Employee retention management is more than just attracting and retaining key talent through things like salary and benefits. It is being strategic and intentional about the activities that make employees loyal and that enhance team performance.
What kinds of activities? Good onboarding is one example. Team-building exercises, employee recognition, and building a culture of respect are others. There’s also measurement: You can’t know how well other employee retention management activities are working unless you are collecting the right data.
The most versatile tool for employee retention management is training. More than any of these other activities, good training programs get to the heart of why talented employees tend to leave their workplaces.
Why Good Employees Really Leave
Just as there is not one single thing that makes a bad movie bad, there is no one reason why good employees leave an organization. Instead there are several factors common across organizations that tend to “bleed talent,” and the more factors a company has, the greater the talent loss will be:
Poor Training. Roughly 40% of employees in the U.S. leave their jobs within the first year because of poor training. This is especially true of Millennials and Gen Zers, who are looking to businesses to supply them with the skills and knowledge needed to understand our increasingly technology-driven world. A 2018 survey by Udemy found that 42% of Millennials listed learning and development opportunities as one of the most important benefits when deciding where to work— second only to health insurance (48%).
Lack of Growth Opportunities. Even if training is available, good employees might leave if that training does not also include opportunities for career advancement. According to Willis Towers Watson’s 2016 Global Findings Report, close to one-half of high-potential employees think they need to leave their organizations to advance their careers.
Weak Company Culture. A strong company culture is one where there is open communication, strong leadership, mutual respect, and work-life balance. A survey of 2,000 employees conducted by Hays found that 47% of those actively looking for new positions reported company culture as the main reason they want to leave.
Toxic Managers. Managers and supervisors play a large role in their employees’ day-to-day attitude and well-being. (Some of our best employees here at ej4 came to us because of abusive managers at previous jobs!) A 2018 study by Randstad US found that 38% of workers wanted to leave their jobs due to a toxic work culture, or one where they don’t feel they fit in.
Stress. These days it’s hard to avoid a baseline level of stress and anxiety in the workplace; approximately 40% of U.S. employees feel overworked, pressured, and “squeezed.” The bigger problem is how we are dealing with it: A full 63% of Americans report they are not coping effectively with stress. It is the responsibility of leadership to make sure stress does not spill over and become something worse.
Given these reasons good employees leave, how can HR use training for effective employee retention management?
1. Start with Onboarding
My company, ej4, has onboarded its fair share of employees. When I’ve spoken with them in those first few critical weeks, two things are clear: 1) They are eager to get to work, and 2) They want training that is relevant to what they will be doing, from Day 1.
We’re not alone in this. A few years ago BambooHR conducted a study and found that roughly 73% of new employees want a review of company policies during onboarding, and 76% want on-the-job training right off the bat. For comparison, only 59% want a company tour and/or introduction to equipment, and only 56% want to be introduced to a buddy or mentor.
So, if you want to set the right tone for your organization and instill a strong learning culture, make sure you have a formal onboarding procedure, and make training a part of it. Brand yourself from the very beginning as a company that supports learning!
2. Give Them Opportunities for Growth and Development
Effective company leadership must face the fact that any organization, including theirs, could be just one life event away from an unexpected change in leadership. And yet 23% of companies have done no succession planning whatsoever, according to a 2019 survey by the American Management Association.
Succession planning goes hand-in-hand with developing your HiPos. Even those employees that show all the signs of potential (working hard, a willingness to take responsibility, a healthy store of knowledge and experience, etc.) need to be trained. This is especially true when preparing non-management employees for management roles, as management itself requires a unique set of skills.
This is relevant to employee retention management: Successful companies will create learning tracks and career mobility for any employee who desires growth. Not everyone is cut out for management but many employees want a chance to learn and grow, if it is laterally. When those opportunities are widely announced and known, it gives employees a huge incentive for staying the course with your organization.
3. Provide Skills Training for Company Culture
Does your company have a healthy degree of communication and candor? Believe it or not, having the appropriate level of candor in the workplace is a skill that can—and must—be learned. The same goes for respectful communication, work-life balance, and more.
I should also point out that ethical behavior, itself, is often a matter of training.
While few of these skills are role-specific, they are still important as they set the tone for your company’s culture. When employees see that management is taking these topics seriously, they will work toward a culture that embodies these practices and values. This is how the formation of company culture becomes part of an overall retention management strategy.
4. Pay Close Attention to Manager and Supervisor Training
Almost everyone has worked with a poor manager or supervisor. Maybe he or she was a dictator that ignored people’s opinions, or an alarmist constantly running teams into the ground with each new “emergency.” (I once took a stab at categorizing the different bad managers I had heard of or experienced previously in my career. It was cathartic.) On the other hand, managers who are confident, efficient, and organized tend to pass those traits on to their staff.
Proper training can help here, too. For example, DISC training can teach managers the different ways in which employees communicate, find motivation, and deal with stress. Training in motivating others, delegating successfully, and empowering others can also make a crucial difference. (We have a whole list of leadership topics in our own learning library.)
When managers and supervisors are not simply promoted, but are taught to be good managers and supervisors, it creates a workplace where talented people want to stay.
5. Allow Self-Directed Learning
Self-directed learning is any process or system that allows individual learners to direct their own learning, depending on their individual needs and interests. Providing self-directed learning to your employees is a great way to:
- Provide more training opportunities for HiPos,
- Encourage cross-department skills development,
- Accommodate different learning styles and work schedules,
- Accelerate professional development generally, and
- Ensure that content is available right at the point of need.
If self-directed learning can do all of these things, then including it as part of your general retention management strategy is a no-brainer. It can be added to your training programs alongside more traditional training or blended learning, offering yet another avenue for employee growth and development.
6. Look After Their Mental Health, Too
Stress is a huge problem in the workplace, and as I quoted above, a full 63% of American workers say they are not coping effectively with stress.
When I hear a stat like that, it makes me, as a leader of a company, cringe. Are employees being overworked? Are they not getting the support and resources they need? Is anyone checking in on them to make sure they are doing OK? All these questions are doubly worth asking as employees work from home during the pandemic.
Again, topics like stress management can be taught. Change management is also a worthwhile subject to explore, as it prepares employees to be more flexible as events unfold. In our own training library, we even have stand-alone training courses on keeping your cool, deep breathing exercises, ergonomics, and more.
Not only does training like this help reduce employee stress, it also sends a clear message that leadership cares about the well-being of its employees. When employees feel cared for, they are more willing to work hard through tough times and stay with your company—another great reason to include stress management as a key training component of your employee retention management strategy.
If you are interested in any of the training topics mentioned in this post, feel free to reach out and request a trial to gain full access to our eLearning library.
- Employee Retention Strategies that Leverage Training
- Rethinking the Employee Lifecycle
- A Guide to Creating an Employee Training and Development Program
- When is Self-Directed Learning Right for Corporate Training and Development?