Use These 9 Strategies to Improve Employee Retention in 2021

The labor market has been volatile this year.

Actually, that’s a bit of an understatement. Due to the pandemic and its economic fallout, the labor market has been historically volatile this year.

Productive employees

Employers shouldn’t bet on that changing in 2021. While some had high hopes that the pandemic would add some slack to what has for years been a near-full-employment scenario, that hasn’t really materialized. It’s more important than ever to recruit and retain the very best — because you can’t be sure their replacements will be up to the job.

Retention is especially important in talent-driven fields like software development, according to a Michael Booz analysis published on LinkedIn. But employers everywhere are feeling the pinch.

If you’ve made it a top 2021 goal to get serious about retaining your best employees, here’s what you need to do now to set yourself (and your team) up for success.

1. Hire the Best Right Off the Bat (Revamping Your Hiring Practices If Need Be)

A great retention strategy begins with a great hiring strategy. By hiring only the best, you’ll naturally retain only the best. You’ll also have fewer legit hiring mistakes to show the door as you’re trying to retain your high performers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s primer on hiring great employees is worth a read.

2. Cultivate Positive Employee Reviews on Websites Popular With Jobseekers

Encourage current and former employees to post reviews on websites popular with jobseekers, like Glassdoor. For inspiration, look to other small and midsize businesses that have effectively cultivated positive employee reviews — like this employee reviews page for Remedium Pharmacy, an independently owned and operated compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.

3. Figure Out Who’s Likely to Stick With You

The best time to do this is during the hiring process, when you can use candidates’ recent job histories and longer-term career trajectories to assess how loyal they’re likely to be and what they hope to get out of their careers. If the horse is already out of the barn, use performance, attendance, and other data to suss out who might be in the process of checking out.

4. Bow to Reality With Flexible Scheduling and Generous PTO

Even if your workplace is operating more or less as normal during the pandemic, it needs to bow to reality: your competitors are offering more generous benefits, such as flexible scheduling and more PTO, than before. Match them, or risk losing talent to them.

Promoted employee congratulated by his colleagues

5. Give Everyone a Raise (Seriously)

Same idea here. An across-the-board raise of 5%, with more for high performers (and others you really don’t want to lose), goes farther than you think.

6. Understand What Each Employee Needs and How You Can Make It Happen

Take your employees’ unique needs seriously: childcare, mental health support, any accommodations necessary to help those with different abilities do their jobs successfully, and so on. The more personalized you’re able to make this support, the more likely your employees are to recognize that you’re doing everything in your power to keep them onboard.

7. When Employees Do Leave (On Good Terms), Make Sure They Don’t Regret It

You will lose some employees along the way. It’s inevitable. When that happens, make sure the exit process is as pleasant as the rest of their tenure — and make clear that you’re willing to go out of your way to help them make the next step in their careers.

8. Poll Employees Anonymously

Use anonymous polls, preferably with just one or two questions, to take the “temperature” of your workforce and figure out what you can do better. Conduct these polls often enough to produce meaningful data with insights into changes-over-time.

9. Make Annual Performance Reviews “Two-Way”

The annual performance review is an opportunity to reflect on your own “wins” and failings, too. Make ample time during these reviews to take candid feedback from employees, even if you don’t like what they say. That’s the first step in self-improvement, after all.

Employee teamwork

What’s Your Employee Retention Strategy for 2021?

The best answer to this question, of course, is “all of the above.” An excellent employee retention strategy is really an amalgamation of multiple strategies proven to keep your best people in place.

And if you don’t have the resources to set in motion all nine of these strategies in 2021? Well, then you’ll need to make some choices. Think about which strategies will be easiest for you to implement without impacting your operations in a broader sense, as well as which (if any) you’ve had success with in the past.

Whatever you decide, you know you need to do something to keep up with the times. Your employees certainly do too.


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