In April of 2021, over 4 million Americans quit their jobs. This unprecedented number was the highest on record since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began collecting data in 2002. The trend has held steady throughout the year, hovering around 4 million quits per month in May, June, and July.
The question employees are asking themselves is an obvious one: “Why would I stay at a job where I’m unhappy when I know now that things can be different—that they can be better?”
Employees are evaluating their jobs under the microscopic lens of a new, pandemic-induced perspective. And guess what? They’re finding that their careers are lacking. Meanwhile, employers are scrambling for ways to decrease turnover rates and ensure that their best employees stay happy right where they are.
The “great resignation” is undoubtedly upon us, and companies that fail to adapt to the shifting dynamics of today’s new remote and hybrid work world are at risk of losing their top talent.
Companies who are wondering how to retain employees long-term need to start prioritizing employee retention strategies that address common pain points in order to stop this rapid turnover in its tracks.
Build A World-Class Company Culture
Your company’s culture plays a critical role in whether employees feel welcomed and valued by their company and peers. It also impacts employee morale and—inevitably—employee turnover.
In fact, in a recent survey by Oxford Economics, 49% of respondents said they “would leave their current jobs for a lower-paying position at a company with better organizational culture.”
So how do you know whether you’re hitting the mark when it comes to cultivating a healthy culture in the workplace?
Be on the lookout for classic signs of an unhealthy corporate culture, such as gossip, office politics, low morale, and poorly defined company values (or values that leadership fails to exemplify).
Once you’ve identified any red flags, take these steps to nurture a healthier workplace.
1. Assess Your Current Company Culture
Before you can make headway on improving your company’s culture, you need a realistic idea of where things currently stand. Anonymous employee surveys are a great way to receive information directly from the source. Another option would be to outsource the task to a consultant, who can offer an unbiased perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of your company culture.
When assessing your culture, closely examine the following:
- Workplace diversity. Are there DEI initiatives currently in place within the organization? Are a multitude of ethnicities, genders, and viewpoints represented by your workforce?
- Professional development opportunities. Are there sufficient growth opportunities available within each department? Do employees have access to resources that allow them to hone existing skills or develop new ones?
- Employee morale. How would you rank morale among your management team? Among frontline workers?
- Value alignment. What are the core company values? Do they align with the reality of your current corporate culture?
- Employees’ opinions of leadership. Is your leadership team walking the walk or just talking the talk? How much faith (if any) do employees have in upper management’s ability to steer the company?
Individually, these areas may not seem critical. However, they are all important contributors to the overarching goal of a healthy and thriving workplace culture.
2. Identify Gaps You Can Fill To Improve Workplace Culture
Once you’ve gathered your data, take a hard look at the areas where your corporate culture falls short and identify how you might improve your culture based on your employees’ feedback.
Roll out changes based on prior survey input. Wait a few months after these changes go into effect, then survey employees again to see how they feel! The goal is to actively track your efforts to make sure that they are aligned with your team and headed in the direction of continuous improvement.
Remember that what workers value in company culture isn’t universal. International organizations should take special care to address the values and needs of employees across all the countries they operate in (more tips on that here). Remember to meet your employees where they are and encourage them to play an active role in bettering the company culture.
Improve Engagement By Helping Employees Find Purpose
Personal fulfillment matters—a lot. For many people, personal fulfillment is found—in no small part—in the workplace. It’s no surprise that employees who feel fulfilled at work are more engaged and more likely to stay with the company long-term.
By aligning employees’ interests with the organization’s larger purpose, companies can better engage (and retain) their employees.
Use Purpose Archetypes To Understand What Drives Employees
McKinsey claims companies can categorize employees into three primary purpose archetypes: “Free Spirit,” “Achiever,” and “Caregiver.”
Each archetype has vastly different purpose activators (things that fulfill them) and purpose blockers (things that irritate them) within the workplace. By understanding which category employees most closely relate to, company leaders can gain a better sense of employees’ ideal communication methods, motivators, and fit for specific roles.
Consider identifying purpose archetypes for existing employees and new hires by asking them a series of questions that match them with a particular archetype. Alternatively, you could present them with archetype descriptions and ask them to select the one they identify the most with.
Match Employees With Work That Aligns With Their Purpose
Once you know whether employees are “Achievers”, “Free Spirits”, or “Caregivers”, turn your eye to job compatibility.
Using a work management platform like Trello, managers can utilize Views to see the type of projects each employee spends their time on. These insights can help determine whether the tasks assigned to the employee align with the type of work their archetype typically finds most fulfilling. If there’s a disconnect, managers should meet with the employee to discuss how to reallocate their time or shift responsibilities to make their job a better fit.
Set Your Managers Up For Success
For many employees, the decision to stay with or leave a company boils down to the relationship they have with their manager. Bad managers drive even the best employees away. In fact, bad management was listed among Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report as one of the top three reasons why employees left their jobs.
On the flip side, good managers can help develop the future generation of leaders within the company. They undoubtedly have the potential to make employees better, but they can only do that if they’re given the guidance and tools they need to thrive as a boss.
Coach Managers On Soft Skills
The term “soft skills” relates to skills that aren’t necessarily job-specific or technical in nature. Soft skills are often more personality-focused, involving social skills or character traits that are transferable regardless of industry.
While there are many soft skills that are valuable within the workplace, some of the most desirable soft skills for people in management roles include:
- Empathy. The ability to understand and empathize with others is one of the most important traits a manager can have. Empathy strengthens relationship-building and enables managers to better understand, coach, and develop their direct reports.
- Adaptability. Change is inevitable, and no one can predict what tomorrow brings. Good managers need to be flexible and demonstrate an ability to adapt to changes within the organization, whether those relate to shifts in their own responsibilities or the needs of their employees.
- Creativity. Managers who can take a creative approach to problem-solving are better equipped to identify issues, provide fresh solutions, and guide their direct reports through challenges in the workplace—serving as both a resource and a companion.
- Attention to detail. On any given day, managers are fielding questions and juggling a number of projects, meetings, and deadlines. Being organized and attentive to detail ensures that even the smallest items don’t fall through the cracks.
Managers should take the initiative to improve their soft skills through training methods, such as direct mentorship, live workshops or roleplays, courses related to soft skill development, and peer learning.
If your company isn’t equipped to provide robust training in-house, consider incorporating an external training program. You can select a model that aligns with your company’s unique values and is designed specifically for managers.
Provide A Roadmap For Successful 1:1 Communication
1:1 meetings are exactly what they sound like—regular meetings between a manager and their direct report. They serve as a platform for open communication, allowing managers to answer questions, act as a resource, and offer solutions to any challenges employees may be facing.
1:1s are critical for strengthening the relationship between managers and their direct reports, but they can also be a source of anxiety—especially for new managers.
To avoid this, make sure to provide managers with a blueprint on how to approach 1:1 meetings. Include tips like:
- Pick a frequency, date, and time (then stick with it). We recommend starting with weekly meetings and blocking off the same date/time each week to ensure consistency.
- Always draft an agenda. Although 1:1 conversations should be fluid by nature, always have a few talking points or action items prepared. You can use 1:1 templates as a guide on how to structure your meetings or set up a dedicated 1:1 board so employees can add questions prior to the meeting.
- Lead with open-ended questions. Successful 1:1s require two-way communication! When possible, ask questions that are open-ended to help get the conversation flowing and encourage employees to share on a deeper level.
- Avoid status updates. While it can be tempting to use 1:1s as an opportunity to touch base on an outstanding project, that’s not their intended purpose. Focus on building a stronger personal connection with direct reports during 1:1s and opt to request status updates via email instead.
Provide Managers With Tools That Simplify The Management Process
One of the best ways to help your managers succeed is by providing them with beneficial tools that improve the management process. We recommend implementing a work management software like Trello, so managers can easily:
- Delegate tasks
- Get a bird’s-eye view of what everyone on the team is responsible for
- Track project statuses without the need for micromanaging
These tools will also help managers spend less time chasing employees down for updates and offer more time for coaching, nurturing, and developing the next generation of top talent.
Outline Clearly Defined Paths For Growth
According to Work Institute’s 2021 Retention Report, lack of opportunity for growth was the top reason employees left their jobs—and that shouldn’t come as a surprise! Growth opportunities show employees that they haven’t hit the ceiling in their careers. These opportunities encourage team members to work towards specific milestones and help them envision a future within the organization.
Unfortunately, many companies struggle to create and appropriately communicate the growth opportunities available to employees. Here’s how you can better approach growth within your organization.
Define Growth Paths With Job Leveling
Lattice classifies job leveling as “a system HR and People leaders use to define a job role, develop career pathways and internal mobility processes, and create clear levels or job hierarchies within an organization.”
By implementing a job-leveling structure, companies can define specific competency requirements for each role in their corporate hierarchy. From there, they’re able to communicate these requirements to all employees, so it’s clear what the employees need to do to proceed to the next level.
These guidelines can also minimize uncertainty around gender bias and unequal pay. If roles are tied to concrete obligations, employees have a solid foundation to argue for the compensation they deserve.
Track Goal Progression Using Trello
Once the corporate hierarchy is clear, managers can use 1:1 boards to track each direct report’s progress on individual goals, as well as outline the steps needed for personal growth development. These boards make it easy for employees to see what specific tasks must be accomplished to achieve career progression.
Embrace The New World Of Work-From-Home And Hybrid Teams
Regardless of company preference, remote work is here to stay. The ability to work remotely full-time (or in a hybrid situation) has quickly become a desirable perk for job hunters. On the flip side, businesses that only offer in-office jobs are facing employee turnover.
A Microsoft survey of over 30,000 employees found that “over 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue post-pandemic”, and in a recent ZipRecruiter survey of more than 2,500 job seekers, “60% of respondents said they would prefer to find a job where they can work from home.”
Companies that embrace remote or hybrid setups have a better chance of not only retaining their current employees, but also attracting new talent.
Prioritize Flexibility And Autonomy Within The Workplace
Flexibility in the workplace is quickly becoming one of the most valuable commodities. The traditional 9-to-5 workday is being slowly phased out as companies across the globe transition into hybrid or fully remote setups on a permanent basis.
To encourage this transition in your company, try defaulting to an asynchronous communication setup that accommodates employees from different time zones. When it comes to hourly obligations, consider adopting a production-based model of compensation—one that clearly defines workload expectations but gives employees the freedom to autonomously set their working hours and schedule.
Worried about client communications or meetings? Choose a select number of hours where schedules must overlap with traditional working hours to schedule a meeting.
Connect Employees Virtually
It’s hard to beat good old-fashioned face-to-face conversations, but technology has come a long way in recent years. Video conferencing apps and async communication platforms like Slack offer a variety of ways for companies to make meaningful, virtual interactions readily available to employees.
Help your employees connect by utilizing some of the following:
- Set up virtual “watercooler chats” where employees are randomly paired together for quick, casual conversations.
- Have Slack channels that are devoted to “fun” non-work topics, like pets or kids.
- Hold virtual “office hours” with members of your leadership team to help employees feel connected.
By taking steps to regularly connect employees with their peers, companies can help instill a sense of belonging—something that inevitably leads to higher retention and greater employee satisfaction.
Invest In A Company-Wide Work Management Software
It can be hard to keep things running smoothly when there are multiple people involved in projects and everyone is working from different locations. Regardless of whether employees work in-office or remotely, platforms like Trello make it easy to:
- Keep employees and clients in the loop. Set up automated updates through Slack, Jira, email, or other connected apps to instantly notify interested parties when a project is completed or requires review.
- Improve collaboration across departments. Employees can share files, log updates, and quickly add co-workers to cards for any projects that require collaboration.
- Track project statuses. Card labels and boards make it easy to identify exactly what stage a project is in—without having to chase down the person in charge!
- Improve workflow efficiency. Use Trello’s built-in automation tips or set up tailored no-code automations to eliminate manual, repetitive tasks and save your employees time.
It can be easy for projects to fall through the cracks when you’re juggling remote and in-office employees, but management tools like Trello help get everyone on the same page and eliminate workflow challenges.
Remember That Employee Retention Is A Long Game
The “Great Resignation” is in full swing, so there’s no denying that an immediate focus on retention is crucial. However, it’s important to remember that retention requires iteration. It’s not enough to revamp your processes now and then do nothing for 25 years. The needs of the workforce are constantly shifting, so retention requires consistent evaluation of what’s working and what’s not.
Companies that commit themselves to prioritizing employee retention now will not only find themselves better prepared to weather this current storm, but can also establish employee retention measures as a permanent part of their internal processes for the storms to come.
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