With so many people quitting, HR pros might only focus on turnover.

But don’t! Instead, turn your attention to the employees who stay.

Sure, it’s called the Great Resignation. But the smartest companies – and they feel the turnover and hiring crunch, too – hone in on retention by engaging loyal employees even more.

In fact, 80% of best-in-class companies doubled down on what’s critical to employee retention – communication, flexibility, relationships and culture. That’s according to the Conference Board’s study, Reshaping Employee Experience and Organizational Culture: Lessons From the Tumultuous Events of 2020 and 2021.

“Businesses not only need to trust their employees, but to gain their employees’ trust,”
— Robin Erickson, PhD, Principal Researcher, Human Capital at The Conference Board

“Businesses not only need to trust their employees, but to gain their employees’ trust,” said Robin Erickson, PhD, Principal Researcher, Human Capital at The Conference Board.

Now’s the time to focus on employees in the building or at home – those who show up day-in, day-out making the wheels turn. Here are six strategies to improve their employee experience. 

Communicate more

Communicating more doesn’t mean just putting more information in employees’ hands. They don’t need more. They need personal and authentic information. 

How? Try:

  • Town hall meetings with company leaders talking realistically about business in language employees “get” 
  • Regular forums between departments that rely on each other
  • Skip-level meetings where people can give upper management their view of the employee experience, and
  • A regular cadence of one-on-one meetings between managers and direct reports.

“These intentional opportunities for meaningful conversation provided a platform for employees to provide honest feedback,” Erickson said of the study’s best-in-class companies. “[The companies] broke down barriers between leadership and staff, and helped leaders to be aware of the experiences of their employees.”

Ask the right questions

Asking the right questions – and reacting to the responses – goes hand in hand with more communication. And employees’ well-being has never been more important. 

Managers in one-on-one meetings can improve the experience when they make an effort to understand their employees’ well-being. 

Try these questions from Leadership Coach Suzi McAlpine:

  • On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your well-being right now? What do you think influences that score?
  • How do you feel about your workload at the moment? Tell me more.
  • What can be done to improve things when it comes to your well-being at work? How can I help?
  • What worries you the most with work?
  • When are you at your best at work? What are you doing? 
  • Compared to when you started in this role, how would you say your mental health is?

Talk about potential, possibilities

Leaders can make good employees feel even better about their loyalty by asking for and using their feedback.

Even better, get their thoughts and ideas on the challenges you face because of last year’s turbulence. Ask them to help you shape your organization’s future. Maybe they can help with hiring – instead of just filling the holes left by those who’ve quit.

When you’re solving problems or planning strategically, ask loyal employees:

  • What do you think is the best possible outcome for us in this situation?
  • How do you think we can reach those goals?
  • Where do you and your personal goals fit in this?

Focus on mental health

Nearly 60% of employees would quit their job for another where the employer makes mental health a higher priority, a TELUS International study found.

Most loyal employees have been charged with extra responsibility, tasks and demands as their colleagues left. So they’re under more pressure than ever. That takes a toll on their mental well-being. And if their employer isn’t watching out for them, they might not do it themselves. 

“Employees need, and are increasingly asking for, resources to help them cope with mental health challenges.”
—  Marilyn Tyfting, Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS International

“The result has been a much needed shift in the past year from a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ attitude to a ‘do ask, do tell and let’s talk’ mindset that has transformed the way society perceives and discusses mental health, both more generally and in the context of the workplace,” said Marilyn Tyfting, Chief Corporate Officer at TELUS International. “Employees need, and are increasingly asking for, resources to help them cope with mental health challenges.”

Another way to help loyal employees reduce or handle stress: Institute designated mental health days for the whole company. When everyone is off for the day – and encouraged to do things they enjoy – no one feels pressure to be responsive or responsible. 

Recruit loyal employees again

Most people don’t mind being courted, whether in professional or personal relationships. So when you court – or, technically, re-recruit – loyal employees, you naturally make them feel better about themselves through the process.

Go back to the “recruitment table” and have renewed conversations about:

  • motivations and ambitions. Most employees’ dreams and ambitions evolve over time. They might have new ideas on what personal success looks like – and you might be able to help them fulfill that through different opportunities in your organization.
  • contributions. Create a list of their accomplishments and the positive impact those have on the company, colleagues, customers and/or community. Talk about why that matters. Thank them for the difference they’ve made by showing up during difficult and changing times.
  • the future. These shouldn’t be one-time, let’s-get-through-this conversations. Managers want to create reasons to follow up on each chat so another meeting is scheduled to check in again on motivations, ambitions and contributions.

Reward loyal employees

When it comes to rewarding employees, what worked before the pandemic probably won’t work as well now. Employees’ lives and expectations changed – and how you recognize and reward them for increasing contributions makes a difference in their desire to stay.

Compensation matters, but pay raises and cash bonuses don’t necessarily increase engagement and loyalty, according to research in The Harvard Business Review.

What does? Researchers found investing in workplace culture pays dividends. The most successful investments are focused on:

  • positive culture and values
  • quality senior management
  • training that helps employees improve their careers and lives
  • creating pathways for employees to build careers, and
  • diversity, equity and inclusion.

About the author

Michele McGovern is a journalist with decades of experience working for local and national newspapers, business publications and websites. In the professional world, she’s covered HR, leadership, customer service, sales, crime and passion in 25+ years as a journalist. Follow her @sheknowswork on Twitter.

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