Over three million Americans voluntarily leave their jobs each month.
That's according to recent Bureau of Labor statistics, which show that many of them leave because they're confident that they can find work elsewhere. This cultural shift away from working for only a handful of companies for one's entire career is creating new challenges for recruiting teams.
A 2017 report by Kronos and Future Workplace revealed that 95 percent of HR leaders believe "employee burnout is sabotaging workforce retention," and 87 percent called better retention a critical priority.
Hiring top talent can be expensive, time consuming and stressful. High employee churn becomes even more of a pain point for growing companies. You have to worry about scaling operations up, while replacing a steady stream of departing employees.
Companies that hold onto employees save significant effort on hiring, tend to create a stronger company culture and prompt greater team loyalty. Here are five reliable strategies that will help you retain employees for the long run.
1. Train managers intensively.
A productive worker doesn't necessarily make an excellent manager. Effectively managing others is about way more than domain expertise. Strong managers both support and encourage each employee to perform at their peak. This requires empathy, killer communication skills, and an ability to juggle many different challenges simultaneously.
Consequently, managers need intensive, ongoing training. It doesn't matter how strong or talented your leadership team is. If managers aren't properly trained, your culture can crumble.
Giving your managers necessary tools to lead and motivate their teams effectively is a high-leverage way to reduce churn. Monitor manager growth and ask employees for feedback on their bosses. With constructive feedback from all levels, your managers will be better prepared to support and motivate their employees.
2. Encourage employees to keep growing.
When employees realize they're no longer being challenged at work, they grow tired of their jobs and feel less incentive to stay. A 2017 Gallup report found that 70 percent of US workers are not engaged at work, which may be a significant factor behind the 51 percent of current workers searching for new jobs.
Enabling employees to continue learning and growing can dramatically enhance the meaning they derive from work and their level of engagement with it.
The first big step is understanding each worker's goals and how you can help them achieve those goals. Encouraging employees to explore different teams within your company, financially supporting their independent learning endeavors, and frequently checking in with them helps ensure they're being both challenged and engaged on the job.
3. Show appreciation.
People want to feel valued. As a company, you can show your appreciation for employees with occasional surprises that demonstrate your goodwill, such as holiday gifts and surprise vacations. Demonstrate your gratitude for the work that they are doing.
Many companies have a full time "Director of Happiness" role. I've worked for one of these companies. They hosted personalized birthday celebrations, gave employees free tickets to music festivals, and consistently recognized top performers.
This shows employees that their hard work is appreciated and it creates stronger loyalty to the organization that employs them.
4. Promote company bonding.
When people form connections and build friendships with one another at work, they are inherently less likely to leave. Switching to a new job carries a cost to them -- the cost of starting over from an interpersonal or social perspective.
You can promote company bonding with office activities like bringing in a ping pong table, forming recreational sports teams, and sponsoring meals or drinks out between company employees, to name just a few ideas.
Putting effort into employee bonding leads to happier and more productive workers. They'll enjoy the work environment more, because they're surrounded by others they enjoy.
5. Offer autonomy.
For many corporate leaders, employee autonomy feels like a leap of faith. After all, you have to trust your employees to let them work from home and exercise flexibility in their jobs without constant supervision.
Yet the payoffs for employee retention can be profound. Such flexibility helps employees take ownership of their work and their careers, instead of feeling constrained. Yet, it also means trusting employees to do that in a way that works for the company, too.
Not every role or employee will be able to shoulder such responsibility, of course, but when you can find ways to grant your employees a little autonomy, it gives them a powerful and productive sense of control. In fact, that control is something they keep in mind if they ever think of leaving.
Start small, if need be, by allowing employees to choose their in-office hours or letting them work one day every month on special projects of their own choosing. That may be the very thing that keeps them from moving on.