The days of retiring after 30 years with a gold watch are long gone. Our modern economy no longer works that way. Companies must innovate and stay nimble to prosper. Employees are no different – thanks to the rise of automation and other disruptive technologies, job stability isn't what it used to be. Workers must keep their skillsets updated to keep pace with an ever-evolving employment market.
Switching jobs and even careers may soon become the expected norm, as younger people enter the workforce with new ideas about job stability. A recent survey indicated that Millennials expect to keep a job for just two years, compared with five years for Generation X workers and seven years for Baby Boomers.
That's a fairly staggering evolution and not necessarily great news for managers tasked with retaining their best talent. In an era where job hopping is more common than ever, competition for the best workers has become incredibly intense.
So how can managers thwart the tide of history and market forces to retain their best talent? By creating a sound retention plan to reduce the cost of hiring and firing. Strategies like this can be learned through an advanced degree with a Human Resources Management focus.
Stay on Top of Compensation
There are many ways to show an employee how much they're valued. Yet nothing speaks as loudly as salary and other financial compensation. While it might sound like a net positive to have a key employee working for less than market value, in the long run it's a harmful situation. An underpaid employee is likely to explore their options or be more receptive to overtures from other firms.
It's critical to stay ahead of the curve. Those who wait for the employee to raise the issue may find they've waited themselves out of top talent. Competition is fierce for the best workers. That's why companies should always ensure their top performers have – at minimum – market-level compensation packages. Anything else invites poaching.
Offer Career Development Options
Today's workers are often thinking one step ahead even as they settle into a new job. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as both sides are upfront about their desires and act transparently.
Because many new workers are already anticipating their next career move, they are, by nature, intrigued by career development options. Companies that offer workers the chance to reach their full potential through enrichment programs or employee training strategies are attractive destinations.
Career development can serve as an alternative path for employees who otherwise might seek outside options. Not only does this help businesses retain employees, it also creates more well-rounded employees to retain.
It's critical to offer employees a clear growth path. The best employees want to be consistently challenged. They're always looking to effect positive change in their own career, whether through promotion, the cultivation of new skills or added responsibilities. It's important to ensure in-house candidates for promotion are given proper consideration and that employees can visualize their own growth trajectory.
Sweat the Small Stuff
It might seem obvious, but sometimes the smallest gestures can instill loyalty among staff. Not every business can afford to offer free gourmet meals and free transportation to work like Google. Yet it doesn't take huge amounts of money or time to make a positive difference to employees.
Handwritten birthday cards, free snacks in the lunch room, office parties and other small perks go a long way in establishing a collegial, happy environment. Workers who don't enjoy themselves in the office are unlikely to stick around when a better offer comes. Yet if all things else are equal, sometimes a small gesture of kindness and a happy work space might be enough to keep a treasured employee in the fold.
Solicit Feedback and Staff Engagement
It's a sad fact that talented employees often leave for reasons that could easily be addressed if the right channels of communication were open.
That's why it's critical to solicit feedback whenever possible. Find out what employees love about the company and what they find problematic. If there's considerable overlap in one area, that's a good indicator that there's an issue that needs to be addressed. Talking with HR management is also a great way to learn more about employees' feelings.
Many companies hold exit interviews with employees, but a "stay interview" can be equally illuminating in providing the opportunity to help retain good workers. By asking long-term employees why they've stayed and discovering what may cause other employees to leave, managers can make adjustments to promote a more stable and employee friendly workplace.
Keeping great employees isn't easy. It's an ongoing battle that requires plenty of vigilance. Yet by exercising some smart retention tactics, companies can keep their best workers longer, while helping them develop the career skills they'll need should they eventually move on.
That's a winning strategy for both parties.