Is Employee Retention A Priority Where You Work?

Leaders are often surprised when I tell them their employees are considering better opportunities elsewhere.

How many workers are looking to leave your company? Turnover is costly, from lost productivity to recruitment and onboarding. Research shows the cost to replace senior leaders is 1.5 to 2 times their annual salary, and the cost for employees and team members is approximately 70% of their salary. Employee retention has become a challenge.


Let’s talk about what you can do to improve retention starting today, from identifying what really matters most to employees to knowing where to focus your efforts for the greatest impact.

Employee engagement is the key to retention. At Energage, we view it as the intersection of three factors: Motivation, Commitment, and Referral. In other words, you want employees to give their very best, commit to your organization, and recommend it to others. Employees measure the value of what they get in exchange for what they give. From a value perspective, they are thinking on two levels: What’s in it for me and What are we doing together?

Pay and benefits are part of that, and so are training, career development, and personal growth. These things certainly help your retention strategy. But there is much more to why people choose to stay.

Employees want to believe they’re part of something bigger. It all starts with senior leadership, and here are the questions they should be considering:

  1. Do we have alignment? Employees need to rally behind your organization’s shared purpose, direction, and the values you are championing.
  2. Is there a sense of accomplishment? Employees need a sense of progress against direction and purpose.
  3. Are employees connected? Employees want to know they are appreciated by the organization.
  4. Do your managers get it? They need to understand their role in retention.

One last note: Leaders often think of retention in terms of keeping the best performers or employees with high potential. While it’s fine to have individual plans for them, you’ll get far more leverage by engaging your entire workforce rather than a select few. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to target top talent at the expense of everyone else, which creates disengagement and a revolving door.

Doug Claffey is founder of Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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