Four Tactics to Improve Employee Retention

Ask a leader what the most valuable part of their company is and they almost always say, “the people.” The best companies also behave that way – their most robust systems and processes revolve around their people. Hiring them, onboarding them, developing them, and retaining them. Recruiting is costly and fraught with challenges. Once a company has found a star, they’d do well to keep them. Is your company doing all it can to retain top talent?


How’s the HR part of your dashboard looking? Non-existent? Fantastic! Now we’ve got a way to improve retention. What gets measured gets managed, goes the adage. If you want to improve retention, measure it.

Consider quantifying the cost of recruiting and reporting on those costs. Hard costs may include recruiter fees or advertisements. The soft costs include the internal time spent finding candidates, interviewing, selecting, onboarding, etc. Throw in a little extra for the pain associated with doing two jobs at once while looking to fill the position. Now report on the costs regularly in two categories: Growth Recruiting Costs and Turnover Recruiting Costs.

Did the number you associate with recruiting grab your attention? Excellent. Let’s set some retention goals and put a budget number to those costs. Be clear that people always leave their employer. Always. Whether they quit, retire, or get carried out in a wooden box, no one stays forever. There will be some reasonable costs associated with turnover. Let’s define what reasonable means.

Anyone that doesn’t make it through probation should not be counted in the turnover measure, but rather a recruiting success measure. One way to measure this success is the number of days a position remains vacant. You could define “vacant” as no individual assigned to the role or, more specifically, no individual effective in the role. If it’s efficacy we’re looking for then anyone who didn’t make it through probation might as well have not been there at all.

In setting retention goals, think about having the managers forecast the tenure of existing employees. A great people manager should never be blindsided. How well they predict tenure may provide insight into how well they know their people.

Relationship Development

Great managers have great relationships with their staff. Are you running out of things to talk about in your regular 1:1s (or not having 1:1s)? Fantastic! Now we’ve got a way to improve retention.

If staff don’t trust their manager, it’s unlikely they’re in it for the long haul. Trust is built through regular, honest, and engaged communication. You don’t have to like your staff, but you do have to care about them and their wellbeing if you want to retain them. Managers work in service of their employees, not the other way around.

Organizations often fall into the trap of ignoring high performing employees. After all, they know what they’re doing and don’t need the attention. It’s the fires that we need to fight. Feedback is too often reserved for “problem employees”, leaving your best talent unaware of the positive impact they have on the business or your appreciation of their ability.

Most people want to know how they’re performing, whether good or bad. Positive feedback helps drive employee engagement and gives credit to a job well done. Similarly, constructive “negative” feedback, even when minor, can help employees understand how to improve. The worst thing you can do is ignore your employees. Not only does it give them the impression that their performance isn’t valued, but it misses every opportunity for growth that they hit.

So get back on that 1:1 meeting train (or try it for the first time with these tips).

The Stay Interview

Still hung up on trying to forecast the tenure of your current team? Fantastic! Now we’ve got a way to improve retention. When people leave a company, they often get an exit interview, but that is like locking the garage door after the bike was stolen. Instead, consider holding a “stay” interview. You can incorporate it into one of the 1:1s (see how we did that?). Ask questions such as:

  • What do you look forward to at work?
  • What have you learned recently?
  • Everyone thinks about leaving their job sometimes. How long ago was it for you?
  • What precipitated it?
  • And what else?
  • Scale of 1 – 10, how close were you?
  • Why did you / do you stay?
  • How can I help?

For those of you worried that talking about them leaving might put the idea into their heads, relax. Everyone thinks about leaving their job. And everyone leaves their job. You might as well be in the loop on what they’re thinking.

Management Training

Do you think soft skills like delegation, motivation, coaching, and persuasion are talents people either have or don’t have? Fantastic! Now we’ve got a way to improve retention.

Just like technical ability, which is the result of training and development, soft skills can be learned. The problem is that most organizations aren’t teaching them. If you want to keep top talent you don’t just need great technical people, you need great people people. You need team players, thoughtful responders, and workers who create positive communities within your organization. These skills are just as important as technical skills when it comes to developing productive members of an organization. And of course, they’re crucial to retention.

If people are your number one resource and you’re having trouble finding top talent, fantastic! Now you’ve got four more strategies to add to your toolkit and strengthen your employee retention.

Bellrock is a management consulting and change management firm where remarkable is expected. We believe people have the potential to achieve much more and we’re addicted to the satisfied feeling we get when our clients succeed. If you found this article valuable, don’t be stingy. Share!

Written By:
Tara Landes

Tara Landes is the Founder and President of Bellrock. She has spent over 20 years consulting and training in small to medium-sized enterprises. A sought-after speaker on a wide range of business topics, Tara has delivered workshops and seminars at conferences and industry associations across Canada. Tara obtained a BA (Honours) in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and earned an MBA from UWO's Richard Ivey School of Business.

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