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As a manager or HR professional, it might seem like finding and hiring talent is the biggest challenge when it comes to creating an effective workforce. 

But, in reality, it’s only half the battle. 

Ensuring that great talent stays at the company is the other half — and it’s not as simple as you might think. 

With factors like economic instability and the enthusiasm around “work-from-home” at play, you may need to get serious about employee retention and engagement sooner rather than later. 

Use this article as your guide for sharpening the attractiveness of your company in the eyes of employees. 

What is employee engagement and retention?

First, let’s make sure we’re on the same page when it comes to these two important but distinct areas of HR. 

They may be deeply connected, but when it comes to implementation, it’s critical to know the difference so you can allocate resources more effectively.

Employee engagement

Employee engagement is a psychosocial concept in HR that describes the nature of the relationship between employees and their tasks, as well as the organization itself. 

Engaged employees report positive feelings and opinions about their work and the organization. They seek to enhance their own effectiveness as a result. 

Disengaged employees, however, feel no strong connection to their work. This could have huge financial or organizational repercussions for the business. 

Employee retention

Employee retention, which might be more familiar to you, is a metric that quantitatively describes the ability of an organization to retain its employees — usually in the form of the percentage of employees retained in a given period. 

But HR professionals also use the term to describe a set of activities that a company can perform to reduce employee turnover — the loss of internal talent. 

Increasing employee engagement is a good way to improve employee retention. But how can you go about that in your business?

Here are six of the most practical methods to meaningfully improve both employee engagement, and in turn, employee retention. 

1. Identify why employees are leaving

An obvious place to start when looking at ways to reduce employee turnover is to figure out why it’s happening in the first place. 

First, you should check the average rates of employee turnover within your industry. If your employee turnover rate is significantly higher than the average, there’s a good chance that there’s something (or, in the worst case, many things) that you need to address.

If that’s the case, you need to go further and start extracting the reasons why employees left your company. You can do this either formally by conducting exit interviews when someone leaves or informally by simply asking. It might be slightly uncomfortable for you to hear, but it’s a small price to pay for ensuring that your next employee is here to stay. 

Once you’ve gathered a dataset that reflects why your company is losing valuable talent, you can continue implementing strategies to reduce or eliminate these issues. 

2. Assess and refine communication in your business

A truly surprising amount of real-world HR issues could be resolved with one simple trick — better communication.

This may be obvious and simple in theory, but it’s much more complicated in practice.  

You can work out whether this is an issue within your organization by performing a quick audit of communication channels with your employees. 

Sure, they may have an open line of communication with you if there’s an issue with a task or more information is needed, but what about when they have a personal problem? What if they need to report troubling internal behavior or suggest a new way of doing something? For this, you need to go beyond encouraging collaboration by using tools, which are for projects and tasks.

Providing a phone number or email address is not the same as ensuring your employees have adequate ways to air their grievances about things beyond their day-to-day tasks. 

Instead, you need to create several formal and informal communication channels, all with distinct use-cases. This ensures that employees will know how to communicate and feel comfortable mentioning something important when it comes up.

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Starting informal group chats in teams, implementing private channels between employees and HR, and even ensuring non-native-speaking employees can properly start conversations are all ways that you can improve employee engagement with better communication

3. Implement end-game retention strategies

Why does anyone take a stable job with a large company?

It’s not just for the paycheck or your company’s great reputation. Employees want long-term financial security and the opportunity to build their net worth, and you need to ensure they have that when working for you. 

People want to work for a company that will help them plan for retirement. This was within the top five most common employee benefits offered in this 2020 Statista Research report — and with good reason. 

The prospect of working beyond the average retirement age is a particularly frightening one for this generation’s workforce. That means any company with a rock-solid retirement offering will have a huge competitive advantage. 

When considered alongside the fact that employers can enjoy tax benefits by offering employee 401(k) contributions, implementing an attractive retirement plan is a no-brainer if you want to enhance retention. 

4. Implement new-workforce retention strategies

The prior suggestion attempts to improve retention for older members of the workforce who are planning for retirement in the medium term. 

But what about fresh-faced, younger employees who are joining the workforce for the first time? It makes a lot of sense to cater to these valuable employees, too.

You can do this by thinking about benefits and incentives that are targeted toward their financial position. 

For example, there are certain schemes that you can implement within your business that contribute to the payment of newly graduated employees’ student loans

This is attractive for financially savvy graduates because they understand the value of clearing their student debt repayment as early as possible. 

Additionally, employee contributions to the repayment of student loans are often contingent upon staying within the company for a predetermined period, further reinforcing the likelihood of long-term retention. 

5. Getting work-from-home right

By now, it should be obvious how important working from home is to our current workforce. 

Saving money on commuting and food costs, spending more time with family (including pets), and generally being more comfortable and productive are the most commonly cited benefits in favor of working from home. 

Recent relocation trends show that people are more in favor of moving out of crowded cities and into smaller towns with a higher quality of life. In a recent migration survey, out of 17% of respondents who reported moving since March 2020, over half moved due to COVID concerns or for reasons around remote work. 

So the first question you need to ask yourself is — to what extent is it possible to allow your employees to work from home? 

If it’s possible, even in a limited sense, you should think about optimizing your work-from-home policy and systems to maximize employee engagement and retention. 

The kinds of positions that can work from home, as well as the number of days per week it’s permissible, are the basic questions. You also need to consider the tech and systems that enable it. This can be everything from making sure employees have access to video conferencing tools like Zoom all the way to giving your marketing team interactive emails to help them with conversions. 

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Is employee privacy robustly protected with work-from-home monitoring solutions? Are the company’s internal processes and assets protected?

Secure remote work is essential not only for the sake of employee retention but for the safety and security of your company as well. With a shocking 95% of enterprises having experienced identity-related security breaches, it’s essential that your remote employees are well-trained in secure and compliant remote work. 

6. Nailing employee compensation

Businesses are in a constant struggle to minimize expenses by any means to demonstrate some level of growth when it comes to balancing the accounts. 

But you must strategically control that frugality reflex when it comes to your most value-producing resources — your employees. 

This is especially true at a time when the average worker is feeling the effects of spiraling inflation and increasing economic uncertainty. 

Reducing, withholding, or nickel-and-diming compensation for employees is a bad idea in most cases — and there are many factors that should be considered beyond a simple dollar amount per year. 

How expensive was the education that led to the position they’ve got with your company? What’s the average salary for similar positions not just across the country but in your specific area? You can’t know what attractive compensation truly looks like without doing research beforehand. 

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If you don’t know where to start, check a published guide like the CRNA salary guide, which provides a detailed breakdown of education costs vs. expected salaries.

Make working for your company truly delightful

You’re throwing money down the drain when you invest top-dollar for the best talent but put no effort into employee engagement and retention. 

The next-best company is going to come along and sweep up your most effective workers, simply by making their company a better place to work. 

Engagement and retention isn’t just an afterthought. They need to be implemented at a foundational level in order to keep your best people.

You can do this by making sure your employees can be truly heard with broader communication channels, upskilling policies, sharpening up your benefits packages, improving the work-from-home experience, and ensuring that your compensation aligns with your talent’s goals and expectations. 

Some of these examples can be implemented right away, so don’t hesitate. It’s never too early to make your company a better place to work. 

About The Author

Sarang is a passionate Content marketer and Account Manager at uSERP. He loves creating content and runs a successful blog on filmmaking and advertising.