Employee retention and staff turnover are increasing problems for all organizations, big and small. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 4.25 million people quit their jobs in January 2022, up from 3.3 million in 2021. Why are employee retention and staff turnover an ever-growing challenge for so many employers? The COVID pandemic expedited change in workplace environments and expectations, increasing remote and hybrid work environments and opportunities. Additionally, the economy, generational mindsets, and a competitive job market contribute to the trend.
So, what can an organization do, in light of these obstacles, to retain employees and reduce employee turnover?
Employers typically turn to their salary and benefits offerings to retain employees, and these factors are important. However, employers need to focus on their brand. In fact according to statistics from Glassdoor and LinkedIn, "Those actively managing their employer brand can reduce employee turnover by as much as 28%."
When thinking about a brand strategy, most people think about how the brand relates to customers and potential customers. However, a successful brand strategy focuses on the internal dynamics of a brand. A brand is built from within an organization, which is the culture of the organization. If the brand is built well internally, employees will feel more engaged and motivated to be working for the organization. This, in turn, carries a positive message externally. Additionally, employees are becoming more and more concerned with the reputations of their employers. Employees want to work for employers who have a great reputation.
When an organization builds its brand strategy, which includes its purpose, mission, vision, and core values, the next step is to live and carry out the brand strategy. Organizations must spend the time to get employees on board with the values that the brand represents and the type of business the organization engages. Everything from within the organization must reflect the brand values because this is what builds the culture of the organization. When employees buy into the values and culture of a brand or organization they are more likely to positively talk about the brand or organization through word of mouth and social advocacy. Brand equity builds faster when the employees of a brand positively talk about the brand because people believe and trust employees more than they trust CEOs and influencers. Therefore, employees talking positively about their employer attracts customers and new employees.
What are employees looking for?
- Employees want work flexibility. COVID has forever changed the workplace environment for office-based and administrative jobs, and these employees want to be able to work from home (or Starbucks, whatever their preference) when they can, and they don't want to be forced to work in an office to satisfy corporate requirements when the work could be done at home. According to Pew Research Center, "According to a January survey of 5,889 workers, 61% of people working from home today say they're not going into their work because they don't want to." Now some jobs are more conducive to working from home than others. However, the main takeaway is that employees want the flexibility to do their job, which means working from home sometimes or working flexible hours when appropriate. Here is an example of what doesn't work. I know an employer who runs a business where many of the jobs (not all) can be done remotely or hybrid. However, this employer claims they don't operate well when they don't see their employees in the office every day, and they tell their employees, "When you are out of sight, you are out of mind." This statement reflects the following brand message to the employee, "You are here to serve me. I am not here to serve you. You will do what is best for me." Employees want to work where they feel valued and important.
- Employees want the ability to grow. If the core values or beliefs of the brand reflect growing the brand and growing its clients, employee growth must be included as part of that core belief. If employees feel that their job is a mere transaction of duty for money, then they will not feel motivated or engaged. Employees want to feel that their work has a purpose, and they want to feel that their work is part of something great and meaningful. When employees feel inspired, they want to grow with the organization. Therefore, the organization should offer its employees the opportunity to grow within the organization. Magic happens when personal and organizational goals are aligned. Much like a marriage, if both parties are not growing together in the same direction, there will be a dissolution of the relationship. Ultimately, an employee is more likely to stay with an organization if they feel like they are helping to contribute to a bigger purpose, and they are able to fulfill their personal goals.
- Healthy work culture. If you have been on TikTok, you have probably seen videos about toxic work environments. Toxic work environments don't retain or attract talent. Building a healthy work culture takes commitment and time. Healthy work culture is about work flexibility and the ability to grow as an individual, but a work culture is built from a brand's purpose. Work culture includes how employees and customers are addressed or talked about, and it includes transparency, open communication, respect, growth mindset, purpose, focus on results, personal and professional development opportunities, diversity, equity, inclusion, celebrating wins, learning from losses, accessible and visible leaders, absence of office politics, and fun.
I am a fan of the show, The Office. Not everything in the show reflects a good workplace culture, but if you have watched the show, you know that Michael Scott led the most productive and profitable team at Dunder Mifflin, even though it appeared that they could not have been doing that much work. Let's look at the things Michael Scott did right.
- Transparency - Michael Scott always had his door open, and he was always accessible to his employees.
- Employee Happiness - Michael Scott put the needs of his employees first. He would even help people with their personal problems, and who can forget the episode where Michael Scott drove Pam to the hospital when she was pregnant?
- Food and Fun - Michael Scott always splurged on food, entertainment, and parties for his team. He created an environment where people wanted to come to work. Without the "fun", it would have been a traditional and boring cubicle environment. However, he spiced things up (sometimes too much), so his team would be entertained, celebrated, and well fed.