How To Create an Employee Retention Program


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You find them, you hire them, you train them, they’re just hitting their stride – and then, they leave.

Or maybe they’ve been with you for a few years, and have become a valuable part of the team – and now they just came into your office to tell you – that they’re leaving.

I know, building and maintaining a team can be frustrating at times – right?

That’s why it’s important to have a good recruiting strategy – so you can get the right people in the right seat.

But it’s equally important (maybe even more so) to have a good, solid retention strategy.  After all – once you get them, you want a good shot at keeping them.

But, to even start development on a retention strategy or program, you need to first understand why team members leave.  And no, surprisingly, most of the time it’s not for money.  Oh sure, in this current climate (I’m recording this episode in early 2023) the job market is wild with stories of the salaries arms race between companies.

And yes, that does impact your ability to retain talent.  But, you might be surprised to know that still (and this has been the case for quite a few years now), team members leave mostly because they aren’t fulfilled in the work; or they have an awful manager, or they don’t see any development – all things related to their experience of working for you vs. how much you’re paying.

So, understanding why team members choose to leave your company, is a crucial piece of being able to address it.  So, here are a few good ways to find out.

  • Exit Interviews: Conducting exit interviews with departing team members can give you valuable insights into the reasons they’re leaving. It can be a face-to-face interview (although that can complicate getting candid responses) or an online survey. Make sure to ask open-ended questions that allow for detailed feedback.
  • Team member Surveys: Regular team member surveys can help you identify issues or concerns that team members may have with their job, management, or the company culture. They can include questions about career development opportunities, communication, and management. But be careful with this option – remember, when you ask for feedback, it’ll do more harm than good if you don’t act on the feedback, and then communicate what actions you took. Trust me, people hate it when they’re left feeling like they’re yelling into a black hole.  So be prepared to be, transparently, responsive.
  • Stay Interviews: Stay interviews are a way to gather feedback from current team members on why they stay with the company. Now, this kind of interview will give you great insights into what’s working well and what can be improved.
  • Analyze the Data: Make it a habit to analyze the data on team member turnover such as turnover rate, tenure, and reasons for leaving (your HR pro can definitely help with this). Data will show you patterns and trends that can help inform your retention strategy.

Now, once you have a clear understanding of why team members are leaving, you can take steps to address those issues.

remember, when you ask for feedback, it’ll do more harm than good if you don’t act on the feedback, and then communicate what actions you took.

Trust me, people hate it when they’re left feeling like they’re yelling into a black hole.  So be prepared to be, transparently, responsive.”

For example, if you find that career development is a pain-point, try regular performance reviews, create opportunities for training and advancement, and beef up the communication about what’s expected of team members and how they can progress within the company.

In fact, I know one colleague that meets with all new hires in the first few months, and together they create a career roadmap – it outlines what milestones have to be met to advance.  And then when they meet to discuss performance, they also look at the roadmap to see how things are progressing.

Now, before you break out in a cold sweat of “I can’t guarantee someone they‘ll be promoted” – keep in mind this is just a ‘baseline requirement’ roadmap.  It shows the minimum level of skill or experience that’s required for the next step.  But it’s also made clear (and in fact, outlined in writing on the roadmap document) that this is not a guarantee of promotion to any position, as a variety of factors impact position changes – including company performance, company need etc.

So, just remember, you can feel free (and I think you should) to put the proper disclaimer in there – but with that disclaimer, I think a roadmap is a great visual for the team member to see what’s possible.

And, it gives your team members a sense of purpose and direction, which can help to increase retention

If team members are concerned about poor management – well that’s a clear call for you to provide management training.  Boost the tools in your manager’s toolbelt.  After all, the manager is the most frequent touchpoint any team member will have with the company – and generally as goes their relationship with their manager, so goes their relationship with the company.  So, it’s critical that your managers are good at their job – managing people.

Another tactic you can deploy is to establish an open-door policy – where team members feel comfortable coming to you with any concerns or feedback they may have.  Again, remember that feeling heard is often a primary issue for team members.

So, one of your employees just told you that she’s pregnant.  Feeling overwhelmed, with no idea where to start?  After all, HR just got dumped on your plate.  It’s not your zone of genius, and you don’t want it to be.

Managing California Leave is your answer.  It’s an easy to understand course, that explains what the various leave programs are – without the HR gobbledy gook.  And it gives you a clear step by step guide that walks you through the process of putting someone on leave

Yep, you get all the forms, notices and documents too.  Everything you need to do it right and do it fast.  After all, you don’t have all day – you have other things to do!

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Next comes the big one – company culture.  Now I know we throw around the phrase ‘company culture’ all the time – but to make the concept a bit easier, just think of it as the work environment.  Is there some sense of community where team members feel connected to one another.

Are they recognized and rewarded by the company – and what about their peers?  You could even carve out a section of your weekly team meeting for team members to give shout-outs to one another.  Trust me, it goes a long way on the recognition front, as well as building team community.

How about open communication – is it a thing that’s valued in your company?  I’ll tell you –  it helps promotes transparency and trust between team members and company management.

And don’t forget to support your team member’s well being – that’s an important aspect of work culture.  Things like offering employee assistance programs, mental health support, promoting physical activity and healthy eating, and fostering a culture of self-care and respect for the team member’s personal lives.  You’ll find those things are more important than ever before.

And finally, make it all a continuous improvement feedback loop.  Employee retention isn’t a one-time task.  It’s important to always be on the lookout for ways to improve the employee experience

Track your progress, act on the feedback you’re given, and involve your team members in the process (their buy-in and ownership gives the whole thing a much better chance of success).

So, take a breath, stay current and be open to change.  Continuously gathering feedback and making changes to your retention strategy will help it stay effective over time, and help you hang on to your star performers.

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