You do everything right. You carefully design your hiring criteria, use the best tools to attract the broadest field of qualified candidates, interview carefully, conduct reference and background checks, and test for cognitive abilities, work skills and desired personality traits. As a result, you’re as confident as a person can be that your new hire is a winner. Congratulations. Now you can start worrying about how you’re going to retain this employee and get him or her contributing to the organization at the highest level.
Turns out that your anxiety is well-founded. In a labor market that favors workers, people are becoming increasingly secure about their options. Approximately 65% of employees believe that they can find a better position that pays more than their current one. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, since June 2017, about three million Americans quit their jobs each month; another study showed that 31% left their positions within the first six months. With a shortage of high-quality candidates to draw upon and the time and effort involved in recruiting, retention is becoming a front-burner issue for agency leaders. The bright spot is, there are steps that management can take to positively impact retention, job satisfaction and commitment.
Six ways you can improve employee retention
1. Pay close attention to how you onboard. According to research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 20% of employee turnover happens in the initial weeks on the job. The first 21 days on the job are critical. They send a clear signal on what it’s like to work for your firm. Does your company have its act together? Do you genuinely care about people? Is your culture a welcoming one? Are the supports and opportunities available to help people succeed and grow? Companies get into trouble when the picture they paint during the recruiting process is a far cry from the reality of their work environment.
Onboarding is an opportunity to lay the groundwork for success and commitment to the organization. The SHRM research also shows that employees are 69% more likely to stay with a company that has an effective onboarding process. In smaller companies, where time is short and people are stretched thin, onboarding is often limited to orientation. The focus is on signing forms, reviewing policies and procedures, getting the tools/technology they’ll need, learning who’s who and what’s where. Then people are expected to hit the ground running with the expectation that they will learn whatever else they need to know on the job. There isn’t a process for integrating employees into the organizational culture and helping them understand the organization’s values and methods.
Effective onboarding new employees is a strategic process. Develop a 100-day onboarding plan. It helps pinpoint what to focus on during a period that’s filled with ambiguity. And it gives your new hires a target to aim for, harnessing the new hires’ energy during a time when they’re highly engaged and primed to learn. Integrate opportunities to help them see the big picture and how the work they’re doing fits. The plan might include meeting and shadowing a peer in each of the company’s departments. Help them understand the organization’s core values and purpose. An easy and efficient way to accomplish this is to have them shadow an agency principal for a day or two. In addition to learning, they will see that the company is deeply committed to investing in their success. Jobvite offers an excellent onboarding checklist. If you’d like a free copy, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Instill a sense of belonging from day one. Remember back to when you were the new kid in school or the neighborhood? That’s how awkward the first day on a new job tends to be whether you’re 23 or 53. The more your company makes new hires feel welcome and part of the family, the faster they will be able to be productive and contribute. Assign a “go-to” person to the new team member. Have the go-to person at the door and ready to greet the new hire when he or she arrives. Leave a handwritten note from the CEO, a well-organized packet of “need to know” information and a small welcome gift on the new arrival’s desk. (Search Pinterest for fun welcome gift ideas.) The “go-to” person’s responsibility is to:
Also, match the new hire with a mentor. Once you’ve had a chance to observe the person and get a sense of what additional skills need to be developed now, pair the employee with a mentor who has that kind of experience. For the match to have a high chance of success, the mentor needs empathy, solid communication abilities, a commitment to developing others and a willingness to take on the responsibility. Mentorship should be an ongoing part of high-potential employees’ professional development.
3. Create the opportunity for a quick win. Provide a way for new hires to make a meaningful contribution early on. A specific project that they can complete or lead will give them a sense of ownership and get them invested in the organization. Tailor the project based on where the employee can offer genuine value. For example, task a new hire who doesn’t know the business yet with making recommendations on orienting new employees or making the job application process more user-friendly.
4. Make sure your front-line managers have the skills they need. A Gallup poll of 1 million-plus U.S. workers concluded that the number one reason people leave their jobs is a bad boss or immediate supervisor. No matter how good a situation may be, people will quit if the reporting relationship is not satisfactory. The demands of management are more complex than ever. The pressure to compete, grow and increase productivity is enormous. Managers are often leading four different generations—each with their ideas and values. All too often people are promoted to management based on their technical knowledge and longevity. Knowing how to “do the work” and knowing how to “get others to do the work” are two very different things. Managing people takes a unique skill set. Be sure you’re continuously building your managers’ leadership skills. They are the ones who motivate, nurture and bolster the morale of the people who do the work. They play a critical role in retaining good people.
5. Build a continuous learning culture. No matter what else you may offer as an employer, if you don’t provide clear opportunities for employees to grow, you’re practically guaranteeing you’ll lose your best people. Career development today requires employees to improve and expand their skills. Think beyond technical insurance skills. For example, many college graduates entering the workforce over the past 10 years aren’t equipped with the writing, relationship-building and communication capabilities needed to thrive in the insurance industry. Many lack the resilience and stress management tools to perform at a consistently high level. Personal growth and development is a crucial element of what your organization can offer to any employee, and the benefits extend in every direction. Supporting their development ensures they›ll be more engaged, more productive, and better at what they do.
6. Identify your high-risk employees. According to research from Willis Towers Watson, over one-quarter of employees are at high risk for turnover. These are the people you don’t want to lose. They typically are the top performers or have the potential to become top performers. The study also reveals that nearly three-quarters of employees who fall into the “high-retention-risk” category are itching to leave because they’ve hit an earnings ceiling or don’t have room to grow.
Know who your high-risk employees are. Doing that takes open and honest communication. If you have an exceptionally productive employee, it’s crucial to recognize the significant value that person is bringing to the table, and understand that it doesn’t take a much higher salary offer for you to lose an employee. If you are paying that employee market value or better, it becomes increasingly difficult for a competitor to offer a pay bump that’s significant enough to persuade the employee to move for money alone.
Increasing turnover is a reality. In a free society with ample opportunity, people will come and go. But the idea that employers have no control over turnover is a myth. Turnover is a reflection of company culture. Companies can enjoy healthy turnover rates by creating workplace cultures that encourage the best employees to stay and non-performers to leave. It takes mindfulness, creativity and commitment, but great employers are doing it every day.