2020 November

Thoughts on Employee Retention

Karen Lehman, President and CEO of MHS

While participating in LeadingAge (national nonprofit senior living association) sessions this past week, I noticed employee retention along with diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) were the hot topics on the program.  The issues around employee engagement and retention are at a critical point and strategic focus on this is a high priority. There are DEI implications within the employee retention issue which is why I believe they should be addressed together.

The most common thread in everything I’ve heard or read lately is that our lowest paid employees, comprised mostly of front-line workers, need to know you care. Creating listening circles, organizing focus groups, walking the floor and talking to your staff, asking how they are doing, working alongside them when it’s appropriate, and showing that you care about their well-being is probably the most impactful thing that can be done – and it doesn’t cost any money! But it does take time.

If organizational leaders show how much they care by following some simple steps and processes, the impact on the culture can be great. Listening to your team and then following up on what they’ve told you creates trust and also shows the employee you value them. Exit interviews tell you what you could have done but pulse or random surveys or interviews tell you what is happening now. This is communication that gives you a chance to find and correct problems.

Employees may be balancing children at home and other work/life challenges. In these cases, flexibility will be welcomed. Letting employees have more autonomy over their schedules, making scheduling transparent and using technology that supports easily picking up shifts and/or options to rearrange or change shifts Think of strategies that can make things easier for the employee and that focus on a trusting relationship.

Focus on mid-level managers. Do they have the information and skills needed to lead those who report to them? Are they feeling supported from above and is there an open channel of two-way communication? Remember, employees tend to choose a job based on the organization but they tend to leave a job because of their relationship with their direct report

Employee perks work too! Pay is important but it’s not always the most important issue for an employee who feels their boss cares about them. Ideas could include providing gift cards, free meals, extra uniforms, transportation, childcare and other perks that may be easy to give. More than anything, these perks can make life easier for your employee and the simple act of a gift shows that you care. Another idea that I’ll end with relates to finding ways to bring fun, celebration and joy into the organization.  Everyone needs things to look forward to! Creating activities and small celebrations can bring some lightness to the work day when there are many heavy things that are happening in our world. Get creative!

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