It’s the question employers are constantly asking: How do I get my employees to stay for the long term?
Employee retention is one of the top concerns for companies right now, driven by three primary factors:
- A highly competitive labor market
- An uncertain economy marked by sky-high inflation that has nervous employees looking elsewhere for better pay and benefits and greater job security
- Lingering impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as employees simply seeking a change in role or industry, prioritizing work-life balance and looking to maintain workplace flexibility (also known as The Great Resignation)
To win the war for talent and encourage employees to stay put at your workplace, you need a thoughtful and effective employee retention strategy.
There are lots of tips out there for guiding managers in retaining their direct reports. But did you realize that your human resources (HR) team could be one of your greatest assets in keeping employees around?
Here are eight ways that your organization’s HR personnel can have a direct, positive impact on your employee retention strategy and serve as a valuable partner alongside management.
1. Hiring practices
If you want to have talented, productive employees who remain with your workplace for the long term, it’s incredibly important that you hire the right people for the right job in the first place.
This goes beyond a candidate checking all the boxes for education, experience and technical capabilities. It’s also about finding the right cultural fit for your organization.
Recruiting professionals on your HR team can help your company:
- Source candidates who align with both job requirements and organizational values and culture.
- Guide candidates through the application process and deliver an excellent first impression of your company.
- Ask the right interview questions aimed at determining whether a candidate is the optimal hire.
This can shield your company from the worst impacts of poor hiring decisions. After all, it’s time consuming and costly to deal with employee turnover and start the recruiting process all over again from scratch because you hired the wrong person. With HR’s hiring expertise and resources, hopefully you can hire once and hire right.
A new employee’s first few days and weeks at a company are critical. During this time, employees can either get started on the right foot and establish a course for success, or they start to feel lost, overwhelmed or excluded – and left thinking they made a mistake in joining your company. These types of negative thoughts will only fester and grow over time.
- Orient new employees into their new role and initiate training
- Introduce new employees to their team members and management
- Immerse employees into the company mission, vision, values and culture
- Infuse employees with a sense of belonging and purpose
- Make sure that employees are aware of and understand everything available to them via your company’s benefits package (the “total rewards compensation” that includes medical insurance, 401(k) retirement plans, paid time off, employee assistance programs and wellness programs, for example)
- Explain your organization’s employee value proposition
In this way, HR is extremely important in helping employees to:
- Feel good about being in your workplace
- Start their tenure on a warm, positive note
- Get all their questions answered and reduce any misunderstandings or unknowns
3. Compensation and benefits
When employees leave a company, it’s often in search of better pay and benefits. That’s why employers should be proactive about not only confirming that employees are paid fairly, but also maintaining their competitiveness.
Compensation and benefits professionals on your HR team can establish a reliable, timely payroll process, as well as:
- Engage in compensation benchmarking, which is regular, ongoing research, data gathering and analysis to verify whether your company’s compensation aligns with industry standards, your competitors and local market rates
- Assist management in creating a compensation strategy – or at least help to inform it
- Refine salary ranges for positions and effectively promote this information to job candidates
- Maintain pay equity
- Avoid pay compression
- Help to determine the content of benefits packages
- Help to build employee bonus programs
- Construct rewards and recognition systems for employees
4. Training and development
To feel comfortable staying with a company for the long haul, employees want to know that they have a viable career path there, with opportunities for internal mobility and continual learning and development of their skills.
In this arena, the HR team can work with management and bolster their efforts by:
- Overseeing training curricula
- Recommending or requiring specific training
- Identifying future leaders and high performers who may be suitable for promotions
- Developing a people strategy to plan for the future
- Aiding in succession planning
5. Employee experience
A positive work environment, or employee experience, can make or break an employee’s tenure. When we refer to “employee experience,” we’re talking about what it’s like to work at your company day to day. For example:
- How do people work?
- How do colleagues interact with each other?
- How accessible is HR and management?
- Are company values actively modeled from the top down?
- Do people feel comfortable speaking up and being honest?
Everyone in an organization, from the C-suite to entry-level employees, bears responsibility for upholding the organization’s culture and values. But the HR team can be a strategic partner to leadership in maintaining a desirable work environment.
Specifically, HR personnel can:
- Communicate transparently with employees.
- Adopt an open-door policy and make it clear to employees that they can take their concerns and complaints to HR any time without fear of retaliation – and trust that HR will address these issues appropriately.
Additionally, your HR team can make it easy and convenient for employees to access their benefits and conduct HR-related tasks online via a self-service portal. In this way, HR can reduce points of friction that used to exist in an employee’s day.
6. HR compliance
Most people want to feel safe and valued in their workplace and be affiliated with a reputable organization held to high standards and values.
Your HR team can be very effective in retaining employees if they:
- Ensure that your company complies with all employment laws
- Establish companywide training around compliance topics, as well as ethics and values
- Demonstrate caring for employee safety and wellbeing
- Enforce a zero-tolerance policy for violations such as discrimination and harassment
- Fully investigate all allegations of HR-related noncompliance or policy violations, and take swift action when needed
7. Employee feedback
Once you conduct an exit interview with an employee, it’s too late. Sure, you can obtain some constructive feedback about your workplace that you can put to use in the future, but you’ve already lost that employee.
If only you could know in advance of the issues that an employee has with your company before they decide to leave, right? As it turns out, you can.
Your HR team can help you keep a pulse on your workforce by distributing employee surveys in regular intervals to gather feedback about the company and then interpret the data. Armed with this intelligence, HR professionals can work with company leadership to identify potential problems or opportunities for improvement, and make plans for how to move forward and effect change.
On the flip side, your HR team can also conduct stay interviews with tenured, high-performing employees to discover what’s working well in boosting employee morale and engagement and what your company should do more.
8. People analytics
Your efforts to understand the employee mindset and the drivers behind resignation decisions don’t have to be limited to surveys and interviews. Many companies now leverage HR technology, data analytics and artificial intelligence to help them know their workforce on a deeper and more proactive level.
People analytics is the practice of collecting and studying workforce data to uncover trends and insights that can help HR teams pinpoint:
- Which employees are at highest risk of leaving
- Why they might leave
- The actions you can take to persuade them to stay
Don’t have significant HR resources?
If your company lacks dedicated HR personnel or has a small HR team in need of support, a professional employer organization (PEO) can step in to enhance your employee retention strategy. Here are a few examples of how a PEO, specifically, can help:
- Providing access to high-quality benefits and perks typically associated with large companies for small to midsize businesses – at competitive pricing
- Delivering expert guidance around culture, training, leadership development, team building, succession planning, benefits and compensation analysis – to name just a few topics
- Implementing employee surveys and interviews
- Offering best-practice guidance on HR-related compliance
- Establishing employee recognition programs
- Granting access to HR technology that enables more advanced analytics
Summing it all up
Employee retention is a significant challenge facing many employers today due to the complex work landscape. Among their many valuable benefits, in-house HR teams and PEOs play an important role in directly impacting some of the major factors influencing employees’ decisions to leave or stay, as well as supporting management in deploying a successful employee retention strategy.
Want to learn more about obtaining HR support to complement your existing efforts to improve employee retention? Download our free magazine, The Insperity guide to HR outsourcing.