At least 3.9 million people quit their jobs in June, and we can expect that number to rise in the coming months. Sure, some of these folks are retiring or changing the nature of their employment. Still, the large majority are simply taking new (similar) jobs that align with their expectations. Expectations that may have evolved during the pandemic include higher salaries, more focus on professional growth, the opportunity to work remotely, and alignment with an organization that supports social causes.
Not only has the nature of work changed (with average employee tenures at all-time lows), but employees are quickly growing to expect more – and if you aren’t giving it to them, chances are that your competitors will be.
Bottom line: today’s leaders need to assume their current employees are job searching.
What can you do to increase your chances of keeping your all-stars on the roster?
Focus on the following plays to build your retention playbook
Play 1: Think about (and talk about) tomorrow
As people leaders, we need to start acknowledging the elephant in the room – our employees won’t be with us forever. They’re always thinking about the future of their careers, but the more involved we are, the more likely we’ll retain them beyond their current roles.
Tips for kicking-off the growth game plan:
- Expose current employees to information, individuals, and assignments that help build valuable resume experience. These stretch assignments and growth projects will allow them to engage more in-house and potentially gear them up for another role within your organization.
- Discuss their five-year plans and work on their “aspirational resumes” together in career planning sessions (outside the standard 1:1). This will help them to feel valued and work towards those stretch goals.
- Identify (and add) the bullet points necessary to prepare them for their next roles – which will hopefully be at your organization. Employees, even the all-star ones, need leadership support. Let them know you and other leaders are there to help them grow and learn at your organization.
The worst-case scenario is after you engage in these exercises, your employee still winds up leaving in a few years if an opportunity to progress isn’t available internally. Even so, this kind of transparent and symbiotic relationship between manager and employee can help to build longer employee tenures and fuel an employer brand that will aid in recruiting your next standout. (Remember people talk, and employee reviews are a powerful tool.)
Play 2: Acknowledge reality – and show them you give a sh!t
The adage “people quit their boss, not their job” doesn’t necessarily apply when there’s a 50% salary increase, a better work-life balance, and a promotion on the table from a competitor.
A great boss might make an employee smile, but in this market, if she’s unable to come at least close to what the market bears for her top talent, she’s eventually going to lose them.
Tips for running the growth game plan:
- Hire for longevity and fit. If an employee isn’t the type of person you’d want to cover for if their kid has a game (or if they have to quarantine for two weeks), pass on them and extend the offer to someone who is. You’ll want to consider how this person will fit in with your team, organization, and role when interviewing them for a new position.
- Show them you care whenever you have the opportunity. When you’re genuine, it’s less likely employees will see you (and their current role) as just a number when inevitably evaluating other opportunities. People are more inclined to stay where they are comfortable and know they are truly valued. It’s your job to get them there.
- Incentivize employee referrals. Referred hires and referring employees feel a deeper connection to the organization because they have a built-in support system. Offering referral bonuses is a win-win, giving employees recognition for bringing in great people they know and trust while saving outside recruiting costs.
Developing genuine relationships with your people that go beyond discussing their performance can go a long way when a competing offer isn’t providing a rhetorically better opportunity.
Play 3: Understand culture matters – and its definition is different today from what it was pre-pandemic
Great work cultures have historically been synonymous with “winning.” And the definition of “winning” has been primarily correlated with organizational/individual (financial) success derived from hitting goals. Let’s face it – the very reason that most companies have employees (and pay them) is to drive a profit.
However, today’s employees have more of a desire for purpose than ever before. If your people don’t understand how their contributions are a part of a mission/purpose that they can rally behind, they’ll be more likely to leave for an organization better aligned with their values and passions.
Tips for tackling the growth game plan:
- Continue to check in and provide updates on organizational performance. Employees want to know how your organization is performing and the plans to continue on the road to success.
- Break those metrics and goals down to a department level. Each department should understand how their efforts and projects impact the organizational goals.
- Individualize metrics and plans for each employee. Most organizations have yearly objectives, but not every organization has individual objectives tied to those goals. Each person must see how they fit into the bigger picture to feel connected to your organization fully.
Overall, your culture should expect success, but it should also be transparent in what success means for your brand, departments, teams, and individuals.
Always be selling. Shout out your brand through a megaphone — to clients, potential employees, and current employees. In recruitment marketing terms, that’s best accomplished via programmatic advertising.
Programmatic ads help you to advocate for your authentic brand at scale. (Think of it like well-placed billboards or commercials during the big game.) You get your content in front of the people who are actually interested in it, meaning no wasted ad spend, ever.
The final score:
Think of your staff as a professional sports team. A professional sports team whose players have no actual contracts and are free to come and go at a time of their choosing based on the current demand that other teams might have for their skill sets.
To keep them active, you need to get your head in the game and stay focused. Employees respond well to leadership that is involved but also lets them do their thing. Each player is a professional (subject matter expert) in their own right. It’s your job to coach and guide them to success.