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Nine strategies to increase employee engagement and retention

Keeping your workers happy enough that they don't look elsewhere is critical considering today's economy. Here are nine tips to help ensure your success.

One of the most pressing challenges for today's companies and their HR departments is how to increase employee engagement and retention. Both influence everything from how difficult recruitment is to how much money a company wastes getting new hires up to speed to the level of customer service an organization can offer.

That's why taking a multipronged approach is so critical. To that end, here are nine strategies that can help turn your company into a great workplace and, in turn, boost employee engagement and retention.

1. Don't discount the importance of the total rewards package

A company's total rewards package -- everything from compensation to performance recognition -- is an extremely important factor in both potential candidates' and current employees' assessment of a given organization.

Employee engagement and retention are inexorably linked to the broader notion of employee experience in the workplace, said Michael Gretczko, principal and national service line leader at Deloitte. And they must be effective. This is an area where many companies can improve and grow, Gretczko said.

Indeed, Bersin's 2018 High-Impact Rewards Survey revealed that 80% of organizations are "significantly lagging" behind their employees' expectations for total rewards offerings.

2. Customize employee engagement and retention for company culture

The same study also revealed that high-performing organizations think about "best fit" vs. "best practice." High-impact organizations place high importance on how a concept or program might apply to their unique culture and objectives. These organizations pay attention to curating employment brands that highlight how they are different from their competitors with respect to rewards.

"By personalizing a rewards program to fit their specific circumstances, organizations can meet the unique and specific needs of their employees, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all, externally focused approach," Gretczko said.

3. Use customer experience principles when designing employee programs

An important component in creating effective rewards and employee programs is making those programs digital, easy to access and automated. Technologies that streamline programs and tasks limit the barrier of adoption for employees by making the process easy to track and manage.

"Today's workforce is digitally minded, and if a company is not providing technical benefits, like mobility, ease of use and self-service, then top talent ... is likely to seek other jobs that meet their digital expectations," Gretczko said.

A persona-driven approach can help organizations understand employees' needs and customize the services delivered to them. "The approach mirrors today's top consumer websites, which are customized and personalized according to your needs and preferences," Gretczko said. He also recommended assembling interdisciplinary teams that include not only HR and IT, but also sales, finance and customer service, when designing employee engagement and retention programs, along with a robust change management plan.

4. Teach leaders how to increase employee engagement, retention

"I believe that great employee retention and engagement are achieved by mastering management and leadership fundamentals," said Mellissa Santos, chief people officer at Deputy, a workforce management service. If a company's leaders manage employees well, they will be engaged and stay with your company; if they don't, your company will have poor retention and low engagement, according to Santos. She said that some of the best engagement programs Deputy has implemented have been focused on management recruiting, feedback and training.

Identifying your company's specific needs is critical. For example, if you have a number of junior managers, you may want to launch a manager development training program and hire some key senior talent to mentor the group. Likewise, if you have made several bad management hires, it might make sense to reevaluate your recruitment process.

"The most telling employee engagement metrics are engagement survey scores and voluntary turnover," Santos said. Deputy uses Culture Amp, an employee feedback platform, to survey employees and measure employee engagement and Trello, a web-based project management application, to manage the success of employee-manager one-on-one meetings.

5. Sustain a culture of employee learning and development

Ongoing training and development is another important way to increase employee engagement and retention and should be part of any program a company and its HR department creates. For example, Deloitte University delivers experiential learning programs to over 65,000 participants in an environment that encourages networking, bold new ideas and well-being. One recently launched initiative, Digital Hub, is an experiential installation where people can learn about emerging technologies, such as AI and blockchain.

Employees are also provided with opportunities for follow-up learning. "We want them to ... grasp enough technology fundamentals to confidently construct questions that frame client business needs," said Heidi Soltis-Berner, evolving workforce talent leader and managing director of Deloitte University.

6. Look beyond traditional talent sourcing to answer worker needs

Another aspect of Deloitte's overall retention strategy is increasingly exploring open talent models. "More people today want to work differently than in a traditional, full-time employee role," Soltis-Berner said. This creates a need to look at flexible, nontraditional talent sources, like freelancers and independent contractors, to identify talent to meet client service and other needs.

In response, the company created the Deloitte Open Talent (DOT) community to attract workers who can complement its traditional, full-time workforce. So far, the company is getting results. It used more than 8,200 open talent resources in 2017, and more than 2,500 independent contractors have joined the community. "DOT gives contingent workers a place to network, learn, understand our culture, match their skills, interests and availability with challenging projects and create a profile that allows them to redeploy on new assignments quickly," Soltis-Berner said.

7. Boost engagement and retention by focusing on meaning, purpose

One of the biggest reasons for high turnover is that employees are not able to connect how they can have an impact on their organization's strategic objectives.
Carle QuinnGlobal vice president of digital HR experience, SAP

"One of the biggest reasons for high turnover is that employees are not able to connect how they can have an impact on their organization's strategic objectives and do not see a clear path for career advancement," said Carle Quinn, global vice president of digital HR experience at SAP.

Creating a culture where employees feel a sense of connection to the company's purpose and meaning in their work is critical for driving employee engagement, in addition to a strong focus on talent development.

Many companies drive successful engagement by focusing on key areas such as role clarity, career management, performance management, networking, rewards, work environment and values. "One of the best practices that I have seen begins with an employee survey to stay on the pulse of the organization," Quinn said. Then, HR must analyze the survey results against the company objective's and talent priorities and select strategies that have a strong correlation to employee engagement. It's also important to communicate to key stakeholders and to employees the results and plans in a meaningful way. SAP uses its own SuccessFactors Talent Management Suite for attracting, engaging, developing, rewarding and retaining people.

8. Consider relocation assignments to boost employee experience

"We're starting to see global mobility as an impactful benefit used for attraction, retention and development of employees," said Julie Knight-Ludvigson, chief marketing officer at Topia, an HR tech company. Companies are no longer reserving relocations or out-of-town assignments for senior staff.

More companies are taking notice of this trend and creating programs for employees to work abroad or outside a home office, as it's a very effective way to offer challenging and rewarding work, according to Knight-Ludvigson. This experience also helps prepare employees for roles as future leaders, which may especially appeal to younger generations. Knight-Ludvigson said that the key to a successful employee engagement program lies in measuring and tracking the outcomes. She said that she's seeing a surge in tech tools for improving mobility management as part of these programs.

9. Improve corporate communication efforts

Good communication is critical to increasing employee engagement and retention. Focusing on the right strategies and technology can help.

Glassbox, a customer experience service, has found it is important to create the right culture and unique atmosphere for individuals to grow and prosper. A key to its success has been the ability to keep clear and consistent communication between employees and the organization, according to Hila Bazar, Glassbox's VP of global HR. She has found that various cloud tools can improve this communication.

"My objective is to make sure my work is measurable and supports the company's vision and goals," Bazar said. Platforms such as Comeet, a collaborative recruiting platform, which Glassbox has deployed across the organization, helps to automate and monitor the recruitment cycle.

The company is also using software such as Hibob, a people management platform, to measure success, which holds Glassbox's key information, such as attrition and retention rates, as well as career paths, in one place.

Additionally, it is critical to do an employee pulse check and conduct employee satisfaction surveys at least three times a year. "This will help ensure that you are on track toward improving employee sentiment, retention and engagement," Bazar said.

This was last published in August 2018

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What employee engagement and retention best practices do you recommend to other companies?
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Great to see sustaining a culture of employee learning and development on this list! It seems that more and more companies are realizing the value of not just training, but creating an overall company culture of on-going learning.

Results of a survey of L&D professionals that my company released recently found that companies without staff engaged in learning are twice as likely to lose staff before three years.

Sounds like DeLoitte is doing it right, as we also found that companies with strong learning cultures are also avid users of learning technologies! 
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Learning does seem important. I touched on this a bit in this article on learning and AI:

It seems like the next step might be using AI and metrics to not only improve the learning experience, but employee engagement as well.
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One of the key for employee engagement is to make sure and communicate the linkage between employee's work and company objectives on a dynamic / continuous basis 
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I would agree, creating meaningful and continuous feedback does seem be an important practice as was discussed in this story on best practice for HR Data analytics:
https://searchhrsoftware.techtarget.com/feature/Experts-explore-best-practices-for-HR-data-analytics
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