What is Employee Retention and How to Keep Employees Engaged

Oct 25, 2021
What is Employee Retention and How to Keep Employees Engaged
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Hiring new staff is a labor-intensive and costly business. Once engaged after the onboarding process, new recruits need the investment of time for training and mentoring, plus inevitably a certain amount of making allowances for ‘rookie’ mistakes. Managers and colleagues asked to show them the ropes can find they have less time to complete their own tasks. It can take months before new recruits are fully up to speed in their role, invested in the company culture, and making a full contribution to productivity. 

On the flip side, established, time-served employees can be worth their weight in gold. They have invaluable experience and are intimate with key processes, understand the ‘quirks’ of their colleagues, and are often great team players. Should they resign, the loss of a key member of staff can hit a business very hard. 

While there is always an instance where someone needs to leave in order to pursue new challenges or opportunities that simply can’t be provided in their current organization, or for personal and domestic reasons, improving employee retention of talent is a key objective for most businesses. Many sectors including IT, construction, sales, and business development, marketing, and perhaps not surprisingly health and social care are all experiencing significant skills shortages so this really is not the time to let valuable team members step away in search of a better deal elsewhere.

What helps employee retention?

Establishing a good Employee Value Proposition (EVP) can help elevate a business to be one that everyone would like to work for. It’s essential that the EVP is communicated effectively – on the website and in recruitment ads for new employees, and through in-house communication channels for existing staff. It must be embedded within the company culture and be authentic, otherwise, people will quickly see through any empty promises and vote with their feet. These are some areas to consider: 

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Since the pandemic, employees who work remotely have proved that they can be just as productive, and in some cases more so, than staff based in the office. People are looking for more flexibility, not only around where they work but also, the hours they work. Organizations that can offer full flexibility are in demand. This needs to be more than simply allowing people to work from home on a set number of days each week, but allowing them to choose when and where they work for themselves, wherever the role permits. This requires an environment of trust whereby people are empowered to get their work done effectively without feeling micromanaged and a task, rather than a rule-based approach. The office may be the best place for collaboration and team-building, while the home may be better for focus and productivity. 

Employee-focused benefits 

One of the great lessons of lockdown, when the line between home and work lives was blurred like never before, was the growth in understanding that everyone is different, with often complicated lives. The best HR teams spent a lot of time listening to employees and conducting surveys to identify specific and general needs, in order to create a range of benefits that people actually want. Some, such as extended Maternity Leave, are only of interest to certain people while giving employees Friday afternoons off during the summer tends to be popular with everyone. 


Hybrid and remote work can increase productivity for many employees. Those who have a good working environment at home often find they can focus on their work without the myriad distractions of a busy office and can create more time for themselves. But they don’t do this in a vacuum, so regular check-ins, with line managers and teams, are essential to keep them engaged and feeling ‘part of it’, regardless of where they are. Making sure employees have the best technology solutions at hand is crucial. Automated processes, for example, can reduce laborious and repetitive form-filling, allowing employees to focus on more rewarding aspects of their role. 


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Avoiding disengaged employees when people are working remotely can be a challenge according to Alex Arundale, Chief People Officer, Advanced. Probably the most important thing that they are doing around employee retention strategies is creating a culture that resonates with their people and makes them want to be part of the business. They have regular Town Halls, lunchtime meeting forums and use internal channels to maintain open two-way communication so that everyone is included and has a voice. Video conferencing has transformed opportunities for meetings, but there is also a need for face-to-face interaction from time to time, fulfilling people’s social needs for human interaction and opportunities for more relaxed, non-work chat.

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Promote diversity and inclusion 

People like to see others who look like themselves in the workplace, and this is particularly true when looking at roles higher in the organization. It demonstrates that opportunities exist at all levels and that ambitions to rise through the ranks are very attainable. Consider producing a Diversity Pay Gap report, to provide useful data to guide understanding about how to work towards fair representation for all, informing policy-making and initiatives for change. Building a vision for a realistic and attractive future, in a supportive and caring environment, will greatly help you to retain employees.

ESG matters for all 

Environmental, sustainable, and governance issues are increasingly important for customers who are often driven to choose one product or service over another because of the company’s ESG credentials. These issues matter to employees too and can be a key part of an organization’s employee value proposition (EVP), setting one employer above its competitors as an attractive place to work. Employees want to feel that they are making a difference to the world and society, as well as achieving personal goals, and they want to feel proud to belong to a socially and environmentally aware organization. 

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Clear opportunities for employees

A key driver in employee retention is providing a clear career path with the appropriate professional development and mentoring opportunities that enable people to achieve their personal objectives. Within this, it is essential that line managers are focused on motivating, supporting and empowering their teams so that each employee feels inspired to try for more. 

When an organization develops a culture of employee-focused decision making, it creates an environment that people want to be part of. Issues such as bullying and discrimination are much less likely to occur in places where diversity and inclusion are promoted as key company values, for example, and being fully heard makes people feel more involved and committed. Organizations that involve employees in what happens during their working day, value their input, and listen when things go wrong, are far more likely to be able to retain good people. These employees are the ones who ultimately help the business to deliver its objectives. People like to be part of a successful, widely-respected business that cares about and encourages employees – it’s a major reason to join an organization and an even greater reason to choose to stay.

Understanding why employees leave

Understanding why people leave is critical if further damage is to be avoided. There are a number of push and pull factors at play, with push factors representing the reasons to leave a job, while pull factors are the things that attract them to another. Here are some tips that will drive better insights into why people leave:  

  • Conduct exit interviews – it’s surprising how many organizations don’t bother with a formal conversation after someone has quit. To be effective, these should be carried out by an HR professional rather than a line manager, and an established environment of sharing openly. Otherwise, there is a danger that the leaver will not tell the truth, particularly if their manager is part of the problem. Make use of the face-to-face medium to ask follow-up questions and get right under the skin of any problems that are raised.  

  • Use exit forms – these have the advantage of being potentially less confrontational and may elicit the truth about a situation that the leaver would be less likely to feel comfortable talking about with another person. Online or paper forms can be anonymized and as such form the basis of user data. However, these types of employee feedback are limited to pre-set questions and cannot dive deeper into specific issues. They may also enable a ‘tick-box approach that doesn’t really provide anything of value for HR.  

  • Collect and use data – The data needs to be collated and analyzed to highlight trends. It may reveal, for example, that the high employee turnover is down to working for a particular manager; or that people with a common gender, racial or background don’t stay long; or there is an emerging trend for new mothers to leave as soon as they have completed their return to work period. This information is invaluable for shining a light on problems within the organization.  

  • Revisit policies and implement changes – Accurate data immediately empowers HR to take steps to halt the resignation trend. They may for example look at training and support for some managers, revisit diversity and inclusion policies and ensure they are implemented day-to-day or consider more flexible work arrangements that suit new parents. 


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Author Bio: This article is written by our marketing team at HR Cloud. HR Cloud is a leading provider of HR solutions, including recruiting, onboarding, employee engagement, and intranet software. Our aim is to help your company improve employee engagement, employee productivity, and to save you valuable time!

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