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In a choppy labor market, staff will stay with employers who go “all-in”

In a choppy labor market, staff will stay with employers who go “all-in”

Any of us would be forgiven for reading the headlines about the U.S. labor market and thinking good news is still thin. On paper, the market is resilient – Labor Department statistics from February boast just shy of 10 million job openings across the country. But competition for pay and benefits between employers remains intense, “quiet quitting” hasn’t receded from view, and rising burnout is holding workers and companies back.

Last August, the McKinsey Global Institute noted that trends like these were inviting employers to rethink about what attracting and keeping talent means. A few months into 2023, this remains true.

With this big picture in mind, businesses might wonder if it is realistic to keep team members for long periods of time, especially those of younger generations, whose employment mobility is higher. If you have a solid and robust retention strategy that goes “all-in” for your team, we are positive that the answer is “yes.”

Retention strategy isn’t always about making investments in financial terms. Rather, the broad idea is to set consistent goals, break them up into achievable phases, and provide enough individuation that it can meet the needs and desires of each member of your team. A few core theories guide and underpin this approach.

A generation gap is partly responsible – but going “all-in” can bridge it: Many executives and senior managers were likely caught off guard by the sudden change in business values and conditions brought about by COVID-19. If you joined the workforce in the 1990s or earlier, you understood that certain things were expected of you.

You stayed in the office for as long as something took, even well into the night or on the weekends. Sometimes you could get time off to tend to personal or family matters, but just as often as not, those things had to fit around your job rather than the other way around. And you typically didn’t question your workload, except for extreme cases.

Arguably for the better, all of those things are becoming passé. And recently, many companies are realizing how accustomed they are to those conditions.

Let’s be clear. Some sectors will still require more intensive workloads than others. But team members need to feel a sense of purpose, be nurtured in their careers, and be financially supported. Some of this will mean offering flexible time off for counseling or therapy, being generous with leave to take care of personal needs, and listening and responding to requests for accommodations.

Lastly, recognition needs to be personal and sincere. Find out what will benefit your team members and present realistic pathways so that they can do more of what they love and value most.

Open the door to growth: Engage in more training – and be ready to provide extra support on demand. For instance, if an employee comes to you and says they want to take a class or learn a new skill that will help improve their performance, accommodate this as much as you can. You can also facilitate growth by recognizing each employee’s unique strengths and contributions, providing constructive, positive feedback, and assigning more responsibilities unique to their individual talents. Employers can help bolster workforce morale by allocating tasks that help them flourish.

Embrace the learning curve: Filling roles with people who have much to learn isn't a bad thing. It’s far from the case that they’ll take the knowledge and run – and, in fact, the longer they stay and progress, the stronger your team will be because of the proficiency of your company and its industry niche.

Emphasize the journey – not the destination: This isn’t about making promises you can’t keep. But what you can say is, “Here are the career options and growth trajectories at our company. If that interests you, X, Y, and Z are what we will need to see. But please know that you’re not on your own in that process, and we’ll do all that we can to help you get there.”

Follow more than just the letter of the law on leave and benefits: The reality is that policies and offerings are going to remain a competition between companies and one of the best ways to generate loyalty – if not the best way – is to show, not just tell, the employee they are more to you than a replaceable body in a seat. You might think that sounds harsh – until an employee leaves before you want them to and tells you that’s how they felt.

We tell clients that FMLA, ADA, and even general accommodations start with dialogue. Your door needs to be open, and you should want to be as supportive as possible of someone’s life needs and pressures.

If all of this boils down to a single factor, this is arguably about care. According to research performed by MetLife, among employees who don’t feel cared for at work or don’t feel valued by their employers, only 45% are engaged, 58% are productive, and 54% are loyal. Of employees who feel cared for and valued, 87% are engaged, 90% are productive, and 89% are loyal.

Understand that you can’t force people to stay, nor should you act forcefully about it. As an employer, it is less about mandating people’s destinations, and more about creating a clear and smooth road as much as possible for team members to make their own choices.



Adams Keegan

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