Retention Strategies for Employers in 2021

As vaccination efforts ramp up across the country, a report indicates a massive wave of turnover is expected once the pandemic is more under control. Employees feel safe making a career move. With this in mind, what are the current causes for turnover, and what can employers do to retain their top performers in 2021?

Defined: What is Employee Retention?

Employee retention refers to an organization’s ability to keep its employees and is usually represented as a percentage calculated on an annual basis.

Employee retention rate is calculated by dividing the number of employees who have been in their position a year by the number of employees in the position a year ago. If your company added a position during the year, it would be excluded from the calculation.

What are the Current Causes of Turnover in 2021?

Turnover is natural to a certain extent—there will always be employees who leave jobs to start new ones. But after a year of unprecedented changes and stress due to COVID-19, turnover may be heightened—especially for women—as employees feel like they can finally make career decisions again.

One of the most significant causes of turnover is burnout. Employers were combatting employee burnout before COVID-19 came along, but the global pandemic only amplified the stress and work fatigue employees face. In 2019, the World Health Organization formally included burnout in the 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). It defined it as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

Burnout doesn’t happen overnight, but it can ultimately result in high turnover rates and productivity loss for organizations. Employers will need to think about immediate responses to help alleviate their teams and long-term solutions to prevent future burnout.

Additionally, employees desire the ability to self-manage time rather than being required to operate within the constraints of standard business hours. Workers at large identify the opportunity to work remotely as a major component of flextime appeal. Bottom line: workers want more control over when and where their work gets done.

Best Practices for Retention Strategies

While HR teams and employers don’t necessarily need more on their plate, it’s important to focus on retention efforts in 2021 because turnover is often expensive for employers. It can harm your organization’s morale. Here are ways that employers can do so:

  1. Conduct an HR Audit and Calculate Turnover: An HR audit is a way for organizations to identify ways in which they are successful or ways they can improve in a variety of functions, such as retention. Similarly, calculating turnover can help HR professionals identify issues with a company’s culture, recruiting and hiring processes, and other factors that impact staffing.

  2. Enhance Employee Relations and Engagement: Employee relations refers to initiatives set forth by a company to help relationships between the employees and their managers. Employee engagement generally refers to a worker’s attitude toward their employer, role within the organization, and their colleagues. Research shows that efforts that demonstrate appreciation and affirmation can promote employee engagement and performance in a work environment. Developing employee relations strategies for retention can seem arbitrary. Still, employers can start by maintaining your organization’s culture with happy hours and team lunches (even if you have to do them virtually) and providing employees with rewards and recognition.

  3. Listen to Employee Concerns: In addition to employee relations and engagement, employers and managers should maintain communication efforts with employees and listen to any concerns they have as workforces open back up and operations change. Employers can do this by establishing open dialogue and communication through 1-to-1 meetings. Rather than finding out about concerns and issues that employees have through exit interviews, managers can address problems that arise in regular meetings before the employee reaches the point of leaving the organization. Additionally, conducting employee surveys give managers insight into employee satisfaction and concerns. Regular feedback and conversations allow managers to maintain a pulse on where employees are, especially if your organization’s operations are going to change—are employees worried about returning to the office? Are they wanting to return to the office but cannot yet? What work-life balance concerns do they have?

  4. Educate Employees on Available Resources: Does your company provide parenting or wellness resources? And if so, do your employees know about it? Remind your employees of mental health resources and other programs they have available to them and educate them on how those resources work. Encourage employees to take advantage of their PTO or adjust policies if they’re not currently supporting your team’s needs. It’s also important to monitor and limit overtime so that employees don’t feel pressured to overwork themselves—and eventually experience burnout.

  5. Better Benefits: Additionally, studies show that time and again, better benefits packages result in stronger retention rates. This can be as complex as generous healthcare coverage or as simple as a healthy work-life balance.

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