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9 employee retention ideas for keeping top talent

9 employee retention ideas

Key takeaways

  • Honoring employees’ work-life balance with flexible scheduling prevents burnout and boosts employee retention
  • Wellness programs, professional development, and public recognition can improve employee satisfaction
  • Team-building and volunteering together can help staff feel like they’re part of a tight-knit community

A business is nothing without its employees, and retaining your best talent can mean the difference between running a successful business or a mediocre one.

Employee retention strategies can keep the best employees working for your company, saving you a ton of headache—and lost revenue. According to the Work Institute’s 2020 Retention Report, employee turnover costs more than $630 billion annually when factoring the cost of replacing and training new employees

Yet, lost revenue is only part of the problem. High turnover can exhaust an entire team since current employees must often pick up the slack while the job sits vacant and new hires are training.

Consider these effective employee retention strategies to hold on to top talent and improve the employee experience for everyone in your workplace. 

1. Flexible scheduling 

Flexible work schedules can help employees maintain a better work-life balance. An 8-5 work schedule might be optimal for some people, but it may put an undue burden on others based on their commute, child care options, or unique family situation. 

Even outside of the pandemic, offering remote work for office-based roles, like administrators and call center staff, who work primarily with a computer or phone, is a great way to promote work-life balance

For other roles, where it’s not possible to work remotely—for instance, restaurant servers, factory line workers, and retail workers that have to be onsite—flexible scheduling can help your employees feel like they have more control over their lives. 

Popular flexible scheduling options include:

  • Job sharing. Two part-time employees split the hours of one full-time job and work as a team.
  • Compressed workweek. Employees can choose to work their 40 hours over four days in 10-hour shifts instead of working five 8-hour shifts each week.
  • Flextime. Employees may shift their workday by an hour or two in either direction so they have a little wiggle room, yet most staff are onsite during the bulk of the day.

2. Professional development

Group of employees working together at computers

When you help staff grow in their careers, you earn their loyalty. Consider offering your staff development opportunities that fit their career paths. As a bonus, your team members will learn new skills that can help grow your business.

Professional development doesn’t have to mean paying for graduate-level college tuition. Some cost-conscious ideas include:

  • A law firm might reimburse staff for paralegal courses at a local community college 
  • A massage business could foot the bill for training programs that teach its massage therapists about new techniques or trends
  • A yoga studio could send its instructors to wellness events and yoga festivals

3. Wellness programs

Nowadays, health benefits go beyond offering basic healthcare insurance. Focusing on preventative wellness (physical and mental) is one-way businesses are retaining employees long after the new-job luster wears off. 

Don’t think comprehensive wellness programs are just for big companies. There are many ways small businesses can promote employees’ well-being

Consider implementing one or more of the following ideas:

  • Negotiate a discount for your employees at the nearest health club or fitness studio
  • Create a friendly competition among staff with a fitness challengestep counter challenges are a popular option
  • Promote mental health by bringing in a meditation instructor or stress management expert
  • Organize a company softball, kickball, or other team and join a local league
  • Offer free in-office sessions from a yoga instructor or fitness teacher once a month
  • Improve ergonomics or rotate tasks if your team is at risk for “repetitive strain injuries”
  • Offer generous sick leave, family leave, and vacation policies; this lets your team members know you honor their lives outside the workplace and helps prevents burnout, making it one of the best employee wellness and retention ideas

Pro tip: It never hurts to ask for feedback. Survey employees to learn what wellness offerings would be most meaningful to them.

4. Better work environment

Employee retention ideas: Hairstylist taking a break in a light-filled room with plants

Improving the physical workspace should be one of the first things that comes to mind when considering employee retention. Nobody wants to work in a dreary, crowded, or dimly lit environment. 

Lighting impacts productivity in measurable ways. Dim lighting can cause eyestrain, drowsiness, and headaches—but so can overly bright lighting. The best solution is to let in as much natural light as possible or use bulbs that mimic daylight. 

Fresh air, plants, colorful decor, and ambient music can be mood-boosters for most people. Be sure to keep track of any money you spend on improvements to your business in case they’re tax-deductible at the end of the year.

5. Employee recognition

One of the most popular employee retention strategies is to reward your best employees. Recognition programs like “employee of the month” work well for larger companies but can become repetitive if you don’t have a large number of employees to choose from.

Consider awarding top performers with gift cards, shouting them out on social media (with their consent), and praising your top performers in front of others and/or in writing to make them feel appreciated. 

While these perks are great, the best recognition for hard work is a promotion or raise. Be clear about your policies so your employees can set goals accordingly.

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6. Connecting with staff

Employee retention ideas: Senior staff member training new hire

You can improve company culture dramatically by making time for face-to-face chats—whether that’s scheduling 1:1 check-ins with each of your direct reports or walking the floor each day to greet employees with a smile and friendly banter. Scheduling regular video calls works well for remote employees

You can also increase employee engagement by setting aside time to learn more about each of your staffer’s career goals and lives outside the workplace. 

When a team member leaves, ask them for an exit interview. If you listen with an open mind, your departing employees can offer useful feedback and spur more employee retention ideas. 

7. Team-building exercises

Team-building exercises can build rapport among staff by fostering open communication, camaraderie, and trust. Some team-building activities present a challenging situation, like rock climbing or visiting an escape room, to foster working together. But less-intense activities, such as after-work happy hour, mentorship programs, staff retreats, or ball games are also valuable as long as employees are able to talk and bond. 

8. Donate or volunteer together

If your company values include supporting others outside of your organization, consider implementing volunteer or donation initiatives—either as a group or on employees’ own time (with the ability to track their contributions within the company). 

Let your employees or an employee committee choose a few charitable organizations and brainstorm ways to support them. For instance, you could visit a women’s shelter for a day of service; donate tools or labor to Habitat for Humanity; or start a donation fund and enjoy a team celebration when the goal is met. 

9. Sharing a clear vision

One of the secrets to creating engaged employees is making them feel included in the process as much as possible, instead of siloing them in their own department. 

Start by sharing a clear vision with your staff. When your team understands the company’s mission and future goals—and how their job plays into its success—it fosters a sense of purpose, focus, and belonging. Having job satisfaction with their role in the larger scheme may earn their loyalty even in rough times.

Your “vision” is often rooted in your company’s values. For instance, the head of a bookkeeping firm might have a dream of being the most reliable, friendly bookkeeping service in town. An auto mechanic might have a vision of being the most professional, trustworthy shop in the city.

Your vision and company values are part of your brand personality, so build them into your training and onboarding process. Make sure every staff member knows exactly what your company is about, where it’s headed, and how their job fits into that journey. 

Crafting a mission statement can be a great way to communicate your vision and values with your team.

Implement your favorite employee retention ideas now

Consider this a new opportunity to improve your employee retention. The good news is that you don’t have to implement every idea to achieve measurable results. 

If your company has a high turnover rate, talk with your team to determine the best place to begin. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a fortune to show team members how much you value them.

While you’re taking such good care of your employees, don’t forget to show appreciation for your customers as well. A strong business needs both to succeed.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.