Employee Retention: A Crash Course in Key Principles

Employee Retention: A Crash Course in Key Principles
Reading Time: 3 minutes

By Jonathan Presson

There are few things better in business than reliable employees, and very few worse than losing those employees. A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that 3.5 million U.S. employees voluntarily leave their jobs every month in 2019. To put that in perspective, that is nearly the entire population of Arkansas. While some of these voluntary resignations may be unavoidable, it is likely that the majority are not. There are many reasons employees quit their jobs, even if the position itself would normally be considered a good position. Reasons ranging from unpredictability and poor communication to a need for better compensation and the seemingly ubiquitous “bad boss” dilemma. Moreover, lack of structural hierarchy, poor training programs, and workplace burnout also contribute to loss by attrition.

3.5 million U.S. employees voluntarily leave their jobs every month in 2019. That is nearly the entire population of Arkansas-  @BLS_gov #hr tell a friend

Related: A Summary of Recent Studies on Monetary and Non-monetary Compensation

How can we stem the tide of “quits” and bring longevity of employment back into the American work force? Over the next few articles we will be covering this in depth, but the bullet points are as follow.

  • Authority structures should be well defined, well structured, and well implemented.
    • A well-structured management environment creates a clear line of authority and creates clearly defined positions, allowing employees to know where they stand at work and what is expected of them.
  • Employees should be actively engaged and listened to.
    • Managers and HR who listen to and communicate with employees regularly create environments wherein employees feel engaged and cared for, thus leading to better retention.
  • Training programs should be well developed and regularly reassessed.
    • Training is paramount to producing the best work environment possible. Poorly trained employees are often frustrated at the apparently insurmountable odds of their tasks. Training allows employees to stand upon other’s hard work to become as proficient as possible as quickly as possible as well as allowing them to build off of previous ideas to create new innovations. Untrained employees find themselves reinventing the wheel at every turn, leading to poor morale and low productivity.
  • Changes should be incrementally implemented.
    • There are times when change is necessary, but it should be deliberate and well organized. Poorly planned transitions into new programs or systems can be more catastrophic than remaining a technological or systemic step behind your competitor.
  • Policy should be clearly written, clearly communicated, and carefully implemented.
    • Good and clearly communicated policy aids in creating an open and easily maneuvered workplace, increasing the predictability of the workplace, creating a sense of safety and security, and increasing productivity by reducing costly errors and unintended turnover.
  • Compensation, PTO, and other benefits should be well-defined and well managed.
    • A well-managed, well-defined, and well promoted compensation package can be one of your best productivity boosters and turnover reducers. In this age of explosively high employment rates, businesses find themselves competing heavily for the best talent, and compensation is the game which wins you the best employees.
  • Promotion should be carefully considered and that transition supported.
    • The opportunity for upward mobility is a highly beneficial aspect of employee retention, but promoting an employee to a position to which they are ill-suited, or simply promoting them too quickly may result in even worse employee retention than not promoting them at all. Careful deliberation and thorough vetting and training are key to a proper employee promotion. But even if the employee is the “perfect candidate,” a lack of support during the transitional period may result in the loss of that employee. Careful consideration in promoting, as in all things, is key to long-term success.

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