As Baby Boomers enter into retirement, employers are seeing that there are not enough individuals to backfill many of the roles the Baby Boomers filled within their organizations. As such, it is more critical than ever that employers review their employee turnover rate to determine if they are successful at retaining their internal employee talent or not. The ability to maintain employees is called employee retention. With a vast variety of employment opportunities becoming available, we have entered a highly competitive market where employers will do just about anything to attract and retain talent. Employers should be asking themselves some important questions. What makes them attractive to new employees? What can they do to encourage current employees to stay with their organization? What valuable lessons and/or feedback can they take away from employees who left their organization? I will touch on each of these three questions below.
First, has your organization made a calculated effort to understand if they are attractive to new talent? In order to effectively answer this question, I believe you need to first understand “who” you are targeting to join your organization. Our firm, for example, has experienced much success when hiring students for our internship program. Following successful completion of the internship program, it is our intent to make regular employment offers to students so that they return to our firm following completion of their schooling. As such, we put a great deal of time and effort into recruiting students on college campuses for our internship program. Not only do we stay close to college faculty throughout the year, we frequently poll current and former internship participants to understand what is important to them, what their experiences were like spending time with us, what made our organization more attractive than another, what they would like to see us do differently, etc. Asking the individuals that we are targeting to join our team these important questions has given us the ability to improve processes, create new programs, promote our unique benefits package, etc. which in turn has positioned us as an employer of choice. Whether you are recruiting college interns similar to our firm or experienced candidate talent to join your team, it is worth the extra effort to ensure that you are positioning your organization in a manner that is attractive to future talent. You won’t know what makes you attractive unless you ensure you are asking questions and continually seeking ways to improve your employment brand.
Next, what can your organization do to encourage current employees to stay with your organization? While you were successful in attracting these individuals to work for you initially, the work shouldn’t end there. As I mentioned prior, there are plenty of employment opportunities available in the present job market. As such, it is reasonable to assume that your employees are being contacted by prospective employers and/or recruitment agencies regarding other employment opportunities. As such, it is critical that you keep the lines of communication open with your existing team members. How can this be helpful? It will aid in ensuring that the members of your team have what they need to be successful within your organization as you can be pivotal in providing them with opportunities for continued learning and development and in providing them with the flexibility they need to maintain work-life balance. It all sounds fairly reasonable though the trick is ensuring that the lines of communication are continually flowing. How can an organization ensure it is staying close to employees and continuing to be an attractive place to work? Our firm conducts an annual employee survey where employees are polled on a number of items regarding the workplace environment, flexibility, pay, benefits, their supervisor, etc. Following the completion of the survey each year, results are analyzed, meetings are held with employees to discuss feedback and action plans are created to address items of opportunity. It is also a time to acknowledge and applaud the areas where we are succeeding. Our firm has been nominated as a “Top Workplace” for two years in a row by our employees which is a testament to the attractive work environment we provide to our team. Communication doesn’t end with an annual employee survey, however, as frequent communication is critical. Supervisors are encouraged to meet with their direct reports consistently be it weekly, bi-weekly, etc. so that both parties have the information they need to support each other and ensure continued success. It is very important to our firm that we spend a significant amount of time training and developing, from interns all the way up to partners. This includes a commitment to ensuring each individual has an annual development plan in place to help them progress to the next level in their career. Our firm also hosts annual all-employee meetings throughout the year where updates are shared, successes are celebrated and questions are asked in an open setting to the leader of our firm. Additionally, we sponsor monthly events for the employees which has proven to be an invaluable way to bring people together outside of work to bridge relationships.
Finally, what valuable lessons can we learn from employees who have elected to leave our organization? When an employee gives notice that they are leaving the company, this is an opportunity for you as the employer to gain a better understanding of their experience with you as their employer. This could be an avenue for you to learn more about what works, what doesn’t, what could be improved, etc. A useful avenue in having this dialogue with an outgoing employee is in an exit interview. Exit interviews are most often held with the outgoing employee and a member of the organization’s human resources team on the employee’s last day of employment. Exit interview questionnaires should have a standardized listing of questions that are asked to ongoing employees of the organization. By using the same questions and reviewing the data over time across the organization, within departments, etc. you will have a strong pool of data available to pull from. Feedback from these meetings may give the organization an opportunity to recognize the areas and processes that are working well, supervisors who are respected amongst their teams, etc. On the contrary, this feedback may also make the organization aware of broken processes and procedures, poor management decisions, etc. Either way, the outgoing employee may have valuable feedback which could be utilized to make internal organizational improvements, therefore, it is wise to host an exit interview in a professional manner that promotes open and honest dialogue with the outgoing employee on or close to their last day of employment.
In closing, an organization’s employee retention will continue to be a challenge as we see more Baby Boomers retire leaving a talent gap in the workforce. As such, it is critical that organizations promote themselves in a way that is attractive to future talent. An employer’s job doesn’t stop once employees are in the door as ongoing communication and support of existing employees will be crucial in maintaining talent due to the heightened levels of competition for employee talent in today’s workforce. It is also important to consider outgoing employees’ feedback as an additional source of information to aid your organization in making improvements which will in turn help retain your existing workforce.
If you have any questions about employee retention or would like to discuss further, you are welcome to contact me directly at (952) 476-7103 or Rachael_Myers@copelandbuhl.com.