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How to Retain Talent

You’ve spent time, energy and resources recruiting talent for your organization. The competition may have been fierce; the talent pool may have been limited, but you’ve managed to hire the best candidate available in your area. You can breathe a momentary sigh of relief, but the job isn’t done. Your next challenge will be retention. Making sure the newest hires stay on board, and existing staff has no thought to move on, may be the second most important function in the HR space. In a tight, competitive market, head count equals productivity.

For the newest hires the odds are stacked against in the best of candidate markets. Turnover for new hires is high: one survey found 31% of staff quit their job within the first six months, more than 16% in the first week. In today’s tight market, those numbers will no doubt be higher. 

Beyond new hire turnover, experts are predicting a ‘Great Resignation’ event is upon us. Following pandemic lockdowns, a majority of workers are reconsidering going back to on-site work or returning at all. Others, acknowledging the dearth of talent available in the face of hundreds of thousands of open jobs, are looking to leverage their skill sets for better wages and benefits. One estimate puts 40% of workers looking to change jobs this year. For business, retention will be key to survival.

 Creating a climate of retention

What can business do to retain staff members? This simple question vexes management and HR professionals, but it’s relatively easy to uncover the cause(s) of turnover. Just ask: formal or informal employee surveys are a great first step to boosting retention. You can create an anonymous online survey in a matter of minutes and ask employees to indicate what management can offer to keep them engaged and employed with the company. Some of the most common challenges employees face may be easier than you think to address.

The pay game

If wages are a concern, and as the market tightens they will be if they aren’t now, your first response may be you can’t consider an increase. But the cost of replacing staff may be higher than boosting hourly rates. Gallup found it can cost up to 1 ½ times an employee’s salary to replace them, factoring in recruitment and training costs and lost productivity. In 2019 they estimated turnover cost business $1 trillion per year. In today’s tight applicant market with wage wars raging, that extra dollar or so per hour may not be as costly as you think.

 Caregiver catastrophe

It’s estimated the COVID-19 pandemic caused at minimum 10% of working parents to quit their job due to school and daycare closures. Another 47% were forced to take unpaid leave; 65% for low-income mothers; and 70% for part-time workers. The pandemic outlined how important accessible childcare is for working families and the devastating effects it can have when unavailable.  For some of these parents, reentry into the workforce, either full- or part-time, will hinge on summer camps and daycare facilities fully reopening, which may be more or less prevalent depending on geographic location.

Whether there’s a pandemic or standard operating procedures, the challenges for working parents who require caregivers has always been top of mind. Even those with reliable facilities in their area came to realize these could be shut down at a moment’s notice. Those who utilize private caregivers – babysitters and nanny care – have known that a sick sitter equals a day off work. Businesses that support childcare for staff members are more likely to retain, as well as reduce absenteeism.

If you can’t build a daycare facility on-site (and few businesses can), what can you do to help working parents?  Providing access to backup childcare is an inexpensive way to support staff members and your business. When employees have options for caregivers that call in sick or facilities that are shut down, they’re able to easily make a switch and get to work. Helpr services are a low-cost way to make sure your staff has the peace of mind a trusted secondary provider, and your business isn’t impacted by a nanny with the sniffles.

 Flexing your business

The old saying ‘how you gonna keep ‘em down on the farm once they’ve seen the big city?’ has morphed into ‘how you gonna get them back in the office once they’ve worked without wearing shoes?’ Employees embraced the remote work model forced upon them during the pandemic and are not anxious to get back to the daily grind of commuting to the workplace.

 Many businesses found, after the initial hiccups were smoothed, remote work was a viable option. Employees were just as (sometimes more) productive, and office expenses were reduced. Lower utility bills, fewer office expenses, no more commuter reimbursements added up to significant savings. If you can keep your employees remote, even part of their time, you may find retention rates soar. If it’s not broken, and everyone loves it, don’t fix it. Find a way to flex, either with full or part remote work, shift changes, even flexible start times. Whatever you can do to make their work/life easier, the better (and more loyal) employees they’ll become.

Wages, childcare and flexibility may be the most common reasons for churn, but your staff will have other ideas on what will make them stay on your payroll. Find out what they need and try to meet them, at least halfway, if possible.  Happy employees do more than perform; they set high morale and boost retention – two of the most important elements in a successful business.