Great people wan't to grow, they want to push themselves and feel that they are gradually becoming their vision for a future, better self. Good managers and leaders nurture this. How? By constantly listening and observing their teams, looking out for clues that they're mastering their current responsibilities and have an appetite to take on more.
There's a fine line with this, because the best leaders spot this in a colleague for their colleague even notices it themselves.
Left too long, teams who feel that they're stagnating soon become disengaged and having mastered their existing roles begin to seek out what's next for them outside the company.
- It's not all about money
When it comes to showing employees your appreciation, don’t assume money creates meaning. Gary Browing, the CEO of Penna HR consulting says “Create an environment which delivers challenge, enjoyment and development of skills in the workplace. This makes such a positive difference in showing you care about and value your people,” says Penna chief executive Gary Browning.
Whether it’s sending employees to conferences or more regularly asking for their opinion on important decisions or ideas, there are a number of ways you can let people know that their contribution matters, over and above an annual bonus or pay review. Be aware that newer generations in the workplace are placing less and less emphasis on pay in their career decisions.
- Encourage friendships and communities to form outside structured company events
Encouraging friendships and organic communities to form outside structured company events can lead to a more cohesive culture where people love coming to work. When your co-worker becomes a great friend, enjoyment will increase tenfold. These communities could be formed around after-work drinks, books, sports, a running club– anything that’s not work-related.
Organisational psychology tells us that the more friends employees have at work, the more engaged they are in their role. One study found that only 28% of employees who had no friends at work were engaged in their role. This is compared with an engagement rate of 69% in employees with 25 or more work friends. These communities will often naturally emerge if you step back and create the space for them to develop and flourish.
- Defuse the bomb before it goes off
Rather than farewell to disengaged employees that have decided to jump ship, have ‘stay’ meetings before a goodbye is necessary. Firstly, creature a transparent culture where people feel comfortable in telling you how they feel about their current position. Then you'll be in a position to have a meaningful conversation before they’ve announced their intention to leave. An example is McDonald’s, who have ‘stay’ meetings to reduce the need for ‘exit’ interviews.
A stay meeting allows employers to measure an employee’s job satisfaction and engagement on a regular basis, feeling out the pain points and positives of their role. This can help reduce employee turnover rates and address people issues before it’s too late.
- Take a look at why and be honest
It's hard to see great people leaving, but sometimes it's the right decision for that person. Sometimes people leave for good reasons not bad reasons. If people are getting headhunted or invited into bigger positions elsewhere, understand and appreciate that this could be because you've done a great job in building their skills and taking them to the next level. There is a great quote by Patty McCord, Former Chief Talent Officer of Netflix and author of Powerful.
"The idea of the permanent job is one of our cruellest lies - there are no permanent jobs. We do people a terrible disservice letting them think things will last forever. The biggest epiphany I had in my career was the day I decided I didn’t want to try to keep people forever anymore; instead, I wanted to make Netflix a great place to be from"
Equally, be honest about your current culture and don't just question those who are leaving, ask their colleagues the reasons and build feedback routines to build a better workplace.