FROM HYGIENE TO CULTURE: INTRODUCING 10 RETENTION TIPS TO KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES ONBOARD AND ENGAGED

Career Blog on 10 Retention Strategies for organisations

Just because we’re all sick of hearing about an issue doesn’t mean we should ignore it. In fact, once a critical idea hits the mainstream, you’re probably already behind the eight ball if you haven’t dealt with it.

The February 2022 issue of Australia’s HRM Magazine focuses on retention strategies to help organisations combat what is being called The Great Resignation. It highlights recent research analysing the sentiment of 1800 workers by PwC that found 38 percent of Australians are considering resigning in the next 12 months.

This will cut across every industry and occupation,’ says Neal Woolrich, HR Advisory Director at Gartner. ‘There’s simply no ignoring it.’

The HRM article has some useful advice. However, you need to dig deeper to really make a difference.

The famous Herzberg Hygiene Factors theorises that employee satisfaction depends on ‘hygiene’ issues and ‘motivators’. Once hygiene issues have been addressed, Herzberg said, it is actually the motivators that create satisfaction among employees.

If you want to retain and motivate key staff in the current climate, you need to master both aspects.

What employees are REALLY saying

Change, as we all know, can be difficult. So, before you muck around with your status quo, it makes sense to listen to real feedback. I’ve accessed employee responses taken from more than 40 international surveys and synthesised them into 10 critical retention factors, grouped under Herzberg’s headings: Motivators and Hygiene Factors.

Don’t forget, the more senior your role, the more you are expected to effect change. It’s what you get paid to do. This international feedback slightly pre-dates Covid. So, if these issues were important back then, imagine how much more seriously they need to be taken now! It’s time to get your skates on and get with the groove.

Deal with the Dissatisfiers: HYGIENE FACTORS

  1. PAY RATES

Money helps sustain your employees’ personal life and drives many of their choices outside of work. If their salary affects their stability in some way, that’s going to impact their productivity. That means their salary is directly linked to the success of your organisation.

Here’s the stats:

  • 35% of Millennials were more likely than any other generation to leave for a better paying job, compared to 19% of Gen X and 9% of Baby Boomers (Bankrate)
  • 25% of employees reported leaving a previous job because they felt underpaid (Hibob)
  • 58% of workers said money is the main driver in choosing their work, followed by benefits and vacation packages (Reflektive)

Tip #1.
Audit your pay rates against market competitors. If you can afford it, tap into job assessment experts such as Mercer or Hays. If that’s not possible, do some basic research using recruitment sites like Seek.com.au. If you’re lagging behind, take action. Implement either an immediate or a staged increase in pay. If you can’t afford this, work with your employees on improving their benefits. Many people might value additional annual leave, for example, if a pay rise is not possible.

  1. BAD MANAGERS & POOR PERFORMERS

Everyone in your organisation knows who these people are. At a minimum, if you don’t address it, you lose credibility as a leader. At worst, you drastically and negatively affect productivity, morale and retention.

Here’s the stats:

  • Companies with highly rated management teams have greater retention rates (LinkedIn)
  • Six out of ten employees say managers are the reason they left their organizations (SHRM)
  • 38% of younger employees ages 18-25 and 34% of employees ages 51-55 were most likely to quit their job because of a co-worker (Comparably)

Tip #2.
Accept that it can take several months of hard work to see a behaviour improvement or to exit an employee from your organisation.  Start with worst culprits, then gradually increase your standards so that you have fewer and fewer employees who drag you down.

  1. PRODUCTIVITY

Workers are interrupted an average of 13.9 times per day, and scientific study indicates it can take more than 20 minutes after an interruption to return to the original task. (Workfront).

Here’s the stats:

  • Workers’ top distractions at work for lowering productivity were chatty and social co-workers, office noise, unnecessary meetings and conference calls, cell phone use, and unnecessary emails (Accountemps)
  • 62% of global workers chose wasteful meetings as the number one thing in the way of getting work done, with excessive emails coming in second at 53% (Workfront)
  • Wasteful meetings can make up nearly 10% of an average work week (Workfront)

Tip #3.
Investigate Best Practice suggestions to improve productivity. Choose the Top 10. Have a timeline to gradually introduce all of them. Start with quick wins e.g. improve the number/conduct of meetings.

  1. PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY

Dr. Amy Edmondson, the Harvard Business School professor who coined the term psychological safety, defines it as, ‘a belief that one will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerns or mistakes.’

Here’s the stats:

  • When employees feel psychologically safe at work, there is a 347% increase in the probability of highly engaged employees, 277% increase in the probability of a highly rated employee experience, 154% increase in the incidence of great work, 33% decrease in the incidence of moderate to severe burnout (O.C. Tanner)
  • 29% of job applicants were attracted by a collaborative environment and 10% by a sense of camaraderie (2017 Recruiter Sentiment Study MRI Network) 
  • 60% of workers who said they felt cared for by their employer plan to stay with their companies for three or more years, as opposed to only 7% of those who said they don’t feel cared for (Limeade Institute)

Tip #4.
Whether it’s in a team meeting, solving problems, collaborating on projects or engaging with their customers and peers, a great starting point is to avoid blaming people. Psychological safety is a serious piece of work which takes great effort and time to improve so it needs careful attention.

  1. FLEXIBILITY

Since Covid, flexibility is the number one requirement from good employees. Even pre-Covid, 30% of employees said they’ve left a job for not offering work flexibility. (Flexjobs)

Here’s the stats:

  • 16% of employees are looking for a new job because they want flexibility (Flexjobs)
  • 80% of employees said they would be more loyal to their employer if it offered job flexibility, and more than half said they have tried to negotiate flexible work with their employer (Flexjobs)
  • 80% of workers say they would choose to work a job with a flexible work option over one without (IWG)

Tip #5.
Flexible working used to be a powerful differentiator for employers, but now it’s just considered standard. Take action immediately, given current staff shortages and post-Covid employee expectations.  A win-win approach I heard about, for example, is where the organisation has set minimum hours in the office e.g. 10am – 3pm and then individual employees make choices around that. 

  1. BURNOUT

What horrible statistics! 83% of workers experienced stress at least once a week and half of employees have cried at work because of stress (Ginger). Companies with moderate to severe burnout have a 376% decrease in the odds of having highly engaged employees, 87% decrease in likelihood to stay and a 22% decreased work output. (O.C. Tanner)

Here’s the stats:

  • Employees ranked the primary causes of burnout in this order: career stagnation, unmanageable workload, toxic culture and dated technology (Accountemps)
  • Three in five workers have agreed to take on more tasks than they can actually get done on their to-do lists (VitalSmarts)
  • 73% of workers say their to-do lists become overgrown because they want to be accommodating, helpful and polite; 56% because they have a tendency to solve problems; 39% because no clear limits or rules about which tasks they should accept or reject exist (VitalSmarts)

Tip #6.
Ask your employees what the top 5 burnout problems are. Implement a plan to overcome them.

  1. CULTURE

Thriving cultures with great employee experience are 8 times more likely to have high incidence of great work, 13 times more likely to have highly engaged employees, 3 times less likely to have layoffs, 2 times more likely to have an increase in revenue, 3 times less likely to have employees experiencing moderate to severe burnout, and 7 times more likely to have employees innovating. (O.C. Tanner)

Here’s the stats:

  • 38% of employees have either never heard senior leadership talk about culture or they talk about it, but there’s no action to back it up, 31.4% call senior leadership average – they are reactive but not proactive (Achievers)
  • 77% of employees agree a strong culture allows them to do their best work, 76% see the impact in productivity and efficiency, and another 74% draw a correlation between culture and their ability to serve their customer base (Eagle Hill Consulting)
  • More than half of employees were willing to go to a competing firm in search of a better culture, and 48% said they’d consider working a 60 hour week in exchange for a better culture (Speakap)

Tip #7.
This is one of the most elusive issues to fix and it will take a long time. It starts from the top and the CEO/Board then need to ensure that all senior Executives are truly on board. Regular staff surveys are useful to check for slippage. It also helps immensely if you recruit well in the first place.

Harness the Satisfiers: Motivating Factors

  1. PARTNER WITH EMPLOYEES TO MANAGE THEIR CAREERS

Employees who change jobs internally, either in a lateral move or a promotion, generally remain on board longer than those who stay in the same position (LinkedIn).  Be careful of employees who miss out on an internal promotion; they may well be quite distressed and/or angry. A troubled employee quickly becomes troubling.

Here’s the stats:

  • MA75% of job seekers said being passed over for a promotion was a reason to go job hunting (Addison Group)
  • Career development ranked 2nd to compensation as the reason employees left their organizations (The Harris Poll)
  • 61% of U.S. adults look for career development opportunities when considering employment opportunities (Jobvite)

Tip #8.
Talk regularly with employees about internal career moves so there are no surprises. If an employee misses out on an internal role, set up a meeting immediately. Identify the gaps that resulted in the lack of success. Come up with a plan together that sets out a path forward.

  1. TRAINING

Training seems to have gone out of fashion, particularly regarding the so-called soft skills. I meet very few people who are comfortable with their ability to respond to conflict, for example, even though this is a core workplace skill.

Here’s the stats:

  • 70% of staff members would be at least somewhat likely to leave their current organizations and take a job with one that is known for investing in employee development and learning (The Harris Poll)
  • 86% of employees said it is important for employers to provide learning opportunities (Ceridian)
  • 41% of millennials said they would change their job and move to another organisation that offers professional development programs (zety.com)

Tip #9.
Of course, not everyone can have international offices and cross-border opportunities for staff but there are always options. If you have the budget, use it. Consider carefully whether training is more effective face to face. It may be fashionable (and cheap) to move to online learning but it’s not necessarily going to result in optimal skills improvement. If money is tight, identify free courses e.g. LinkedIn Learning, in-house training.

  1. ENGAGEMENT

When employees feel their leader is invested in the work they do, there is a 36% increase in employees feeling they have the support of their direct leader, 35% increase in the feeling that their leader acknowledges the great work they do, and a 29% increase in engagement (O.C. Tanner).

Here’s the stats:

  • 31.3% of employees who considered themselves engaged said their employer could do more to improve the employee experience (Achievers)
  • 10.8% of workers call their manager/employer awesome and are recognized weekly and 29.4% call them pretty good and are recognized at least once a month (Achievers)
  • By recognizing small wins and efforts along the way, leaders see an 83% increase in engagement and a 136% increase in feeling like a subject matter expert at their organization (O.C. Tanner)

Tip #10.
Talk to your people. Monthly one to one meetings decrease the odds of employee burnout by 39% and bi-weekly one to one meetings decrease the odds of employee burnout by 84% (O.C. Tanner).

A Steady Pathway Ahead

Where to start after such a confronting list of critical issues?

I’d aim for a quick win to let your employees know that you care about making their lives better.  Given the urgency, it makes sense to start with #5: Flexibility. Build on the changes that you have already undoubtedly made with Covid. Co-create the benefits package alongside the individual.

For longer term change, you have tools like the Gap Analysis or just a simple audit. Break it up into bite size chunks: this will give you a sense of achievement after each milestone is achieved and will help combat change-fatigue.

Finally, master the comms. Control the narrative to improve how you’re perceived internally and externally so that you not only retain but attract key talent.

It’s worth repeating. The more senior your role, the more you are paid to effect change.

Sources:

March 2022 HRM magazine, Cutting the Strings

2022 HR Statistics: Job Search, Hiring, Recruiting & Interviews (zety.com)

Source: https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/herzberg-theory

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