When we discuss talent retention, we usually do so under a wider banner: talent management. Put simply, talent management is the process of hiring, developing, and retaining a workforce, and ensuring that they remain competitive and professionally fulfilled at each stage of their internal trajectory. The following four drivers for retaining talent are therefore best understood as the factors that have the largest impact on employees at each stage of this lifecycle. Simultaneously, we’ll explain how monitoring and managing engagement can help in each instance.
1. Recognition and Reward
Without a sense of recognition or the acknowledgement of the potential for increased reward, retaining employees will always be difficult. The basis of the employee value proposition is that an employee will perform their working duties in exchange for their salary and benefits. If one side of that equation isn’t being upheld, it’s natural that the other side would slip as well.
Recognition and reward can take many forms, whether it’s straightforward remuneration or providing employees with the opportunity to nominate members of their team and other colleagues for recognition. Employees don’t just want to be paid more, they want to feel like valued members of the team, with oversight on tangible impacts they’re having on the success of the business. If recognition only comes from an employee’s salary, then it’s likely your employees will still feel overlooked. Make space in team meetings and company all-hands to champion individual successes.
Since it can often be difficult to have a conversation around pay or recognition, employee engagement surveys are very valuable. Not only do automated questions remove the potential awkwardness of a team leader asking directly, it also enables employees to speak up in a space that’s confidential and free of judgment. Furthermore, it provides people higher up the chain to have visibility where they might not otherwise, increasing the likelihood of meaningful action taking place.
2. Work-Life Balance
If there’s one conversation that’s increased in volume and intensity as a result of more remote work during the pandemic, it’s work-life balance. A 2021 study by Buffer on remote work found that 96% of those who started working remotely as a result of COVID-19 would like to work remotely (at least some of the time) for the rest of their careers. That figure was 99% for those who worked remotely prior to 2019. Not only did people reconsider their personal and professional values in the face of a global period of uncertainty, but many were also able to experience the benefits of working from home for the first time. That change in attitude is here to stay.
What this shift in working behaviors has fundamentally challenged is the idea that employees need to be on-site to be productive or that company culture is somehow diluted when employees take a flexible approach to work. Many employees have seen that they no longer need to be limited by the hours of a traditional workweek, especially when it involves extended commutes and separation from their home lives and families. Companies that restrict the working life of their people without reasonable justification risk alienating existing employees and dissuading prospective ones.
Once again, an engagement survey can help clarify exactly what your employees want, giving you a better overview of how those needs differ across the organization. Perhaps a specific team works best in person, while another is separated across multiple countries, removing the necessity for them to be in the office as much. Without asking your employees how they feel about remote work and their working hours, your strategy will amount to conjecture.
3. Professional Growth
One of the strongest correlates with high turnover is a lack of professional growth. Workday’s “Employee Expectations Report 2022” found that growth-related comments represented 8% of all employee comments in 2021—a 2% increase compared to 2020. If employees don’t see a path forward for themselves at your company, they’ll likely begin to see their existing work as fruitless and lacking direction. That frustration then leads to further disengagement, which in turn leads to employees looking for opportunities elsewhere. If you believe in your people, you need to show them that they have a future at your company.
While promotions are an inevitable part of professional growth and development plans, there’s far more you can do to make your employees feel valued. Career growth can take many different forms, from an employee learning a new skill to expand their responsibilities in their existing role to providing opportunities for cross-departmental collaboration. Job satisfaction is far more important when it comes to retention than dangling the prospect of a future promotion, so ensure that your employees feel fulfilled, challenged, and heard in their day-to-day work.
The best way to discover what an employee wants from their professional growth is to simply ask. At Workday, we believe that an employee should always take the reins of their own career growth, but doing so still involves giving them an opportunity to speak up about their prospective career desires. Not only does a confidential engagement platform enable employees to speak up about any specific needs they may feel uncomfortable raising directly with their team lead—such as training and development that may prompt a department change—it also gives managers oversight on who is comfortable with their existing workload and who’s looking for the next step forward.
4. Belonging and Diversity
Everyone deserves to work at a company where they feel a sense of belonging. A study by McKinsey found that 26% of women who perceived themselves as the only one of their demographic were considering leaving their work, compared to 17% of women who were well represented. If employees don’t feel comfortable and well represented at work, they’re not likely to stay for long.
Creating a truly diverse organization requires an understanding of the different types of diversity in the workplace. Your diversity initiatives are only as good as the data you’ve gathered. By providing more self-reporting options, you gain more nuanced metrics and indicate intuitively to employees that all facets of their backgrounds matter. Without an intersectional approach, people from underrepresented backgrounds can feel that their identity is being restricted to one reductive categorization.
The benefits of a company culture that embeds belonging and diversity at its core are manifold, but the impacts on engagement are particularly notable. Not only does a sense of belonging increase psychological safety among employees, therefore encouraging them to speak up and provide feedback more consistently, it also consolidates an employee’s relationship with the wider business, improving their overall engagement in the workplace. The value of a sincerely inclusive work environment can’t be overstated when it comes to retention.