How to improve employee retention

Many companies struggle to keep their most talented people. Here’s how to build a strong retention program

It’s easier than ever for employees to leave a company, and that comes with a big price tag for the businesses they’re leaving.

Employee turnover is a $1 trillion problem in the United States alone, according to Gallup research. That’s based on what Gallup calls conservative estimates of the cost of replacing an employee, which can be nearly double that person’s annual salary.

More than 40 million US workers quit their jobs in 2018, representing 26.9% of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s a problem that should be top of mind for all companies. Building an employee retention program is a great place to start.

The first challenge is understanding which employees are most at risk of jumping ship and what you can do to keep top performers. While some departures may be inevitable, due to personal life changes and other external factors, there are many proven strategies companies can use to limit their losses.

A high employee retention rate often builds on strategies such as providing a positive onboarding experience and ensuring that employees remain engaged. Typically, around one-third of engaged employees are looking for jobs, but that number can spike to 73% for employees who feel less engaged at work, according to Gallup.

In the following articles, we explain the unseen costs of employee churn. We present strategies that are proven to help keep employees engaged and loyal, as well as data that helps build the business case for investing in retention.

This Learn package covers the following topics:

The challenges of successful employee retention

Thanks in part to technology that allows workers to find and apply for jobs faster than ever, employee turnover is on the rise. Retaining more employees is a top priority for many HR leaders. Creating a program to achieve that goal can help lower the costs associated with losing employees and hiring replacements.

Key strategies to boost employee retention

It’s not enough to offer competitive salary and benefit packages. Employees are increasingly looking for companies that provide career development, work-life balance, and a purpose they can believe in.

Start by listening: Companies can start to identify weak spots that may be costing them employees by conducting surveys to better understand what their workers value.

Companies can then build a retention program tailored to the needs and interests of their workforce. With insights on where and how to improve, companies can build employee retention strategies that pay off.

Retention by the numbers

Developing a successful retention strategy means taking a hard look at your employee experience. Today’s employees want to feel listened to, valued, and part of something greater than themselves. All too often, their actual work experiences fail to meet expectations. Just 48% of employees think their employers are invested in improving the employee experience, ServiceNow found in a recent survey.

More than three-fourths of employees who quit their jobs say they would have stayed if their employers had done the right things. Luckily, there are many ways for employers to identify employee needs. Retention plans tailored to meet them can help companies hold on to their most valuable assets.


The five main drivers of employee retention are:
1. a good benefits package,
2. flexibility and work-life balance,
3. a fulfilling job with opportunities to grow,
4. a positive employee-manager relationship, and
5. opportunities to earn recognition for business contributions.

The best way to improve employee retention and motivation is to make employees feel valued. Take strides to show the ways in which their work is meaningful, drawing clear lines between projects and tangible business outcomes. Express regular encouragement, and call out when they’ve done a good job.

In 2021, key areas of focus for retaining employees are communication and connection. Because the COVID-19 pandemic forced most businesses to embrace remote work, teams are more distributed than ever, leading many of them to feel isolated from their co-workers and the company as a whole.

Employee retention is defined as the process and strategy put in place to entice current staff to stick with a company long term. Other phrases that mean roughly the same thing include “employee turnover” and “employee churn,” though with some slight nuance.

Many factors can affect employee retention. Among the most common are poor work-life balance, insufficient benefits or compensation, and bad employee-manager relationships. Other contributors include lack of recognition, stunted opportunities for job growth, and inadequate onboarding/training.

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