Skip to main content

Everything You Wanted to Know About Retention but Were Afraid to Ask


Just so you don’t have to ask, here’s what you can do to maximize retention.

There are several factors that go in to an employee’s decision to leave their employer – the economy, compensation, work environment, personal aspirations, and so on. You may never control every aspect of why an employee stays with or leaves a company, but you are able to affect how engaged they are while you have them, and hopefully keep them around for as long as possible.

Retention’s Greatest Ally

Engagement is turnover’s arch nemesis and retention’s greatest ally. Its goal is to keep employees genuinely connected with their jobs so they can tune everything else out, set roots, and focus on their work. Currently only around 32 percent of U.S. workers are engaged. Worldwide that number drops to around 13 percent. But if it were easy, everyone would be doing it well. To retain employees, you must genuinely engage them, and that’s always easier said than done.

Just so you don’t have to ask, here’s what you can do to maximize retention:

  • Be nice – Say please and thank you. Help out when the going gets tough. Don’t judge too quickly or too harshly. Listen first. Observe the Golden Rule. People like working for nice people, not mean ones.
  • Be consistent – Keep your promises and follow through on them day in, day out. Make a genuine effort to build trust. Trust can take a long time to achieve, but a healthy sense of trust between employee and employer has been shown to dramatically reduce voluntary turnover.
  • Be supportive – There is a strong correlation between recognition and retention, so make appreciation a priority in the culture. Give credit where credit is due. Get excited about employee achievements. Have a multilayered recognition program that reaches all of your employees with varied options for recognizing each other.
  • Emphasize the manager-employee relationship – Managers are notoriously undertrained. But an employee’s relationship with their direct supervisor is a top driver of engagement, and also a top reason why they will decide to leave. So make sure they have training in things like emotional intelligence, change management, and communications.
  • Offer competitive salary/benefits – If the pay isn’t there, the employee has even more of an incentive to leave. Compensation is a top driver of employee attraction, retention, and sustainable engagement, so track and compare respective salaries and benefits in your market and stay competitive.
  • Have a few unusual perks – Do something a little out of the ordinary to make your workplace stand out. Things like game tournaments, an onsite green space, or regular company outings can build teamwork skills, reduce stress levels, and give your organization more character to latch on to.

Big Choices

You may not retain every employee you wish to keep, but staying focused on engagement and creating memorable experiences lets them know how much you care. When employees know how much you care, they are more apt to give three weeks’ notice and have the potential to turn into valuable rehires or connections down the road. Successful engagement requires long-term planning. Choosing whether to stay or leave a job is a huge choice for people, so the investment in retaining them should be equally as large.