So, you have a retention problem

Last month, I spent time talking to C-suite dwellers about their efforts to increase employee engagement, retention and innovation. One conversation in particular stood out. A group of communications professionals came together in Washington, D.C., to discuss the future of the industry. A slew of issues were covered. It was a productive conversation. Inevitably, employee retention came up as a concern and some C-level professionals expressed their frustration. I recall hearing:

“Entry-level employees today want to move around too much. It’s ridiculous. They feel entitled to move up the ranks after only a few months, and if they don’t get what want, they leave for greener pastures. Who do they think they are?”

When it comes to employee engagement and retention, I often hear similar concerns coming from the C-suite. And with this response, the conversation hits a brick wall and off topic we go. I have never witnessed this type of reaction produce viable ideas to solve retention issues.

Employees entering the workplace embody an entrepreneurial mindset and therefore have a different set of expectations. More than 30 percent of the workforce self-identifies as a freelancer, and that number is expected to grow. Those entering the workforce are looking for a connected, dynamic work environment where they can grow and test their skills in many areas. They want a high level of creative freedom and sometimes that means the traditional eight-hour workday goes out the window. 

The rest of us who entered the workforce last century, come with a wealth of knowledge and experience that took years to accumulate. We also did what was expected of us, even if we didn't like it. Every employee, regardless of which generation they belong to brings relevant tools to the table, and if we manage our workforce with this in mind, we can create an environment that encourages everyone to fulfill their greatest potential and stay engaged.

The rest of this article will not explore managing generational diversity. Companies must develop unique strategies for supporting an initiative of this nature, and depending on the overall health of your company, the inner structure may or may not be able to support such an endeavor.

Here is a brief overview of crucial steps that must come first:

Create internal brand awareness. People want to understand their contribution to the company they work for and identify with the mission – and if your employees aren’t aware of your mission statement and how that ties into your brand, you can bet your clients don’t have a good sense of what you stand for, either. A brand refresh may be in order. If your brand is in good shape, then crafting an internal communications strategy can accomplish a lot in the way of employee engagement, which then helps get the word out to clients in a productive way about who you are.  

The direction must be transparent to every employee. One way to create transparency of direction is implementing an internal newsroom strategy and making room in your company for an internal communications function that collaborates with every department. Getting the news out in the right way organically guides internal conversations toward business initiatives and ideas happen with those conversations. Transparency directs the collective focus and encourages engagement and productivity.

Celebrate uniqueness. Each employee is an individual with their own accumulated experiences, passions and journeys, creating myriad unique perspectives. When it is clear that the CEO believes everyone has something meaningful to contribute, they do. Gone are the days where everyone tries to blend in with the herd. People want to stand out and celebrate who they are. 

Consider the fact that introversion is becoming a popular label instead of an embarrassment. Understanding what different personality types bring to the table is no longer considered a warm and fuzzy HR obligation. It is a crucial element to team building and increasing your bottom line. Consider the merging of job titles. Do some research and you’ll see very different job titles merging into one, especially titles that involve data, research and creativity. Why are these considerations important? Because it is wanted and expected by the majority, and it works. Companies are learning that celebrating the uniqueness of the individual translates into healthy growth.  

When employees are valued, they feel it – when they are not, they feel that, too. Valued employees respect their positions, themselves, the company they work for and the clients they serve. That translates into exceptional customer service. 

Allow for co-creation. When co-creation is encouraged in all areas of business, growth happens quickly and exponentially. Allowing the space for this means giving up control, being accessible, practicing active listening and providing several avenues for employees to contribute their ideas. 

This is where celebrating uniqueness comes in. Creating idea hubs encourages employees to grow and learn about what they do best, or discover some great talent they didn’t know they had. It gives employees permission to stretch their skills and creates the space for productive conflict, which fuels the ideas that will grow your company. Ideas are the pathway to innovation. When you remain open to all possibilities, you innovate faster.

Creative Mornings recently released a brief interview podcast with Rochelle King, Spotify’s vice president of data, insights and design. She talks about why conscientious conflict is vital to a rich, creative outcome. The podcast also features King’s Creative Mornings talk last year in Stockholm, where she delves into greater detail about our natural inclinations to avoid conflict and ways to promote positive conflict in the workplace.

Wrap up: 

The concepts covered in this article are the nuts and bolts that foster engagement and can not stand alone for long. Creating a business strategy for engagement (which includes retention) requires implementing all of it. Addressing compounding issues (like gender diversity) first requires a solid foundation to support the conversation. There will always be new discoveries and new problems to solve. If your company is supporting these concepts, then problem-solving begins to happen organically and the solutions will have a greater, far-reaching impact.