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If You Want to Retain Valuable Employees, Make Communication & Listening a Priority

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 — March 28th, 2022

If You Want to Retain Valuable Employees, Make Communication & Listening a Priority

Talk to any business leader right now and they’ll tell you the same thing: They’re struggling to retain employees and attract new talent.

Rates of employees resigning are so high that it’s being variously called: the Great Resignation or the Great Attrition. No matter what it’s called, the result is the same. Workers are quitting their jobs at unprecedented levels, leaving companies struggling to excel. In order to retain workers and attract talented new ones, employers need to change their approach.

Improving the overall employee experience is how companies can remain competitive. Gallup found that 87% of employees aren’t engaged at work.

The Ultimate Guide to Employee Retention—It's All About the Communications Experience

According to a 2020 survey conducted by Future Workplace, the No. 1 initiative ranked by HR and business leaders was putting a “greater focus on employee experience".

But how can a company realistically hope to engage and offer employees the workplace experience they want—and increasingly demand—if communication is poor? Just as in life, communication at work is the beating heart of everything.

In this landscape, we need to find creative ways to reach our employees, meet them where they are and ultimately make them feel as though they’re part of a community.

How did we get here?

We’ve been challenged by a pandemic that has caused continuing instability and changes in how we work. According to Gartner Inc., 88% of organizations had employees working remotely during the pandemic. With new variants and changing policies, some companies—especially major tech companies—continue to have the majority of employees working from home.

Along with these changes, or perhaps because of them, there’s been a dilution of workplace ties and a reduced sense of employee belonging. As a result, some employees are leaving even without another opportunity lined up.

Others are leaving for competitors or new opportunities as they rethink their careers. That’s why the Great Resignation is also now being called the Great Reshuffle.

Although the current state of retention and talent acquisition is challenging, the future doesn’t have to be bleak. In fact, those who seize the opportunity to develop a retention and talent acquisition strategy will be better positioned to outstrip competitors.

In a landscape where employee experience and engagement matter so much, you’ll need an employee-centric approach. You’ll need to view your employees as customers. Just as you would for an external customer, it’s your responsibility to serve, find solutions to problems, and create a product—an environment—that helps them thrive.

Here’s how:

Find out why employees are leaving.

First things first: Why are your employees leaving? You might have an answer, but are you sure? Research last year by McKinsey & Company showed “there’s a clear disconnect between why employers think their employees are leaving and the actual reasons behind employee exits.”

Here’s how to find out where your employees stand:

  • Question your assumptions. Although you might have ideas about why employees are leaving, it can be difficult to know for sure. Research shows employees are not always candid in exit interviews. Don’t take anything at face value. Question your assumptions and explore potential reasons.
  • Take a data-driven approach. Use anonymous employee surveys to find out what employees are thinking, relying on quantitative data to give you a sense of where they stand. Keep in mind that some may not be completely honest and that there may be a selection bias. Those who are willing to fill out the survey may be happier at work, for example.
  • Actually, talk to them. Routinely ask employees how they are doing, hold focus groups and check in with close co-workers when someone leaves. Any steps you can take to actually sit down and talk with employees, listening closely so that you can understand the nuances of their decisions, will give you a better sense of why retention is a challenge.

It’s essential to learn the real reasons employees are leaving. Then, you can develop a communications strategy to increase engagement, providing a better overall experience and increasing the odds your employees will stick around.

Increase engagement via omnichannel communications.

To better engage employees, it’s wise to create and implement a strategic omnichannel communications strategy.

Omnichannel means more than simply sending out messages on email, mobile, and various other channels. It means the strategy is completely integrated with comms tailored for the relevant employees wherever they work, on the channels and devices they prefer to receive them, via the same platform.

I’ve previously explained how to get started with an omnichannel strategy, but to quickly summarize, you want to:

  • Conduct an audit of your existing strategy.
  • Ask employees about their preferences.
  • Segment and group employees based on their needs.
  • Measure overall engagement and effectiveness.

Of course, an omnichannel communications strategy on its own can never be a silver bullet for employee retention when other significant factors are in play.

You likely still need to address compensation packages, professional development opportunities, location (though this has become less of a factor since the pandemic), culture and diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

But what the adoption of an omnichannel approach does—because it means putting your people front and center and viewing them just like valuable external customers, giving them the information they want and need and enabling them to consume it how and when they choose—is it creates a positive, holistic, communications experience that directly influences the overall experience your people have at work.

And providing a better overall work experience increases the odds your employees will stick around.

(This article originally appeared on Forbes Communication Council)

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