Human Resources

How to Improve Retention of High-Potential Employees

By Adrienne SmithMarch 28, 2017

In recent years, employee turnover has become an increasing problem. In fact, half of Millennials don’t expect to stay in their role for more than a year. Considering Millennials make up over a third of the US workplace, this is staggering.

Retaining high-performing Millennials helps your business. For starters, you save time and money when filling in open positions; recruiting externally can be 1.7 times more expensive than recruiting internally. You also build your next generation of leaders with people already familiar with your organization.

So, how do you improve retention? Start by investing in your employees. As Anne Mulcahy of Xerox said, “Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person — not just as employees — are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability.”

Employees lean in when they believe your company commits to their career development. Motivating employees to lean in isn’t about giving them a busier workday, or more projects. It’s about providing learning experiences tailored to their interests and development needs. Help employees foster relationships, learn new skills, complete challenging projects and motivate others.

This engaged learning makes a positive difference in your company’s turnover rate. Engaged Millennials are 26% less likely than unengaged Millennials to consider another job, even if that job includes a raise.

Integrate some — or all — of the below six focuses to increase engagement and retention.

6 Key Focuses That Will Improve Employee Engagement & Retention

According to this SHRM study, engaged employees show the desire and ability to exceed expectations within their role. Engagement stems from employees’ satisfaction in their work, their pride in their employer, and their perceived impact on the company. So how can your organization instill these feelings of pride and satisfaction? Introduce high-performance employees to learning opportunities tailored to them.

Doing so will greatly improve employee engagement within your company, which in turn will positively affect retention. In fact, that same SHRM study found that highly engaged, high-performing employees are five times less likely to voluntarily leave the company.

So where do you start? Integrate any (or all) of the following steps:

  1. Show transparency.
  2. Build relationships.
  3. Offer opportunities to learn.
  4. Build a roadmap.
  5. Create accountability loops.
  6. Measure your results.

Focus 1: Show Transparency

Showing transparency makes employees feel included and valued. Perhaps more importantly, it unites everyone toward a common mission. Share the company’s intentions and plans to improve engagement. Employees will appreciate your honesty and feel proud to help the company achieve the goal.

This openness can happen in many ways: regular company-wide town halls, team meetings and one-on-one chats are all great opportunities to show transparency.

Focus 2: Build Relationships

Help employees build relationships across teams and levels of seniority. This can involve mentorship programs, team outings and cross-functional projects. However you approach it, employees will appreciate building an internal network of resources.

As time goes on, employees will turn to their network more and more. They’ll have a support system to guide them through career development. They’ll have more stakeholders in projects. And they’ll foster a culture of peer-to-peer learning, as employees share their skills with one another.

Focus 3: Offer Opportunities to Learn

Follow the 70:20:10 learning model to encourage employees to challenge themselves daily. The 70:20:10 ratio involves:

  • 70% of knowledge comes from day-to-day challenges, like assuming new responsibilities or working with new teams.
  • 20% of knowledge comes from interactions with others, to build a support system of peers and leaders.
  • 10% of knowledge comes from formal education, like courses, eBooks, and panels.

Through the 70:20:10 ratio, employees will encounter learning opportunities that are immediately applicable.

Focus 4: Develop Skills

Engaged employees take an active role in their growth. Help set this stage with career pathing, which involves working with the employee to:

  • Identify strengths and competencies.
  • Identify skill gaps.
  • Consider a few career path options.

A lack of career opportunity is the biggest reason employees quit their jobs. By offering career pathing, you’ll motivate employees to invest in their career at your company.

Focus 5: Create Accountability Loops

Once you’ve set the learning and development wheels in motion, it’s time to create accountability loops. This is your chance to qualitatively measure how engaged employees are.

Check in with employees, managers, and senior leaders. Do so often. Most importantly, iterate based on feedback you receive. Platforms like Everwise can help you build these accountability loops. By setting up a checks and balances system, you’ll ensure you’re on the right track to boost employee engagement.

Focus 6: Measure Results

In addition to qualitative measurements, set quantitative benchmarks to work toward. Doing so will help you better understand what progress and success look like. It will also help you recognize when you’ve achieved your goals.

Here are a few ideas to set benchmarks against:

  • Quarterly employee satisfaction surveys.
  • Set an internal hire rate to stay above.
  • Set a retention rate to stay above.
Adrienne Smith

Adrienne Smith

About the Author

Adrienne is a writer, editor, and content marketer from New York. She's passionate about creating equal opportunity in the workplace.

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