Employee Retention Gives Key Competitive Edge

The revolving door problem is part of the reality of any business – which is costly on all fronts. We outline some key strategies that goes a long way to keeping your best talent from defecting to the competition.

By Shuchita Dua Dullu

Employee retention, which is the ability of the organisation to retain employees, is emerging as a big challenge for small and large organisations globally. However, more than 50 per cent of employers polled on a Watson Wyatt survey reported having no formal strategy for employee retention.

There has been a lot of literature on employee retention and the strategies used to contribute to organisational growth (Agrela, et al, 2008) on ways to keep employees engaged. Employee turnover costs business owners time and productivity, so creating spaces where talented employees are likely to stay has become a matter that is critical to maintaining a competitive edge.

According to Glassdoor’s50 HR and Recruiting Statistics 2016, nearly 34 per cent of employers are concerned that voluntary exits will increase, and 51 per cent of employees are considering a new job. In light of fast growing attrition rates, managers must recognise and understand that it is their responsibility to create and sustain an environment that fosters retention.

Numerous studies have concluded that committed employees remain with the organization for longer periods of time than those which are less committed. Steers (1977) suggests that the more committed an employee is, the less of a desire they have to terminate from the organization. These highly committed employees have a higher intent to remain on with the concern and a stronger aspiration to attend work, with positive attitudes towards their role. In his research, he also noted that commitment was significantly and inversely related to employee turnover.

Dissatisfaction may stem when employees feel that their efforts are not being recognized and rewarded well or if they are disillusioned about how their work is contributing to the bigger organisational goal. Therefore, it becomes imperative that employee efforts should be duly rewarded and expectations should be clarified.  Results on Employee Satisfaction survey too showed that dissatisfaction at work is related to a clear mismatch between employee-employer expectations. If employees don’t know exactly what their jobs entail and what the employer needs from them, they can’t perform to standard and their morale begins to drop.

Various factors such as organisational culture, pay and remuneration, flexibility, job satisfaction is known to highly influence the retention rate for any company. Therefore, recognising and providing enough reinforcement, direction and recognition to employees, is a must in-order for employees to grow and remain satisfied in their positions.

Money is a very important motivating factor that organizations cannot ignore. Nothing dashes employee enthusiasm more than a paltry raise. Giving a fair and just appraisal to every deserving employee is critical to ensure that employees don’t develop resentment.

Maccoby (1984) studied the job satisfaction of employees and supervisors of Bell System over a five-year period and found that the employees and supervisors who were satisfied with their pay and benefits, were motivated to work productively.

Offering stock options or other financial awards for employees who meet performance goals and stay for a predetermined time period, say, three or five years, encourages a sense of belonging for employees. Also creating a bonus structure where employees can earn an annual bonus if they meet pre-specified performance goals, also goes a long way in keeping motivation levels high. Rewarding employees on certain parameters like early to office or zero absenteeism, and insurance benefits are some other ways to reward employees monetarily.

Traditionally management theory and practice focused on extrinsic motivators such as monetary rewards only. While these are powerful motivators, by themselves they are no longer enough. Intrinsic rewards too are essential to employees in today’s environment (Thomas, 2000).

A subsequent research showed that trends redefining modern retention strategies go beyond the traditional remuneration and benefits package (Gale group, 2006).  An intrinsic factor in maintaining adequate levels of employee motivation is encouraging a healthy work-life balance.

Giving employees a week off every six months or a long weekend every now and then, allowing them to leave early on certain occasions, understanding that the person needs to switch off from work mode and respecting personal space are small things that go a long way to ensure people are rejuvenated and productive at work.

Another strong motivation which is intrinsically driven, is the desire to grow and excel. Learning and development opportunities are crucial for the retention of talented employees according to researchers Walker (2001), Arnold (2005) and Hytter (2007). While providing adequate opportunities for training and development to fulfil one’s role, providing opportunities whenever possible, for personal advancement, is critical to retention. Employees who see no clear future for themselves in an organisation get frustrated and walk away.

An organisation can help employees grow further ahead in their career by providing opportunities for cross-functional training, develop new skills and explore bigger roles within the organization. Statistical confirmation indicates that job training is an essential factor for personal (behavioural) and professional (technical) development (United States Department of Labour, 2009).  According to Eisen (2005) making training programs available to all employees correlate with a 70 percent increase in retention rates of employees.

Flexibility is also important for retaining employees of any age (Boomer Authority, 2009). Studies show that flexibility empowers people to facilitate a healthier balance between work and personal obligations, which appeals to all ages of employees – not just mums returning to work (Eyster, et al., 2008; Scheef ; Thielfodt, 2004). Perks such as flexitime and the option of telecommuting, go a long way to show employees they are valued.

Often times, some people find it difficult to voice resentment at work. When organisational heads give an ‘open door’ policy to voice concerns, resentment rarely becomes a reason to leave.  Holding regular meetings for employees to offer ideas and ask questions, without fear of judgement, having informal chats over a cup of coffee on topics that don’t involve client calls or upcoming presentations, adds a human warmth to an otherwise formal relationship.

In a nutshell, providing adequate remuneration, opportunities for training, flexibility and approachability by managers, goes a long way in helping organisations keep their best talent from defecting to the competition…

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