How to Improve Employee Retention: From Recruitment Through Retirement

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recruitment and retention strategies for the full employee lifecycle
onboarding is a crucial time that can determine employees' longevity
The goal of every employer is a highly-skilled, and high-performing workforce. What does it take to accomplish this lofty goal? The main thing is an effective, holistic strategy that starts with great recruiting and ends with when an employee leaves (hopefully at retirement). 

The key is understanding the employee lifecycle, utilizing efficient recruitment software to streamline the hiring process building effective recruitment and hiring practices, welcoming new employees in ways that immediately set them on the right course, developing a positive work environment, minding employee experience and, finally, using exit interviews as a valuable tool to gain valuable insight and modify this strategy.

Current Employee Recruitment and Retention Stats

Here's a look at the current landscape when it comes to recruitment, the vital first-step in the employee lifecycle. For the purpose of this blog, we're looking at recruitment whether it's in-house or through a headhunter.

Here's important data about retention.

What is the Lifecycle of Employees and How do You Leverage Each?

Ideally, employees experience 7 stages of employment: attraction, recruitment, onboarding, retention, development, offboarding, and happy leavers. The goal is to include each in a holistic recruitment and retention strategy.

Here's the basic definition for each and ways to attract and retain high performing employees who stay and create the company culture you and your employees want.

1 - Attraction

Attraction can start before there's contact, for example, when seeing job postings that highlight what they're seeking in employment.

Based on the statistics above, including notes on compensation (including benefits) is vital in making your vacancy someone's desired new job.

2 - Recruitment

Whether in-person, virtual or a mix, recruitment is a time when candidates are sizing up your workplace. They are looking for behaviors that are attractive to them as future employees and they want to get a sense of what it will be like working with you.

To improve chances around recruitment, it's important to communicate openly and effectively. Most candidates are stressed: make it less stressful. One of the best ways to reduce stress is to be consistent, provide a clear timeline of the process, and implement measures for preventing candidate cheating.

3 - Onboarding

Onboarding is an often-overlooked part of the employee experience, but data shows how important it is if you want to attract and retain top talent.

Despite the proof that onboarding, so close to a new hire's start, is vital, Gallup found that only 1-10 employees rate their employer's onboarding as "excellent".

Employees report that having someone else go through the process with them (onboarding new hires together) and having their managers directly involved make for a better onboarding experience. They would rather learn from the person evaluating them than an HR rep they rarely see.

4 - Retention

This is an ongoing part of the life cycle, and there are many things that go into keeping employees at your organization.

Employees want to feel like their work is purposeful, experience job satisfaction, that they regularly receive constructive feedback, and that there is room for growth in their job. This last one is of particular importance.

5 - Development

Very few people start a job and expect to stay in their current position. Whether they come in as an entry-level hourly employee or as a manager, employees want to grow within their company.

An employee's time in a workplace will be contingent on their belief that they are seen as someone who can advance within the company.

It's important to listen carefully to where employees see themselves and this should be a question in every evaluation. The idea that they can learn skills and rise through the ranks is key to an employee's decision to stay.

One possible option to make them feel valued and invested in their professional growth is to provide training, upskilling opportunities, and mentorship programs tailored to their individual development needs.

These initiatives could potentially incorporate travel opportunities to expose employees to diverse perspectives and experiences. In this regards, partnering with corporate travel agents to streamline these business related travels, will clearly showcase your dedication to increasing employee engagement."

6 - Offboarding

Offboarding, like onboarding, is often overlooked but is crucial to an organization. It allows them to track employee's reasons for leaving, to gain insights into how the culture is doing and to make important recruitment and retention strategy changes.

Offboarding can be positive or negative. Even if employee turnover is due to a better offer elsewhere, the key is to make sure that the experience of working was still a positive one. These become "happy leavers" who advocate for your business, recommend you to job seekers and can be strong relationships in the future.

7 - Happy Leavers

The goal of every employee experience is to end with happy leavers. These are the employees who, no matter at what point they leave, will speak highly of your business.

Just like job satisfaction isn't tied to giving employees what they want and creating a false sense of "family," happy leavers don't have to be people who were hired out of college and didn't leave until retirement.

These are employees whose exit interview data shows that they found job satisfaction, had trust in the employer and left on a positive note no matter where they were in their employment journey.

learn how to harness employee satisfaction to get more happy leavers

Recruiting Tips for Attracting Engaged Employees

We've all heard the phrase, "They looked better on paper." While much of employee engagement relies on the culture of the workplace, there are things to look for in the recruitment process that are good indicators for whether or not an employee will be engaged.

The best way to discover the possibility for an employee to be engaged is to monitor the questions they ask while also providing them the information employee's seek.

Employees want to know "if they'll be happy and if they fit into the company culture. They want to know about the work environment, the company's values, and how well current employees feel equipped to succeed."

By sharing this information in an interview, employees can decide if they align with the company and aren't going in blind.

Take time, during recruitment, to assess the fit rather than just the education, experience and skills the candidate brings to the table.

Building a Positive Work Environment

One of the easiest ways to retain talent is to ensure employees have a positive work environment. While some employers spend a lot of time worrying about what this looks like (gyms, snacks) it really comes down to what it feels like.

One of the best ways to manage this feeling is with the use of employee experience apps that give workers a centralized way to manage their tasks, access company resources, and communicate with colleagues, thereby enhancing their overall workplace satisfaction and productivity.

A positive work environment is more about the feeling when employees leave at the end of the day rather than if they had fun while at work.

Policy and protocol can help build a positive work environment, but modeling and exhibiting company values is what makes the difference. To enhance a positive work environment, modeling and exhibiting company values, especially through activities like charity team building, play a crucial role.

An Example of Building Positive Workplace Culture: Stamping out Office Gossip

For example, making sure no one engages in office gossip, no matter how juicy, is a simple way to provide a healthy environment.

Humans like information, and often treat it as currency, but a workplace where gossip prevails creates anxiety: "What happens when something scandalous happens in my life? What are people going to say?" No one wants to work under this specter.

Another Example of Building Positive Workplace Culture: Honest Discussion

It's okay to not be okay. In recent years, increased focus on mental health, flexibility and toxic hustle culture have helped people be more comfortable in their lives.

Employers should actively seek and engage in honest discussion with employees to create the appropriate climate.

Creating a culture where managers regularly check in with those they supervise to ask about workload, support and systems allow not only for employees to be heard, but managers to find, diagnose and smooth out complications before they get too disruptive.

This environment also makes it easier for struggling, but strong, employees to reach out and ask for help, something that has traditionally been feared.

Stop Frontloading: Embrace the Exit Interview

Have you ever gone out to a meal and found that it was easy to make a reservation, that the valet was a delight, the hostess seated you immediately and pointed out a hidden allergens because staff noted your allergies only to find a lipstick stain on your napkin and wait over an hour for your entrees?

It's very easy to spend so much time focusing on the beginning of a customer, or in our case employee, experience that things drop off drastically.

As much time as is spent on recruitment and retention should be focused on offboarding and exit interviews. Yes, all employers should conduct exit interviews.

Why Are Exit Interviews Important?

Exit interviews, whether by a manager or hr department employee, accomplish several goals. No matter when an employee leaves, it's important to know why.

As soon as two weeks' notice is given, schedule time for this important conversation. Do not view it as a time when you're only going to hear negative feedback. Instead, create thoughtful talking points that will give you insight you need.

How to Differentiate Each Exit Interview to Learn

There's so much valuable information to be gained in exit interviews!

If an employee is leaving soon after being hired, discover if their experience did not meet their expectations. Were they given an honest view of the work, expectations and culture? If not, this is a simple change in the recruitment and interview process.

If an employee is leaving mid-career, focus on whether or not anything would have changed their mind. Usually, you'll gain valuable insight into development and whether or not it's helping.

If someone says they want to change their career path, it's hard to know if you need to change. But if an employee reports that they envisioned a promotion by now, listen and assess whether or not the ball was dropped.

If the exit interview is with a retiree, ask them about their entire time at your company and where you did well and where things could have been better.

What are the Most Important Exit Interview Questions?

The exit process can be a good time for both the employee and the business. After all, the goal of the entire process from start to finish is to have "happy leavers." Your exit interview is the time to find out three things:

  • if your employees are not leaving happily, find out where in the employment cycle things are going awry.
  • If your employees are leaving happily, ask for specific examples of things done right.
  • If your employees are leaving happily, reinforce the relationship between you and them to continue the relationship.

To gain insight, ask the right questions. We recommend going through their employment cycle as a way to gather the deepest insights. No matter how long they were with you, these questions will give the HR department valuable data.

1. What first attracted you to the company? Can you give examples of when you saw this working here?

This is a great way to assess how you put yourselves out there and whether or not you deliver on the promises made. This can include conversations around compensation, development, promotion and culture. Let the employee lead to get the most honest feedback.

2. Thinking back to when you were interviewing, was there anything you wish you'd asked? How was that experience?

Similar to what attracted former employees to a job, it's important to know about early interactions. How was the interview process? What are things that should be shared earlier in the process?

Listening carefully to this feedback allows human resources to improve their process and build a better environment.

3. What do you remember most about your onboarding?

Asking someone what they remember most is a great way to gather information without coloring the response.

If they tell you something they loved, you know your onboarding system is, overall, good. What they remember most was a positive that helped them start in a new workplace.

Of course, if they report something negative, it's important to listen carefully to that feedback. While each person's experience, good and bad, is different, look for patterns across exit interviews.

4. Before leaving us, were there times earlier in your tenure here when you considered leaving? Can you tell me about that?

Imagine the insight of knowing that someone thought about leaving, but didn't. This is a great way to understand if there are places where things are starting to fall apart.

Generally, employees leave for good reasons. There are still improvements that can be made. As with all these questions, take time to listen and look for patterns.

Is there an annual lay-off threat that stresses people out? You can't stop that, but you can dig deeper in honest conversations with former employees to learn how to alleviate some of that stress while being honest that they are a possibility.

5. Throughout your time, what opportunities for professional development were offered to you and did you participate in any of them?

One of the most important things you can find out through exit interviews is where there's disconnect.

If employees consistently report that there were opportunities for development (but there are), it could be that they are not being communicated well, or enough, or a combination of both.

If employees report that they didn't take advantage of them, this isn't always an employee issue. Ask about why they didn't. Were they at inconvenient times? Was there a barrier because of cost? Did they not have enough flexibility in their schedule or workflow?

Exit interviews are a great time to discover where improvement is needed.

6. How valuable has the offboarding procedure been?

What are employee's gaining from the experience of leaving? Do they feel they've been valued? Do they understand the process of ending employment? Are they aware of how their final paychecks and compensation will work?

There are many anxieties employees face around leaving employment and asking these questions during an exit interview will help you reduce stress going forward. It will also leave the employee feeling looked after, even after giving notice (a time when, historically, employees feel lost).

7. What do you think is the most valuable feedback you could give us as you leave?

Employees, whether employed for a year or career, will have things to say about their experience working at your company. These are often things that high-level managers don't see. Listen, take in the feedback, and apply what you can to build a better experience.

Final Thoughts

When thinking about recruitment and retention, it's vital to consider the entire employee experience. After all, if you've got a spot in the employee experience where things are breaking down, you won't be able to retain people.

Make sure your HR department is considering all of these phases of employment in their recruitment and retention strategy to build a workplace that is productive and satisfied.

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