How to Retain Employees in the “New Norm.”

A small medical equipment manufacturer had a great deal riding on the completion of their next-gen medical device.  Engineers, technicians, and marketers were stressed and exhausted from setbacks and long hours.  Yet, no one dropped offline or stopped showing up for work.  Why?  Because this company had worked hard to develop a culture that resembled a family more than a workplace.  Management recognized and responded to individual needs and punctuated each day with tangible shows of gratitude and appreciation. 

Have you wondered how you can keep employees and new hires happy despite external interference like COVID-19, competitive poaching, and detachment syndrome from remote work? 

Why people “stick”

According to a 2019 Glassdoor survey of 5,000 people over four countries, 77% said they would stay at a lower-paying job if they loved the company culture, mission, and values.  But there is another subset of employees who care less about culture but prioritize proximity to home, ability to telecommute, and good benefits.  They may stay because they have friends at work or it is too much effort to find another job.  In either case, it is essential to reinforce the individual factors that keep people coming to work.

Take new hires.  An all too familiar story in this ultra-competitive recruiting environment is the newly hired star whose length of service turned out to be three weeks because he got a better offer.  With an average cost-to-hire of $4,129 and a 19% turnover rate (SHRM) at a time when businesses can least absorb the cost, new-hire stickiness is more critical than ever.  

So what are some other ways that you can reinforce and support a company culture guaranteed to entice new and old employees to stick around wherever they may be working?  Two of the most important values to consider are recognition and relationship.  

See me 

Over 38% of the workforce today is Millennial, or Gen Z.   These generations did not have “children should be seen and not heard” upbringings like Baby Boomers.  Instead, they want to be recognized for their contributions and know that advancement is a reward for hard work.  They also prefer a more direct and authentic two-way communication style.  Sharing their ideas and opinions with others helps them feel more connected.  Here are some more things to consider:

  • Retention factors for new hires include a structured onboarding program (SHRM), the promise of training that will add to their skills portfolio, and an ability to make meaningful connections with others and your culture. 
  • Individualize the tools and skills they will need to excel (“see me”).  
  • Articulate work and project goals and timeline expectations without ambiguity.
  • Today’s employees value work-life balance or working smarter, not harder.  Avoid delaying their requests for tools and training without a reasonable explanation.
  • Create an environment that encourages self-motivation.  Challenge people individually but also collectively to solve problems.  Reward individuals for growth and achievement and celebrate teams for their mindful collaboration and problem-solving.    
  • Give specific feedback with a focus that is positive and encouraging, but don’t be patronizing.  Trust is not developed by insincerity.  Keep standards high and don’t overlook constructive criticism but give clear guidance and boundaries with a vision of what success looks like. 

Fun and Appreciation

Finally, work should be fun.  Celebrations and awards are more meaningful in person, but fortunately, Generation Y grew up in the digital age eager for the next hot video game, TikTok trend, and Instagram sensation.  

To bring remote teams together in a fun and exciting way, take advantage of new digital offerings for online activities like scavenger hunts, team trivia, online dance parties, and interactive workshops.  Or try a virtual movie night, karaoke, or Zoom coffee hour.  

As more offices open, consider safer outdoor team building activities:

  • Plan games like bocci, volleyball, or Giant Jenga at a local park.  Be sure to bring equipment disinfectant and hand sanitizer.  
  • Have a staff meeting picnic with individual boxed lunches on the corporate lawn.
  • If you have a waterway nearby, reward a team effort by renting kayaks and a guide for an afternoon.

Most important to retention is your ability to help your employees feel recognized and genuinely essential to your success!