Resources How-to's Simple ways to drive up employee engagement and retention


Simple ways to drive up employee engagement and retention

Engaging and retaining skilled employees is critical to your organization's survival, let alone its success.

Almost all the current research on employee engagement tells us that there are a few basic things managers and organizations can do to increase employee engagement, satisfaction and retention. They include:

  • Giving employees meaningful feedback on a regular basis.
  • Being clear about goals and expectations, and helping employees see how their work matters to the organization.
  • Rewarding, recognizing and appreciating your employees in a fair and consistent way.
  • Giving employees opportunities for growth and development.

These can seem like simple things to do, but without the right talent management processes, tools and support, your managers may not be giving employees what they need.

Here are some ways you can ensure these employee needs are being met.

Give employees meaningful feedback on an ongoing basis

Research consistently shows that employees want meaningful feedback on an ongoing basis. So how do you encourage this dialogue, and even better, make it part of your work culture?

Increase the frequency of employee reviews

Some companies find that building quarterly reviews into their performance management process helps to give managers and employees a regularly committed interval for dialogue and feedback. These quarterly reviews don't need to be as long or as detailed as your annual performance review session; their goal is to provide a structured forum for giving employees feedback and for checking on progress.

Gather feedback from others

Another way to provide employees with more meaningful feedback is to gather input from others. Feedback from multiple sources is broader and more objective, and helps both the manager and employee get a more accurate view of their performance. This can be as simple as requesting feedback from another manager or supervisor that the employee works with, or from a third-party who has knowledge of the employee's strengths and weaknesses. A more thorough approach involves gathering multirater, 360 degree feedback from peers, other managers, customers and more.

Encourage ongoing feedback and coaching on performance

Managers should support their employees' performance and engagement by giving their employees ongoing feedback, coaching and recognition. This can be accomplished through:

  • weekly, one on one meetings
  • in-the-moment feedback and coaching
  • regular recognition and praise for accomplishments
  • detailed notes on performance, accomplishments and challenges all year round

This ongoing dialogue and exchange about performance means highlights and challenges be discussed and explored in a timely way, and managers and employees have a shared understanding of expectations and what is consideredd high performance. It also makes it easier for managers and employees to conduct performance reviews, as they have an accurate and detailed record to consult.

Define clear goals and link them to organizational goals

Another key to employee engagement, satisfaction and retention is helping employees to clearly know what is expected of them, and to understand how their work contributes to the organization's mission and success.

SMART goals are broadly recognized as the most effective way to write clear goals. Specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound goals let employees know what is expected of them, how success will be measured, and when they must complete work. It can help to include a separate field for each of these elements on your employee review form, so managers are prompted to provide all the necessary information. Providing an example of a SMART goal right on your form can also help.

Another effective way to engage employees is to give them a clear context for their work by linking their goals to higher-level organizational goals. Here again, you can provide a space right on your performance appraisal form for managers/employees to indicate the high-level organizational goal each of the employee's individual goals is designed to support. Then it's important to provide mechanisms for reporting and communicating the status of all goals, up and down the reporting chain. This helps everyone in the organization know how their work impacts the organization.

Recognize and reward your employees fairly and consistently

Employees need to feel that their company rewards performance fairly and equitably. This applies to work/project opportunities, promotions, and awards, but especially to all areas of compensation, including base pay, bonuses, stock options, etc. It's critical for companies to have fair and transparent compensation processes that in some way link pay to performance.

But don't forget the importance of other formal and informal means for recognizing and rewarding performance. From a simple thank you, to small perks, "spot award" or "employee of the month" programs, public recognition for efforts and achievements, or even a personalized note/email - there are lots of ways your managers can give employees regular recognition and praise.

Provide professional and career development opportunities

Another way to drive up employee engagement and retention is to support employee development and career progression. Employees need to feel that they have a future with the organization, and a career path that helps them further develop their knowledge, skills and abilities. Career development can take many forms, from formal courses, to challenging work assignments, to mentoring programs.

Development plans can be created and linked to a competency to address a skill gap, or created separately to support work on goals or the employee's general career interests.

In addition to supporting employee development, your organization should also have a succession planning program in place that identifies high-potential employees from across the organization, and prepares them to play key roles of the organization. You can create talent pools with specific performance criteria and development paths, and assign high-performers to these pools for further development and assessment. Being part of a talent pool gives an employee an opportunity for development beyond what's required for their current role, and grooms them for greater responsibility or for a career move within the organization. It engenders greater engagement and retention by demonstrating a commitment to the employee and investing in their future.

Read how others have increased their employee engagement and retention through better talent management

By improving their talent management practices, the UW Credit Union has consistently improved their employee engagement scores year over year, for the past 5 years. They've also improved goal alignment, accountability and transparency, and member satisfaction.

At Sun-Rype Products, they've seen an overall improvement in their corporate culture and employee engagement. But even better, they've seen their employee turnover rate decrease from 20 percent to 4 percent - all as a result of automating their performance management processes.

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