Updated: November 07, 2022

Employee Retention Strategies, Techniques & Ideas

You found our list of the best employee retention strategies.

Employee retention strategies are ideas and techniques to reduce staff turnover and hold onto your organization’s talent. These approaches not only save on hiring and training costs, but also increase employee satisfaction. These strategies are also known as “staff retention strategies.”

These techniques are similar to employee engagement best practices, and help overcome the causes of employee turnover.

This list includes:

  • employee retention strategies
  • employee retention ideas
  • employee retention techniques
  • staff retention strategies
  • talent retention strategies

Let’s get started.

List of Employee retention strategies

From competitive pay to coworker bonds to staff development, here is a list of techniques for employee retention that persuade team members to remain within roles longer.

1. Hire the correct candidates

The first step to employee retention is hiring the correct candidates. If a job is not the right fit for employees, then all the employee retention techniques in the world may not be enough to convince staff to stay.

When interviewing, assess the candidate’s skills and traits in terms of what the team needs or lacks. Hiring is not merely a matter of finding qualified and talented candidates, but finding candidates that possess qualities that fill gaps. Great teams are like a tool belt; you would not try to fix a sink using a box full of only hammers, and you should not tackle projects using a team of employees with identical skill sets. Instead, you should fill your team with varying perspectives and abilities. Your crew will be more confident and capable, less stressed, and more apt to stick around.

You should also consider the interviewee’s personality and culture fit. Interactions and relations with colleagues are a major employee satisfaction factor. While you want to hire folks with fresh viewpoints, you also want teammates who can see eye to eye. Healthy debate is good in moderation, but constant clashes create a stressful environment. On the other hand, employees who gel with coworkers perform at higher levels and remain at companies longer.

Here is a list of interview questions to ask and recommended applicant tracking software.

2. Provide competitive pay

Work is about more than a paycheck, but money is still a major factor when employees decide whether to accept a job offer or leave an organization. One of the most obvious employee retention strategy ideas is to launch competitive pay programs. Though many professionals are willing to make pay concessions for benefits such as meaningful work, positive environment, or flexibility, if your wages are not comparable within your industry then you are likely to lose talent to competitors.

Salary is not only a money matter, but also a sign of respect. By providing wages that keep pace with the industry and the cost of living, you signal that you value and care about your employees. Furthermore, there should be compensation differences between new hires and veteran employees performing the same jobs. Paying a fresh-out-of-college grad with a single internship the same wage as the trainer with dual masters degrees, multiple certifications, and two decades of experience signals to the latter employee that seeking opportunities elsewhere would be more profitable and fulfilling.

If you cannot afford to outbid competitors, then you can compensate by providing other perks such as bonus opportunities, flexible working hours, stock options, and a great work environment. You can also lay out a timeline so that employees are optimistic about future compensation. Your pay structure should be transparent and understandable so that your employees have accurate expectations.

Learn more about employee benefits, and paid employee referral programs.

3. Send out employee retention surveys

Communication is important in any relationship. You often hear break up stories where one party exclaims, “I had no idea my partner was that unhappy!” You do not want to be the dumbfounded lover in this metaphor. You want to know about the upset before employees arrive in your office so that you can take steps to remedy the dissatisfaction.

You may not have time to host a heart-to-heart with every member of your organization, but you can send out employee engagement surveys to catch early warning signs and implement fixes.

Here are a few sample employee engagement retention survey questions:

  • Do you enjoy working here, the majority of days?
  • Are you proud to work for this company?
  • Do you see yourself working here in one year? Two years? Five years?
  • What factors most impact whether you like your job?
  • Do you enjoy working with your current team?
  • Do you feel that your supervisor is fair, supportive, and invested in your growth?
  • Do you feel as if you have friends at work?
  • Do you feel as if you have a voice in the company?

To encourage complete honesty, you should keep surveys anonymous. If you want to have longer conversations, then you can call on voluntary focus groups. However, you should never confront individual employees about survey answers, as this erods trust.

You should address and act on the results of your survey. Employees want to feel heard, and will respect management who follows through on promises to change, even if that change is gradual. Staff who see leaders working towards solutions are more likely to hang around to see the outcomes of those changes.

Here are the best questions to ask employees.

4. Foster a safe and inclusive workplace environment

Identity factors such as race, gender, religion, disability, and veteran status all face unique challenges in the workplace. Not to mention, a professional might identify with multiple marginalized groups, and potentially face discrimination on multiple levels.

When diverse employees leave your organization, you lose both their talents and their unique perspectives; plus, the experience can have long-term impact on the professional’s career and mental health

Fortunately, there are steps organizations can take to foster a more welcoming workplace. First, companies can implement fair hiring practices that allow for more representation. Next, employers can make efforts to promote inclusion. By embracing difference of opinion and experience, leaders can encourage employees to respect every individual.

Employers should create safe spaces for the expression of identity. For instance, a company may revise a dress code policy that deems a certain culture’s hairstyles as unprofessional, and may create identity support groups within the organization. The employer should also implement a zero tolerance towards discrimination or threats to an individual’s identity, and should back up these policies with meaningful action.

We tend to naturally gravitate towards and socialize with folks who are similar to us, but you can help teammates find common ground through regular team building exercises. Company-sponsored social events can foster initial connections and form foundations for staff from different backgrounds to build relationships.

Learn more ways to improve company culture and consult these books on diversity and inclusion.

5. Transform managers into leaders

The saying goes, people leave bad bosses, not bad jobs. In fact, research from human resource consultancy firm DDI found that 57% percent of respondents left a job specifically because of a manager. Compassionate and competent leaders can empower employees and inspire company loyalty, while disorganized or toxic leadership can cause staff to stray.

One of the best employee retention tips for managers is for supervisors to practice mindful and compassionate leadership. Great leaders unlock workers’ true potential and encourage employees to grow. Such leaders acknowledge teammates’ current and past accomplishments and skills, and identify areas that these employees can expand upon.

While ineffective leaders can be obstacles to a worker’s career, real leaders become co-collaborators to professional development. These leaders empower and inspire their staff. Such individuals lead by example with integrity and respect. True leaders unite teammates around a common goal and vision, and workers stick around longer to bring that goal to fruition. More importantly, a good leader offers recognition and expresses appreciation that makes staff members feel appreciated and valued.

One way managers can become stronger leaders is by developing team building skills. You can also read books on leadership and this list of examples of management skills.

6. Build bonds between employees

Employees often spend more time with colleagues than with friends or family, so those relationships should ideally be positive and boost feelings of wellbeing. Work friendships are a major job retention factor. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 62% of employees with one to five work friends would reject a job offer elsewhere, while 70% of employees with six to 25 work friends would turn down new employment.

Fostering work friendships is one of the most powerful yet underutilized employee retention techniques. Admiration and affection for colleagues inspires employees to perform at higher levels and remain at the company out of loyalty. Teammates who like colleagues will enjoy the workplace more, and will be more hesitant to sacrifice relationships and a positive work environment for the unknown of a new job.

One way to build relationships between colleagues is by hosting regular interactive team building games both on and off the clock. You can also encourage regular interaction in common areas such as break rooms, or virtual breakrooms, such as Slack channels, in the case of remote teams.

Here is a list of ideas to create friendships at work and this post has ideas for team bonding.

7. Lay out a plan for employee growth

A study conducted by Robert Half found that only 47% of organizations run training and development programs, while Business Insider attests that 77% of employees feel “on their own,” in terms of growth and career development. Staff members who feel stagnated or stuck at a dead end are more likely to actively seek new employment. People want to progress in their careers, and plateauing workers might seek growth opportunities elsewhere if unable to imagine advancement at the current company.

By laying out a growth plan, leaders can banish doubts or restlessness and reassure employees. Managers should collaborate on this plan with the team member. The employee can pinpoint goals and desired career paths and the manager can outline the necessary steps and time-frames. Folks are less likely to give up if the finish line is in view. An employee who can visualize the time required to move up within an organization is more likely to stay than a staff member who cannot see the next step on the ladder.

Development plans are one of the main employee retention techniques in banks and large enterprises, since the demands of entry-level positions can discourage employees. Yet employees who envision the payoff to those great efforts are more likely to stay motivated and focused. The employer must clarify and confirm that goal and help the employee decide on a point to work towards.

You can learn more about growth areas for specific employees via personality tests.

8. Provide flexible working arrangements

Providing flexible working arrangements is one of the top ways to retain employees in the current climate. Early research shows that upwards of 70% of employees who worked remotely during shutdowns want the option to work from home at least a couple of days a week post-pandemic. A large part of the allure of working from home is more flexible working conditions. Many telecommuting employees can set their own schedules, design their own work environments, and ditch time-consuming work preparations like dressing up and daily commutes.

Companies that can operate with remote or hybrid work conditions will have a hard time justifying not offering these options after workers have worked productively away from the office for two years. Many companies are allowing for more fluid work conditions, and companies that cling to a sense of structure that no longer serves employees may lose out on talent to more accommodating competitors.

Remote work is not the only way to provide flexible work options. Employers can also give team members leighway in the form of lax dress codes, floating holidays, stipends and allowances, and childcare services.

The reality is that the demands of modern life can make it difficult for professionals to juggle careers and outside responsibilities. Many employers refuse to make concessions and accommodate workers’ needs on principle for the sake of keeping order. Employees are forced to choose between the professional and personal, which often results in added stress, decreased performance, and sometimes, the team member choosing to leave the role entirely.

9. Accommodate part-time and leaves of absence

Employee retention does not need to be an all-or-nothing approach. SHRM estimates the average cost of hiring and training a new employee at around $4,000. Sometimes, it makes more sense to reduce capacity than to replace an employee.

When employees can no longer work the agreed-upon hours, employers have the option of granting paid or unpaid time off or adjusting hours. The employee can ramp back up to full time after an agreed-upon period, or the employer can enlist extra help in the form of temporary or contract workers to fill the gaps. The company retains the team member’s knowledge and skills and does not need to hire from scratch, and the worker will likely be grateful for the flexibility.

This approach is especially helpful to offset major life events such as starting a family, caring for a sick relative, or returning to school.

10. Permit switches to different teams and departments

Occasionally, an employee loves the company yet is not in the right role. Instead of parting so that the team member can find a more suitable position elsewhere, make it easy for employees to move within the organization. Enabling department switches and vertical moves is one of the more innovative ways to retain employees.

Here are some ways to enable this switch:

  1. Cross-train employees
  2. Offer shadowing opportunities
  3. Initiate collaborative projects
  4. Host regular company wide team building events
  5. Share open job listings

Another important piece of the puzzle is for leadership to be onboard with the moves. Managers should embody the attitude that while they may dislike losing a team member, they care more about ensuring staff finds the right fit.

11. Encourage personalized check-ins from the leadership team

Facilitating one-on-ones with higher ups is one of the more unusual employee retention methods.

Having a personal relationship with leadership makes employees much more likely to stick around. When higher managers take the time to learn staff’s names and check-in, team members feel like more than faceless, replaceable workers. The effect works in reverse as well. When workers humanize leaders and have social ties with higher ups, the result is a stronger sense of responsibility and loyalty. These feelings make leaving the company a much more personal and thought-out decision making process.

Leaders can build rapport with staff in many simple ways such as greeting new hires with a short face-to-face video call or personalized email, chatting casually with staff while waiting for participants to join an all-hands call, attending team building events with staff, and taking the time to write a short note to congratulate staff on personal or professional achievements.

These gestures make staff feel seen and valued, and are especially meaningful when coming from executives with busy schedules.

12. Plan regular virtual team building events

Remote workers often feel lonely and disconnected from company culture. Switching jobs is easier when employees lack strong work friendships and do not feel like a true part of a team.

Holding team outings regularly helps build a sense of community in virtual offices and makes remote team members feel more seen and supported.

Examples include:

  • Remote lunches
  • Virtual happy hours
  • Zoom book clubs
  • Slack games
  • Instant message icebreakers
  • Random video call breaks

Team building works best when performed on an ongoing basis. Holding regular group activities gives teammates many chances to connect with peers, and speeds up the relationship building process. The benefit of hosting events regularly is that the planning process is easier when events repeat, and if teammates miss one outing, there are other opportunities to participate and connect with coworkers.

Check out this list of virtual team building exercises.

13. Offer exceptional professional development opportunities

According to the 2019 LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% would remain in a job longer if given learning opportunities. In part, this desire for growth is due to a competitive and uncertain job market, and a need to have a competitive edge should layoffs occur. Also, professionals want meaningful careers that involve challenges and the ability to grow.

Development opportunities are important to younger generations especially. Helping staff level up is an investment. Making the commitment to help staff level up sends the signal that the company sees the team member as an asset and a worthy investment. Acknowledging that potential shows that the company has long-term interest. The team member, in turn, is typically eager to stick around and explore the depths of that potential for growth within the company.

By laying out a growth plan, leaders can banish doubts or restlessness and reassure employees. Managers should collaborate on this plan with the team member. The employee can pinpoint goals and desired career paths and the manager can outline the necessary steps and timeframes. Folks are less likely to give up if the finish line is in view. An employee who can visualize the time required to move up within an organization is more likely to stay than a staff member who cannot see the next step on the ladder.

14. Host exclusive employee experiences

Some of the best companies create an insider culture that turns employees into fans. One way to inspire this kind of loyalty and excitement is to hold exclusive experiences for employees. Throwing parties and offering special perks is one of the most creative ways to retain employees.

Employees are more hesitant to give up perks they cannot get elsewhere.

For example:

  • Company events and parties
  • Meals with the CEO
  • Box seats at sporting events or concerts
  • Employee discounts
  • Complimentary company services
  • Care packages
  • Early access to products

The more unique and tailored you can make these experiences, the more likely employees will feel like a part of a special club.

15. Encourage employees to make their mark on the company

Makers feel attached to their creations. For the same reasons many folks are more hesitant to throw away a handmade bowl than a store-bought bowl, employees have a harder time leaving companies that they helped to build. Human beings tend to have stronger feelings about objects they own, and creative freedom grants team members a sense of ownership over their work.

These contributions do not need to be major or affect the entire organization. This autonomy can be as simple as the ability to pitch ideas and products, design workplace systems, or start clubs and committees.

When staff have the freedom to experiment and create, the work becomes “their baby.” Team members with autonomy produce work they are proud of and feel more like active contributors to the organization. This tangible mark makes the teammate more driven to see the company succeed, and grants more of a state in organizational outcomes.

This approach also helps to retain the most ambitious talent, instead of those high achievers giving notice and going solo to build something of their own. Giving trusted team members the ability to call some shots helps to quench that craving to make a meaningful mark on the job.

16. Provide regular feedback

Without feedback, employees have a hard time accurately gauging their performance. These team members may be oblivious to areas of possible improvement, or, they may not realize how much peers and managers respect and appreciate their contributions. A lack of guidance from leaders can make employees unsure of their standing within the organization and can eventually cause them to stray.

Beyond giving reassurance and advice, feedback sessions also give employees the opportunity to respond and give recommendations to the employer.

The annual review is not the only time when leaders should give team members feedback. Instead, managers should conduct more informal reviews throughout the year, such as quarterly assessments, weekly meetings, and regular check-ins. This approach offers leaders the chance to make corrections and improvements in real time instead of letting problems devolve to a point of probation or performance plans.

Here are tips for giving employee feedback, and a guide to virtual one on one meetings.

17. Hold interactive all-hands meetings

All-hands meetings and town halls are company wide meetings where employees learn important updates and business forecasts. Keeping employees informed about company happenings is an important part of staff retention. Employees who are kept in the dark do not feel respected, and team members who are unsure of the company’s future may seek out seemingly more stable employment.

The best all-hands meetings are two way discussions between leadership and the staff. Smart leaders do not merely make announcements and talk at employees, but also provide an opportunity for team members to weigh in. These conversations may come in the form of live Q&A sessions, a pre-meeting submission form for questions, or an invitation to continue talking about the topic in another forum. Many video conferencing platforms and virtual event programs have features like polls, hand raising, and question & answer tools that facilitate interaction.

Similarly, leaders should not only talk about final decisions, but mention in-progress projects and ask employee opinions. This approach gives employees more say and sway, and gives the impression that team members can influence company outcomes. Which, in turn, makes workers feel more integral, valued, and in-control, and instills a desire to stick around to see the end result.

Check out this list of all-hands meeting ideas.

18. Foster diverse and inclusive environments

Lack of meaningful diversity is one of the most unfortunate reasons for employees to leave organizations. In the past, workers often either withstood discrimination due to a lack of opportunity, or quietly left in hopes of finding fairer treatment elsewhere. Modern professionals hold organizations increasingly accountable for creating inclusive environments, and tend to be more vocal about workplace injustices. Thus, we are more aware that when professionals are made to feel alienated because of their identities and do not feel supported by employers, they are likely to leave.

Luckily, there are steps organizations can take to foster more inclusive environments. These include starting employee resource groups, launching meaningful diversity training and education programs, fostering a culture that celebrates differences, and building trust among managers and employees. It is important to teach employees how to be good allies to peers, and also to have a functional process in place for reporting and responding to discriminatory behaviors.

For more tips, here is a list of books on diversity and inclusion and a list of diversity ideas for remote teams.

19. Celebrate work anniversaries

Work anniversaries acknowledge employees’ accomplishments and commitment to the company. Thanking employees for that time spent with the company gives further incentive to remain for years to come. Not to mention, these celebrations can subtly motivate staff to stick around and receive acclaim. Being aware of how long colleagues have been with the company helps team members believe that the workplace is somewhere worth staying, triggers long-term thinking, and gives employees goals to aspire to.

We recommend modest gestures like making announcements and giving small gifts or bonuses for regular anniversaries, and larger gestures like parties and special gifts for milestone anniversaries such as five years or ten years.

Here is a list of virtual work anniversary ideas and a collection of work anniversary quotes.

20. Send out employee retention surveys

Communication is important in any relationship. You often hear break up stories where one party exclaims, “I had no idea my partner was that unhappy!” You do not want to be the dumbfounded lover in this metaphor. You want to know about the upset before employees arrive in your office so that you can take steps to remedy the dissatisfaction.

You may not have time to host a heart-to-heart with every member of your organization, but you can send out employee engagement surveys to catch early warning signs and implement fixes.

Here are a few sample employee engagement retention survey questions:

  • Do you enjoy working here, the majority of days?
  • Are you proud to work for this company?
  • Do you see yourself working here in one year? Two years? Five years?
  • What factors most impact whether you like your job?
  • Do you enjoy working with your current team?
  • Do you feel that your supervisor is fair, supportive, and invested in your growth?
  • Do you feel as if you have friends at work?
  • Do you feel as if you have a voice in the company?

To encourage complete honesty, you should keep surveys anonymous. If you want to have longer conversations, then you can call on voluntary focus groups. However, you should never confront individual employees about survey answers, as this erods trust.

You should address and act on the results of your survey. Employees want to feel heard, and will respect management who follows through on promises to change, even if that change is gradual. Staff who see leaders working towards solutions are more likely to hang around to see the outcomes of those changes.

21. Transform managers into leaders

The saying goes, people leave bad bosses, not bad jobs. In fact, research from human resource consultancy firm DDI found that 57% percent of respondents left a job specifically because of a manager. Compassionate and competent leaders can empower employees and inspire company loyalty, while disorganized or toxic leadership can cause staff to stray.

One of the best employee retention tips for managers is for supervisors to practice mindful and compassionate leadership. Great leaders unlock workers’ true potential and encourage employees to grow. Such leaders acknowledge teammates’ current and past accomplishments and skills, and identify areas that these employees can expand upon.

While ineffective leaders can be obstacles to a worker’s career, real leaders become co-collaborators to professional development. These leaders empower and inspire their staff. Such individuals lead by example with integrity and respect. True leaders unite teammates around a common goal and vision, and workers stick around longer to bring that goal to fruition. More importantly, a good leader offers recognition and expresses appreciation that makes staff members feel appreciated and valued.

Here are signs of good managers and a list of leadership skills.

22. Perform exit interviews

Some turnover is inevitable. Even the most dynamic and engaging employers lose teammates to unforeseeable conditions such as spouses securing jobs in new cities, sick family members needing care-taking, the appearance of an irresistible opportunity, or a general change in heart or life direction. Departures are not always within a company’s control, but employers should not automatically assume that the path was unavoidable.

Instead of guessing about a resigning employee’s intentions or motivations, organizations should conduct exit interviews. These interviews can examine whether or not the employee’s leaving was preventable, clarify whether the organization could have acted differently, and expose underlying trouble. Leaders can use the information gained in these interviews to fix issues and avoid additional turnover.

Even if outside circumstances drive an employee’s decision to leave, organizations can improve the environment and increase the retention rate. Regular exit interviews can identify patterns worth addressing. For instance, a company that notices that many talented young women quit to raise small children may consider offering daycare services or credits, or allowing more flexible work hours.

23. Remain on good terms with departing employees

When you cannot prevent good employees from leaving, then at least handle the departure with grace, professionalism, and warmth. Ending the current relationship on good terms permits the possibility of rehiring. Keeping ex-employees in the hiring pipeline can make recruiting quicker and easier. Note that it helps to outright state that the team member is welcome to rejoin the organization in the future, as some professionals are unsure of the etiquette of applying to former employers.

Even if these employees never reapply, they may recommend good candidates to open roles. Former employees understand the company culture and can identify a good fit. Recommendations from former team members are often more reliable and less risky than taking a chance on a stranger. Not to mention, ex-employees may send clients your way, or simply spread your positive reputation in the world at large.

Be sure to collect contact information from departing employees, and send company updates or an occasional personal note to maintain an active relationship.

Conclusion

Recruiting and training is an expensive and time-intensive process. Even if you fill a vacant position quickly, a new hire needs time to learn and adjust to the new environment and to bond with teammates.

Not to mention, hiring is always a risk and an opportunity. While you can practice smart hiring tactics, you cannot guarantee that your new member will be a good fit. Though fresh hires can revitalize an organization, ideally the desire for new talent and perspective should drive the decision to hire rather than the need to fill a gap.

When you retain talent, your employees feel more secure and less strained, and your organization can dedicate the energy required to scout and woo new talent into more productive endeavors.

Next, check out this of tips for successful virtual teams, these ways to boost morale at work, and these stats on employee turnover.

We also have a guide on quiet quitting.

FAQ: Employee Retention Strategies

Here are answers to common questions about employee retention strategies.

What does employee retention strategy mean?

An employee retention strategy is a plan to reduce turnover and retain talent within an organization while increasing employee engagement and performance. A good employee retention strategy identifies the main reasons for employee dissatisfaction or disengagement and remedies the issue while staying true to the organization’s mission and bottom line.

Why is employee retention important?

Employee turnover is time-consuming and expensive for organizations. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, filling a job vacancy costs companies an average of $4,129 and 42 days. This statistic does not account for the team building costs of adding a new group member, either.

Without effective employee retention strategies, companies can lose top talent to competitors, or can drive bright minds from industries entirely. Employee retention eliminates the costs and stress of job hunting for both parties, and builds a more positive, more productive work environment. Though companies want to reserve resources and maintain good brand reputations, organizations also want to foster great experiences for employees and create workplaces conducive to creativity, teamwork, and high performance.

What are employee retention techniques?

Employee retention techniques are methods of satisfying employee needs to encourage staff to stay with the company. These techniques address administrative aspects such as hiring and pay in addition to environmental factors such as diversity and inclusion and relationships with peers.

What are the best employee retention techniques?

The best employee retention techniques are building bonds between employees, transforming managers into leaders, and fostering a safe and inclusive work environment.

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Content Expert at teambuilding.com.
Team building content expert. Angela has a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and worked as a community manager with Yelp to plan events for businesses.

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