Leaving Is Easy — Keeping Employees on Board Is Hard: 4 Retention Tips for a Tight Talent Market

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In today’s tight talent market, with the US unemployment rate recently hitting a 49-year low, unhappy employees can simply switch jobs without much hassle. However, turnover is still extremely costly for the organization, making employee retention as important as ever.

Since I cofounded BIA nearly 20 years ago, it has been a priority of mine to create and maintain an environment where people actually want to come to work, and we continue to reap the rewards of that dedication. Last year, BIA was named one of the top places to work by Crain’s New York, and we saw a turnover rate of less than 5 percent. This didn’t happen without thought and care. Here are four tips for keeping employees happy and engaged, based on our experiences at BIA:

1. Recognize Good Work

This might sound obvious, but consider these statistics:

82 percent of employees feel their supervisors don’t recognize them for their work, according to research from oGoLead.

79 percent of employees who quit their jobs say a lack of appreciation is a major reason for leaving, according to research from O.C. Tanner.

The kicker is, recognizing employees for their good work isn’t even hard to do, nor does it have to be expensive. For example, at BIA, we created the WOW! Award program, which allows team members to recognize their colleagues for living out our guiding principles, going above and beyond on a project, or otherwise completing tasks with excellence. In our case, monthly winners receive a note of gratitude, company-wide recognition, two days of extra PTO, and a $1,000 bonus. The rewards will vary depending on your organization; maybe it’s a gift card for Amazon or the winner’s favorite lunch spot. The budget doesn’t matter as much as the act of appreciation itself.

Employee recognition improves not only retention, but also the performance of those employees who stick around. According to O.C. Tanner, employees who receive strong recognition generate twice as many ideas per month as those who don’t receive such recognition. When employees feel that managers value their work, they feel more motivated to keep doing that work well.

2. Establish Trust

Too little trust in a workplace creates a toxic environment, which can quickly lead to poor performance and high turnover. Conversely, employees who feel trusted have more confidence at work and perform at a higher level, according to research published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior.

To build trust in your team:

– Be transparent. Share the company’s plans and challenges with the team.
– Let go of your fear and stop micromanaging.
– Eliminate picky rules from the employee handbook. Your employees are capable adults and deserve to be treated as such.
– Allow employees to make some choices without having to run everything up the chain of command.
– Seek feedback. Ask employees how things are going and what changes they’d like to see, then act on their responses.

Establishing trust with your employees shows you’re confident in them, their integrity, and their abilities.

3. Connect With Your Team

Company executives have a lot of responsibility. It can be easy to get caught up in your own work and neglect to take the team’s temperature from time to time. This is especially common when things seem to be running smoothly and the team is meeting deadlines and generating results. However, the only way to prevent burnout and resolve problems before they turn into crises is to connect with your team regularly.

Schedule company-wide outings, hold happy hours at the office, or cater lunches for the team. Engaging with employees outside of work — or about things other than work — can go a long way in showing how much you care about them as people, not just employees.

As you take the time to intentionally connect with them, your team members will open up to you more easily. If you hear about a need from your team and the company can hep, do so. For instance, about 10 years ago, we learned that a BIA team member was dealing with a family emergency that required her to use up her PTO, so we adjusted our employee leave policy and created a PTO donation program. Through the program, employees can donate extra vacation days to colleagues when an unexpected medical issue or serious family situation comes up. This allows the team to pitch in and help carry unforeseen burdens when they arise, and it solidifies our family environment even more.

It’s important to engage with teams in other offices, too. At BIA, members from our executive team travel regularly to our offices outside of our New York headquarters. These visits allow us to engage with employees on a more personal level than would be possible via email and chat apps.

4. Create Opportunities for Growth

Today’s workforce cares deeply about learning and developing. In fact, 94 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers, according to LinkedIn’s “2018 Workplace Learning Report.” 

When you create learning opportunities for your employees, you show you are actively invested in their growth and success over the long haul. Consider offering trainings and other learning activities your employees are interested in. Additionally, look for ways for employees to earn industry certifications that can advance their careers. For example, we work in the litigation technology industry at BIA, and we’re currently on track to achieve the Certified E-Discovery Specialist (CEDS) certification for every member of our sales and support staff.

Look for opportunities to invest in your employees’ personal growth, too. One of our New York-based team members is an incredibly talented violinist and plays with the Handel and Haydn Society’s orchestra and chorus in Boston, which takes her on the road from time to time. When she first started at BIA, we worked out a plan for her to work remotely when she’s called to Boston to play.

Your company wouldn’t function without your employees, so take the time to show them you value and appreciate them.

Brian Schrader, Esq., is CEO of BIA. He can be reached at bschrader@biaprotect.com.

By Brian Schrader