Employee Engagement and Retention Strategies

By Celine Chen

With the war on talent becoming increasingly more competitive in all industries, the need to maintain or grow employee engagement and retention has become crucial to gaining an edge. According to LinkedIn’s 2018 report on talent, the tech industry has the highest turnover rate at 13.2% and retail industry follows close behind at 13%. Even the best companies to work at experience average tenures of 1 to 2 years at best. 


Numbers like these have caused employers to search for ways to change workplaces to be more productive, efficient, and forward-thinking. As a result, companies turn towards advanced technology and processes to improve a company’s vision and purpose, culture, workflow and physical workspaces.


The Current State and Issues

Large corporations and organizations have traditionally carried the ‘employment power’, a time where brand power was prominent and powerful in job searching and employees were only interested in their annual salary. Historically, employee engagement was synonymous to employee happiness, however today it is more accurately described as the psychological investment to one’s work and company. The power has shifted to the hands of employees who now care about much more than money and big name brands.


The workforce is now comprised mostly of Millenials and Gen-Zs, which will be 50% of the workforce by 2020. A rapid growth of gig economy workers and entrepreneurs have also lured talent away from traditional 9-5 jobs. As a result, U.S. businesses lose $11 billion on an annual basis from employee turnover, which affects productivity, brand reputation, and innovation.

cause of high turnover

Source: Kapor Center for Social Impact


Causes of high turnovers and low retention and engagement stems from external job market factors as well as internal organization-based problems. Externally, poaching highly qualified talent from competitors has risen dramatically as the desire for more competitive wages becomes the norm in the war on talent.


Internally, employee retention begins to waver when engagement weakens from toxic workplaces, poor communication, and lack of professional development. Allowing disengaged, difficult employees to stay can infect the workplace entirely, spreading a negative attitude to the entire environment. In addition, the company culture has a powerful impact on an employee’s interaction and dedication to not only working productively, but also remaining loyal to a workplace.


In terms of workflow, managers influence the work experience completely.  Having a supervisor without adequate technical and leadership skills can add to the negative work environment and create weak communication and expectations. Unclear expectations cause employees to experience fear and anxiety about the quality of their work, hindering their productivity and potential. Furthermore, many companies tend to focus on short-term goals rather than investing time and effort into curating an employee’s career development, causing skilled employees to leave for better growth opportunities. All of this leads to an absence of motivation and purpose for an employee, leading them to no longer believe in the mission of an organization.


Solutions


Finding Purpose

finding purpose

To maintain engagement, employers need to reciprocate the dedication of their employees by providing career mapping tools and investing in surveys and feedback for a more cohesive, productive team. By conducting reports about an employee’s professionally oriented goals within a business, managers empower employees to speak up about their experiences and establish an individualized sense of care and attention, which can often become lost in busy day-to-day activities.


To aid with this employee engagement, many organizations have digitized career development by implementing apps that facilitate performance reviews and track feedback and progress on goal completion. Such apps contain information on employee surveys, feedback from performance appraisals, and objective completion. Career mobility platforms and applications also allow employees to gain new skills and try different positions within the organization without compromising their current one. Some performance appraisal softwares even have features that reinforce positive work attitudes and by tracking employee interactions and work anniversaries. Overall, employee recognition apps better record and align an employee’s and employer’s professional achievements and targets.


For more mundane but necessary tasks, gamification can serve a purpose by educating employees in a more engaging and motivating way. Gamification can be used in programs like orientation and training and contribute a sense of fun while reducing stress, particularly for the Millennial generation of employees.


Workflow

workflow

Conventional workflow tends to be unnecessarily slow and complicated with email delays and physical paperwork, even today where technology has taken over. Although technology has taken over as the central mode of working and communication, there are plenty of workflow processes that can be improved for efficiency and accuracy. As a result, advanced digital tools for flexible work and real-time feedback have emerged in the future of work.


Advanced technology such as application program interfaces (API) and pilot chatbots have entered the workforce to make companies into production powerhouses. APIs have been traditionally used for sales and customer services, but have now supported recruitment, onboarding, and even payroll. The advanced API technology has the capacity to streamline user processes through connected systems for employees, saving time that can be used to work.


Many innovative, forward-thinking companies have also implemented agile approaches for their employee recruitment and development. This approach is usually used for project management within software development due its response to unpredictable outcomes and incremental sequences. But in human resources, recruiters can now search for and identify skilled job candidates in as little as 2-6 weeks instead of the typical 10-15.


Chatbots made for customer service and troubleshooting have now entered the workplace. These pilot chatbots operate as digital representatives that work alongside employees to carry out simple day-to-day tasks, allowing their human counterparts to work on more difficult tasks. As the workforce becomes more blended with consultants, contractors and freelancers, the future of work depends on flexibility, creative decision making, and strong relationships, which are all supported by Enterprise 2.0’s technological tools.


Culture/Physical Space

work space

The atmosphere of the office itself has a large impact on the employee experience, affecting one’s comfortability, safety, and productivity. Moreover, the physical space of a company represents the organization as a whole, embodying the company’s vision and what it means to work there. To provide more culture-oriented work areas, real estate and interior design firms have partnered with businesses to create accommodating work spaces. These innovative office layouts and designs are meant to support the working habits and preferences of introverted and extroverted employees, especially those in roles requiring significant collaboration.  By dedicating attention to the physical office, employers can ensure sufficient workspaces optimize employee engagement.


Changing the work environment is only one essential part of creating a solid, supportive company culture. Recently, many businesses, particularly in the tech industry, offer free lunches and snacks, aesthetic office decor, and team bonding events. Although welcomed, these perks only provide short-term incentives and do not create a strong sense of loyalty and belonging in employees. Instead, investing in long-term benefits that align with employee’s personal concerns such as health, fitness, and work-life balance maximizes employee retention and engagement.


To truly optimize culture-oriented employee engagement, companies must conduct testing and research on their short-term and long-term benefits. For example, consumer marketing tools typically used for customer service and within B2C businesses can identify what perks and experiences resonate with and engage employees the most. Using tools such as design thinking and sentiment analysis, businesses can assess how certain benefits align or deviate from existing and desired company culture to create a succinct, position company culture.




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