Steps to Establish an Employee Retention Program

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If someone leaves a company, they create a void the company has to fill. Filling it involves recruiting, onboarding, and training. All of these processes cost the business time and money. The issue becomes even more challenging when multiple people leave the company and many others have the same idea.

Although every business experiences turnover, a higher than usual rate requires that relevant stakeholders find ways to ensure their employees are happy and engaged so they do not leave. What you need is an employee retainment program. This guide will explore why you need one and what to do when creating one.

Why Do You Need an Employee Retention Program?

In addition to helping businesses avoid losing time, money, and human resources when employees leave, employee retention programs have several other benefits. High employee retention rates are linked to engaged, productive employees and better customer service. 

Find the Underlying Reasons for High Turnover

It is only possible to give employees what they want or create the conditions they need to stay with the business if you know why they are leaving in the first place. When doing this, you need to differentiate between voluntary and involuntary turnover. 

Voluntary turnover is attributed to people who leave when they quit or retire, while involuntary turnover is tied to people who are either fired or let go. One thing that should worry businesses is people who leave and do not fit neatly into any of these categories, as it may signal the need for a closer examination of your employee retention strategies, especially in the context of the Employee Retention Credit Tax, created to help businesses stay afloat during COVID-19. If you have many people in this category, there could be one or multiple reasons for this.

Identifying Problem Areas

There are various ways to find out why employees leave. A common one is exit interviews. An exit interview should be voluntary and optional. It should cover why the employee is leaving, what they expected the company to do differently, whether their position was a great fit and specific incidents or people who might be the reason for the exit. You can also leave space for honest feedback in case the employee wants to address something you have not asked or talked about.

Human resource managers should know that exit interviews are candid and unfiltered, sometimes overly so. It is not uncommon for people to be rude and negative because of underlying emotions or feeling they no longer owe the business courtesy and politeness.

The other option is employee engagement surveys. These surveys allow employees to provide honest and anonymous feedback on job satisfaction and various other issues. They are an incredible business resource for businesses that can leverage them properly.

Putting Together an Employee Retention Program

Employees want to feel the business is setting them up for success from the first day. The orientation and onboarding process should make employees feel they are part of the team and teach them about the job and company culture. 

You should have a robust process that covers everything. The training and support new employees receive during this process will set the tone for their time in the company. It might also be why they’d leave early if they think they will not have the support they’d need or feel like they do not fit into the culture.

Every business should have onboarding processes for both in-office and remote workers who sometimes feel left out of the process.

Have Mentorship Programs

Mentorship programs entail pairing new employees with mentors and should be part of an extended onboarding process. Mentors welcome new employees to the business, with the program creating a mutually-beneficial situation; new employees learn from their mentors, and mentors gain new insight and perspectives from the new hires.

Businesses should extend their mentorship programs beyond new hires. Existing employees can benefit from mentor-mentee arrangements, with overall employee retention and job satisfaction impacted positively by these programs and arrangements.

Diversify the Workplace

While meritocracy in business (hiring, promoting, and rewarding people based on merit rather than who they are) is crucial, a McKinsey study found that over half of employees leave their jobs due to feeling as though they do not belong. These feelings were especially prominent in non-white respondents. 

Diversity and inclusion are becoming important topics in the workplace. Businesses should balance diverse hiring with ensuring they have the right people in the right positions. Diversifying the workplace like this will help with employee retention.

Restructure Compensation and Benefits Packages

Compensation and benefits have, for a long time, been a primary driver of employee turnover. Employees who feel like they are not getting the best compensation and benefits also feel like the company does not value them and their efforts or that the business does not think they are as valuable as they are. These feelings often translate to employees leaving for companies offering better compensation packages where they will feel appreciated and valued.

Employers must, therefore, reevaluate compensation and benefits packages regularly and adjust them accordingly. In cases where the business cannot increase salaries at the time, it should consider alternative forms of compensation such as bonuses, better retirement plans, and healthcare benefits. All these benefits can increase job satisfaction, thereby making employees more likely to stay.

Have Employee Recognition and Reward Systems

Everyone wants to feel appreciated for their work. Recognition and rewards are especially useful in today’s business environment, where employees might be anywhere worldwide. Managers should thank those working below them and show them how their work helps the organization.

Many businesses have formal reward systems, but you can create great recognition programs no matter the company’s size. In addition to typical rewards like bonuses, businesses can also reward their employees using gift cards. 

The added benefit of personalized gift cards is that they enhance employee loyalty, and businesses can choose the best programs depending on the employee’s circumstances. For example, companies can offer DoorDash gift cards as loyalty gifts for remote workers who are more likely to work at home and, thus, need a delivery service. 

Provide Better Work-life Balance

In the past, employees worked as many hours as possible to be seen as the best employees. Even though doing so came with benefits such as better compensation and increased chances of promotions, it made other parts of employee lives suffer. For example, some people had stress, anxiety, and depression from not disconnecting from work. There was also an increased risk of burnout.

These days, the benefits of work-life balance are well established, and many employees are looking for companies that prioritize it. Additionally, most managers understand that their employees have lives outside their work and offices. They also know a healthy work-life balance is critical for job satisfaction, improved productivity, and, more importantly, employee retention.

Businesses can ensure their employees have a better life-work balance by setting boundaries whether employees work from home or in an office. Businesses should also ensure they take their vacation days and compensate them with extra time if they have to work more hours than they are required to.

Be Open to Flexible Work Arrangements

Although there is some pushback, many companies recognize that many people now prefer to work at home. If that is not an option, they prefer a hybrid approach where they work from home and only come to the office if required. 

Not having these arrangements can make it difficult for businesses to find the talent they need and make people who want them more likely to leave. A Robert Half survey recently found that half of the employees working remotely would quit if a company took away remote work options. Additionally, 56% of all respondents from the same survey said that remote work improved their work-life balance, morale, and productivity.

Because flexible and remote work arrangements are essential for so many people, businesses that want low turnover rates and better employee retention should consider them part of their employee retention program.

Manage Change Efficiently

Every business undergoes management changes. Many people bond with their managers and look up to them for guidance, mentorship, and reassurance. Many people will move on if they lose the manager and thus the benefits they get from their professional relationships with them.

Easing anxiety by keeping the team informed is a great way to reduce turnover attributed to managerial changes. You should also consider whether to make all change announcements to individuals or groups. Regardless of the option you choose, you should give people enough time to ask questions and get answers.

Once the managerial change occurs, let your team get to know the new manager or team so they can be at ease about it.

Make a Plan and Document It

Now that you know which areas you need to address and have some ideas on how to create an employee retention program, it is time to make an implementation plan. The plan should include your goals (which should be evident by now), your execution timeline, who is responsible for executing the different parts of your plan and program, and the desired outcome. The plan should also include all the data you need to make specific decisions, including data collected from employees, ideas you want to implement, and the budget.


Employee turnover is a problem for businesses in highly competitive niches and a tight labor market. Companies that do not do everything they can to ensure employee retention risk losing out to their competitors. Fortunately, there is a lot that businesses can do to stop this from happening, including establishing an employee retention program. Doing so will include identifying problematic areas and issues and using various strategies to ensure job satisfaction, employee happiness, a great working environment, and employee loyalty, all of which will result in better employee retention.

I'm Allison Dunn,

Your Business Executive Coach

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