Retaining Good Employees Requires an Employee-First Culture

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This story first appeared on on March 31, 2020.

It’s not just a tight labor market. As of the end of 2019, there are literally one million more jobs available than there are job seekers. For employees thinking about leaving their jobs, it’s a seller’s market. For employers, it’s becoming a major challenge to retain good employees and it can have crippling implications for smaller businesses that fail to make employee retention a top priority. Consider the following statistics:

  • More than 50% of U.S. employees are very confident that they would be able to find a job with the same or better pay within six months if they quit, are fired, or are laid off. (Source: Glassdoor)
  • 65% of employees are confident they can find a better position that pays more. (Source: Glassdoor)
  • Between recruitment fees, training, and lost productivity, the average employee exit costs 33% of their annual salary. (Source: Employee Benefit News)

Why Employees Leave and How to Keep Them

The reasons why employees leave is varied, but they are all tied to the company culture (or lack of) and employees’ perceptions of where and how they fit in the organization. Generally, businesses that foster a culture of employee engagement, respect, and purpose are less likely to experience retention problems. According to a survey of 2,000 employees, nearly half cited corporate culture as the main reason they are looking for a new job. (Source: Hays Recruiting Specialists)

Creating a high-retention culture starts with a thorough understanding of the pain points that trigger employee exits and a top-down commitment to an employee-first mindset. While this seems to run counter to the traditional notion that the customer comes first, studies show that, if employees are happy, they’ll make customers happy and your customers will take care of your bottom line.

Lack of Recognition

Employees who feel they aren’t being recognized for their efforts are twice as likely to look for a new job. Based on employee surveys, those who don’t feel recognized have interviewed for a job in the last three months. (Source: TINYpulse)

Conversely, employees who receive deserved recognition are five times more likely to stay with their employer. (Source: Qualtrics)

Lack of Clear Expectations

When employees are left wondering what they need to do on a daily basis they can’t know whether they are meeting their employer’s expectations. That produces insecurity and anxiety. Employees are 23% more likely to stay if their manager or supervisor clearly explain their roles and responsibilities starting in the onboarding process.

Lack of Work-Life Balance

Employee burnout and workplace stress are the leading causes of employee turnover. Employees working for employers that stress work-life balance are more likely to stay. Employees are looking for remote work opportunities and flexible hours as a way to achieve a work-life balance. An increasing number of small businesses are offering wellness programs, including gym subsidies or access to activities and apps to help motivate employees to exercise.

Lack of Career Advancement or Professional Growth Opportunity

A lack of advancement or growth opportunities can be morally deflating for employees who need to feel they are progressing in their careers. One study shows that 70% of high-retention-risk employees would change jobs to advance their careers. (Source: Towers Watson)

Another study shows that 93% of employees would stay with their employer if it invested in their careers. (Source: LinkedIn’s 2018 Workforce Learning Report). And, according to Gallup, nearly 90% of millennials say their top priorities are professional growth and development opportunities. (Source: Gallup)

Changing the Culture Starts at the Top

People know when they belong to an employee-centric culture. It’s demonstrated on a daily basis through policies and communications that foster transparency and a free flow of feedback up and down the organization. It’s an environment in which employees feel empowered and engaged. Building such a culture starts at the top, where the employee-first mindset is entrenched among the organization’s leaders.

Your employees are your best investment for growing your business – and your biggest cost when they leave. So, it’s worth the time and resources to retain them.

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