7 October, 2019

Employee Retention in the Modern Age

Just the other day, I met a senior HR executive at an HR Tech conference. He was one of the first delegates to visit our stall. He said with a warm smile – “I appreciate the work you guys are doing. After all, it’s very difficult to retain employees nowadays. No one is willing to be loyal to their companies!”

I smiled and nodded at him, feeling almost pitiful for him, who was lamenting the passing of a bygone era, one of the limited employment opportunities and doing the same work till his retirement, with no technology to replace his hard work. At least that’s how I think. I’m a millennial after all; a representative of a fickle generation that is willing to change companies frequently to serve self-interest.

Anyway, there was nothing remarkable or new about the statement he made, but in retrospect, I think that employee retention is surely a big problem. The issue of employee retention is older than we think.

Marissa Orr speaks to this fact in her latest book, Lean Out, where she says that employee turnover existed in the industrial age but was not a big problem than it is in today’s world. She explains that earlier, any human could act as a replacement for a factory worker, as the work was physical. However, in the current economy, the nature of work is research-based or an online program that gives you the knowledge, tools and uses your mental strength, which means the skill, experience or knowledge a worker acquires is difficult to pass on to another. With the rising demand for specialized skills, companies scurry to fill knowledge gaps that are often very hard to fill.

Employees today must use their mental strength, which they have a choice to exert, unlike a manual worker at a factory. Their output is less tangible, and the impact is not immediately visible. Employees who use their mental strength will only exert themselves if they are treated well. In other words, any modern business is highly impacted by how its employees are treated. And, the best way to treat them well is to recognize and appreciate their efforts. This solidifies the argument that employee appreciation, recognition and rewards are the deciding factors when it comes to retaining talent.

Multiple strategies are used to increase employee retention ranging from a competitive pay and benefits package and improving company infrastructure, to offering trainings for skill enhancement, etc. However, the most crucial aspect is scientifically recognizing employees for merit or good work. It has become the need of the hour for companies that are serious about retaining good talent. Here, are a few ways in which you can ensure your employee recognition and rewards system is serving your business:

  • Encourage employee recognition for not just achieving milestones or targets but each instance of behavior displayed that is in alignment with your company values and culture.

    As an example: If an employee regularly goes out of the way to help team members with their work, it is a sign of leadership and a cue to the management to keep such employees for the long-term. A report from TinyPulse based on a survey of 2,00,000+ employees across America, Europe, Australia, and Asia, said that “only a third of workers received recognition the last time they went the extra mile at work and just a quarter felt highly valued at work”. This glaring appreciation gap can be bridged with a conscious effort from the leadership by appreciating the subordinates’ work and by setting a benchmark for acceptable behavior in the workplace. The ultimate goal, of course, is to make appreciation and recognition a habit among every worker. Digital recognition platforms like Gratifi help make recognition simple, even fun and ensures org-wide visibility for the best performers.

  • Recognize with a thoughtful rewards and gifting system

    Recognition is not just tied to performance. There are many golden opportunities that organizations tend to miss or are under-utilized when it comes to building a meaningful relationship with their workforce. Work anniversaries, long service awards, or even personal life events like marriage anniversaries or the employee’s kids’ birthdays, are all opportunities to show your employees you care, with a simple email, a gift or an e-card, at the least.

  • Help them gain insight into workforce sentiment and intervene to boost employee motivation

    Employee pulse surveys are effective when it comes to gathering confidential data from specific departments or groups on a single platform. It helps get a 360-degree input of what employees think on a particular matter, which is processed in an unbiased method to bring the change. Most importantly, it makes employees feel like their opinion matters.

The essence of employee retention

In a nutshell, employees will want to work for an organization that appreciates their work and makes them feel like a part of their success story. Simon Sinek sums it up well in his new book, The Infinite Game, where he says that if companies expect employees to sacrifice the lure of a better opportunity elsewhere, they need to show employees that they are worth that sacrifice. Need I say more?