Your Employee Retention Strategies Aren’t Working - Now What?

by Rosie Powers on Jul 30, 2018 9:04:03 PM

Strong research has connected employee retention with staff appreciation programs. But what can your company do if you’ve tried these strategies and are still seeing a high employee turnover rate?

TINYpulse’s 2018 Employee Recognition and Appreciation Report found that well-recognized employees rate their enthusiasm for reapplying for their job 32 percent higher than workers who aren’t well-recognized. But it’s important to remember that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to employee retention strategies. In fact, choosing the wrong type of program can even be detrimental to workplace culture.


When an organization acknowledges that its staff retention programs are not successful, it’s important to examine more than just the program itself and its implementation. It’s entirely possible that the program is not to blame. Take a zoomed-out approach at examining workplace culture as a whole, as well as the status of the organization and its leadership. These areas can be just as influential to staff retention as employee appreciation - so much so that if there are problems in these areas, they may nullify any appreciation programs currently in place.

Women sitting at a desk, brainstorming employee retention strategies together

Begin an analysis of your company by distributing an anonymous survey to employees that covers the three steps mentioned below. It is important that the survey be anonymous so that staff feel comfortable being open about their opinions without fear of offending leadership. These surveys give a more accurate reading of how employees feel about the status of the company - relying on a manager’s interpretation of how well these strategies are working can produce biased and skewed results. After collecting this data, analyze it and use it to guide new strategies for improvement.


Step 1: Review Retention Strategies


When brainstorming strategies for staff retention, it’s important to choose those that fit into existing workplace culture. There is no shortage of strategies and technical platforms that exist to achieve this - but remember that what might be amazingly successful for one organization may not be successful for all. This is, in part, because of authenticity (or a lack thereof).


To analyze a program’s authenticity, look first at the praise being given to employees. Is it genuine? Does it feel forced? Is it personalized to the staff member receiving praise? If not, then the program may doing more harm than good. It’s one issue for an employee to feel as though their effort wasn’t recognized by their company. It’s another issue entirely to feel as though the company is offering false recognition for the effort - some staff members may interpret this as a fake effort to keep employees satisfied. Also remember that fun cannot be forced. Staff bonding activities can be a positive experience - again, in consideration of workplace culture - but do not make them mandatory.

 Creative business team putting hands together at the office

Also look at whether or not the appreciation fits within the identity and values of the organization. If the praise being given seems uncharastically enthusiastic for the culture or the company’s identity, it may make the staff member feel uncomfortable. Instead, try giving praise in consideration of organizational values. Select concepts from company mission or vision statements to focus on when nominating employees for praise. This creates an opportunity to further connect with the employee by showing them how they personally demonstrate those values.


An additional barrier to success may be more logistical. Is the appreciation program convenient for staff? TINYpulse’s 2018 Employee Recognition and Appreciation Report found that 44 percent of employees give regular peer-to-peer recognition when they have a tool that makes it easy. If there are too many technical barriers to entry, the platform or program may have low participation, or only attract employees that are already highly engaged in workplace culture rather than those that are not. Companies can navigate these challenges by including managers and employees, especially those that are more technically-savvy, when selecting a recognition platform.


Step 2: Analyze Company Culture


Employee appreciation programs can be effective, but often times workplace culture has to be already established in order for these programs to leverage it. If a program isn’t working, step back and take a broader look at company culture to see what issues may exist.


Use survey results to analyze whether or not staff feel truly engaged with the culture. As I wrote previously on the TINYpulse blog, employees feel more of a connection to culture if they feel a sort of co-ownership over it. Although this may seem fairly simple, it stands as a major barrier to many workplaces. Only 32 percent of employees in the U.S. feel engaged in their job, according to a 2017 Gallup poll. Engaging employees in planning and decision-making around culture is crucial to having a workplace that truly reflects its employees. This can be achieved by having a committee of staff that help plan workplace events, or collaborating with staff on what appreciation programs and activities they feel fit into the culture.


Secret Sauce of Employee Retention 

An effective company culture is also personalized, but in a way that is genuine and authentic. Workplaces can be a community, supporting each other in both good times and bad. Small, timely gestures can help personalize a culture, such as recognizing birthdays or supporting someone when they are having a bad day. This also promotes positive communication among coworkers as well as managers, helping to boost morale.


Step 3: Examine Trust and Transparency


Employee retention programs cannot solve all of the issues at a company, particularly if many of them are not even related to company culture. If an organization has already run a thorough analysis of the steps above and is still searching for answers, it’s likely that issues leading to high staff attrition are a result of larger issues.


Use survey results to see how employees view management. Is there an overwhelming feeling of micromanagement? High staff turnover can be rooted in frustration of feeling overworked with a lack of autonomy. One study found that 59 percent of employees surveyed said they had worked for a micromanager at some point in their careers. Of those employees, 68 percent said it decreased their morale and 55 percent said it hurt their productivity. This data reveals that micromanagers not only affect morale, but productivity. Employees are less likely to put in effort in their job under a micromanager, and if they leave, the company spends time and resources in replacing them. If micromanagement has emerged as a trend, look at opportunities for management training or professional development that can give managers growth opportunities in their role.

 Rear View of Young Office Workers in Casual Outfits Listening to a Top Manager Explaining Something Using Illustrations.


Also analyze employee confidence in leadership and the direction of the company at-large. Do employees feel a lack of transparency within management? A lack of trust in leadership was cited as the reason 45 percent of employees surveyed quit their jobs, according to a study by Tolero. This, coupled together with failure of leadership to deliver on certain ideas, can create a lack of confidence in the company for employees. One way to increase transparency is to adjust the approach to disseminating company information. Rather that debating whether or not to share information with the team, instead evaluate whether it’s necessary to keep it from them. Also ensure that promises made by management are attainable, and if possible, rooted in the information that is shared with the team.


Keep Collecting Feedback


Even after an organization has analyzed the three areas above and has made adjustments, the work isn’t finished. Culture is not static, as situations and roles can change within a company over time. This highlights the importance of routine check-ins between managers and employees about the status of workplace culture and leadership at-large.


These check-ins can continue as a series of anonymous surveys focusing on these issues. Ensure that data is saved from each survey to cross-compare strengths and weaknesses in certain areas over time. This allows for quick detection of solutions that are working versus those that aren’t. Routine surveys also demonstrate to employees that a company is serious about their opinions and engaged with searching for solutions to keeping them satisfied.


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Another way to collect effective feedback is to take employee exit interviews seriously. Although the chance to re-engage this employee has passed, they may be more comfortable than current employees in providing more honest feedback about the company, its culture and management. Use these interviews, similar to surveys, to find trends of why employees are leaving. Trends demonstrate that a departure is not just related to a specific employee.


Utilizing a broad approach in collecting insights on culture and leadership presents an opportunity for companies to grow into larger solutions and to effectively address staff retention.


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This post was written by Rosie Powers

Rosie is a digital marketing strategy consultant and freelance writer focused on helping nonprofits, socially-minded startups and small businesses engage with audiences. She is passionate about environmental justice and loves nerding out about space exploration.

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