The stats behind workplace loyalty aren’t what they used to be. The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that the median length of time a worker has been with their current employer (for both wage and salary careers) was 4.2 years in January 2018. This number varies wildly between generational groups, with the median tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 at 10.1 years, while those aged 25 to 34 had a median tenure of just 2.8 years.
With Millennials increasingly looking for their dream job and refusing to settle for work experiences that don’t meet more of their personal and professional needs, we could see these numbers get even shorter as Baby Boomers age out of the workplace (taking their much longer career averages with them.)
What can employers do to retain the best talent, despite the trends pointing to a lifetime of job-hoppers? How does this directly tie into your current hiring practices? Here are a few proven strategies to keep people working longer at your company.
Onboard with Care
First impressions matter in the business world just as much as they do in personal life. From day one, your new employee should feel like they are part of something meaningful. Greet them personally at the door, show them around, and make sure they connect with peers and mentors, alike. Don’t push too much information at them at once; this may mean skipping those training videos and having a “get-to-know-you” lunch, instead!
Boredom is a typical complaint of someone close to leaving their job. Even if the work is part of a template process, there are ways to expand and improve upon any role. One way to understand how positions can evolve is to ask the worker what they think they could be doing to add value to a role. Be sure you emphasize that you aren’t trying to get more productivity for the money. Emphasize that these changes set the worker up to take on additional, paid responsibilities down the road.
Balance People with Profits
The hard truth is that companies who don’t make money can’t keep their workers for very long. That doesn’t mean that all your employee communications should emphasize money above everything else. People are still the heart and soul of any company culture, so take every opportunity to acknowledge where you’d be without your employees. Practice mindful ways to show appreciation daily, bring workers in on important decisions that affect them, and course adjust on small matters when it makes sense.
Do you know the reason most people leave their job? If you thought it was money, you’d be somewhat correct. While pay is a significant factor for satisfaction, it’s not the only reason people head out of the door. Toxic work culture is cited as a common complaint for those who quit their jobs, along with no ability to advance. Both of these issues can be caught early by taking the time to solicit feedback from your workers. More frequent check-ins (vs. just doing a rushed annual review) can help you address problems well before a worker has made up their mind about taking their talents elsewhere.
You may be pretty excited about Taco Tuesdays and free memberships to the local hot yoga club, but how do your employees feel? Business owners and managers can fall into the trap of pushing the things that they love onto others. Ensure your “work perks” are actually something workers want by asking – at least annually. This goes for employee health plans, where you have the important job of balancing premiums with deductibles with copays. Retirement benefits matter, too. Meet often with your HR people to lay out everything you can offer your employees, then revisit frequently to make sure you’re offering benefits that matter to your unique workforce.
Make it Legal
This last tip may cause some bosses to bristle, but it’s important to address. Losing talent to competitors happens quite often, and having your best workers wooed away happens. Make sure your employment contracts include language addressing non-compete and confidentiality expectations. If you don’t want your workers giving secrets to your competitor for higher pay than what you offered, make it legal with a contract clause. (Consult an attorney for advice on what you can and cannot request.)
Create a Formal Referral Program
While there’s a very real danger in having too many work-place cliques at your company, there’s a positive effect on morale when your best employees have a tight bond. One way to capitalize on this is to offer a bonus when workers refer their friends to the company. It’s possible to recruit with less hassle, ensure the culture of the workplace stays strong, and reward your existing workers for helping the company grow. Whether you give them cash or time off, be sure they see the fruits of their efforts.
Why Employee Turnover Isn’t All Bad
Finally, we know that hiring costs businesses approximately $4,129 per worker, but is that always a bad thing? Sometimes, the best thing you can do is let someone who doesn’t want to be there leave. Arm-twisting and grand promises may keep a reluctant worker around for the short-term, but at what cost?
When employee retention amounts to simple bribery, the balance of the workplace may become unstable. Those workers who happily did their jobs may become resentful if a disgruntled worker is given their way; likewise, efforts to placate someone who will leave anyway just delays the inevitable (and often at a high cost to your payroll budget and the workplace culture.)
Take announcements of departure by your teams seriously, but don’t go out of your way to hold back someone who has set their mind on leaving. You want your employees to be a willing part of your team. Sometimes, the easiest way to keep employees is to let a few go.
This article was originally written on April 25, 2019 and updated on January 27, 2021.