The most important action businesses can undertake to retain employees is to design the right culture. Research by the O.C. Tanner Institute found that today’s thriving cultures focus on a mix of six powerful ingredients: purpose, leadership, appreciation, well-being, opportunity and success. Employers should look critically at how these ingredients play into their culture currently and invite feedback from employees about which areas are strong, which need re-imagining, and what initiatives should be implemented for the most successful recipe. It’s also important to look at how culture is re-inforced at each stage of the employee experience, from the onboarding process through to departure.
After two years of pandemic lockdowns, remote work and isolation, the need for connection is nearly universal. Helping employees feel connected to purpose, accomplishment and one another from day one is critical. Connection is especially important to Gen-Z employees, those born between 1997 and 2012. Now estimated to comprise 20 per cent of the workforce, this hyper-connected group has never known a world without Internet. A recent study by Dell Technologies found most of the new workforce prefer to work, communicate and learn in-person, not online. However, 91 per cent said that access to technology in the workplace would be a factor in choosing one employer over another. Culture strategy should include digital tools, such as collaboration platforms and apps, as a way to integrate talent and technology for an enhanced experience.
Leadership, or a lack of it, is the number-1 reason people voluntarily leave their jobs, so teaching modern leadership principles is imperative to retention. But how do we do that?
Increase efforts to create modern leaders who mentor and empower, rather than gatekeep and control. Help them to be free of micro-managing tendencies and to understand that autonomy and flexibility are a growing need for today’s employees. Hire leaders with high emotional intelligence and support the development of their soft skills, most importantly, empathy. Enable and train them to create inclusive cultures, and identify and address areas of exclusion, bias and micro-aggression. Encourage them to get to know each employee through frequent one-to-ones to identify individual preferences and look for opportunities to recognize large and small efforts. These principles will help leaders connect employees’ work to a larger purpose, show how their contributions matter, and build a culture that drives loyalty.
For organizations to remain competitive, a culture of autonomy will be the single most important enabler of employee retention. Some service employers are taking a page from the gig economy where companies such as Lyft and Uber attract and retain workers by letting employees determine when, and how long they want to work. With access to flexible scheduling-software tools, this incentive now easily translates to hospitality. Permanent remote, hybrid, and/or four-day work week structures are important considerations, as 42 per cent of employees between the ages of 22 and 35 who had recently left their jobs said that a four-day workweek option would have convinced them to stay.
Employers also need to focus on ways to improve financial health. For example, a recent article by Forbes magazine states that 83 per cent of workers believe they should have access to their wages at the end of their shift, and 78 per cent indicated they would be more loyal to an employer who embraced an on-demand pay model to improve the finances of their employees.
The needs and expectations of today’s workforce are rapidly evolving. With labour shortages expected to continue in the near-term, employers’ abilities to retain employees by fostering a culture that resonates will need to be the highest priority.
By Cayley Dow
Cayley Dow is the founder and CEO of Thrivity Inc., a human-resources consulting and coaching firm that helps service-oriented businesses to thrive in the ever-evolving world of work.