This article highlights some of the steps companies can take to ensure employee loyalty over the long term.
It’s in the interest of every company to preserve the strength of its workforce. But this can prove challenging when personal ambition, the attraction of better-paying jobs, and dissatisfaction with an employer’s ability to address employees’ needs drive a worker to seek greener pastures.
According to the Global Talent Trends 2022 report by management consulting firm Mercer, only 39 percent of employees globally and 43 percent of U.S. workers felt that their needs were being met by their current company. The report, based on a survey of workers in 13 industries and 16 countries, should make top management take a harder look at the equation it shares with workers.
While it’s impossible to prevent resignations, a company can take meaningful steps to retain as many workers and staff as possible (especially if it has made serious investments in human resource development through training and orientation programs).
The steps mentioned here might involve systemic and structural changes in the company, depending on its size, but they are worth the effort.
Be transparent at the outset
A 2015 research-based report by The Hudson Recruitment Agency, Sydney, highlighted a number of reasons new recruits leave within three months of joining a company.
The main reason was that the role given to them was not what they expected. It follows that premature departures can be prevented if employers are transparent about the jobs on offer. They must be candid about pros and cons, work hours, travel, established pay scales and rises, promotional procedures, and individual growth possibilities.
When employers are transparent at both the advertising and interview stages, they improve their chances of attracting the right people: those who know what they’re getting into and are committed to a long-term association with the company.
Get a fix on the millennial mindset
A Gallup poll reveals that no less than 87% of millennials and 70% of the rest look for professional growth and development when considering a job.
In a June 8, 2022 article in “Times Ascent” (a supplement of The Times of India), M Muneer, Co-Founder of the Medici Institute, stresses the need for empathy when dealing with millennials.
Limiting his observations to the Indian context, Muneer warns about incorrectly assessing millennials or Generation Z job applicants. He states that potential employers should not assume that these groups would be “risk-averse, non-entrepreneurial and seeking job security” given that they had faced the stresses of demonetization, the COVID lockdown, and a sluggish economy.
According to Muneer, these groups expect challenging jobs, equity in growth opportunities, a certain degree of independence, flexible work hours, and promotions based on meritocracy.
Whether hiring in India or elsewhere in the world, companies would serve themselves well by researching talent pools for insights to help them attract–and retain–the best and the brightest from fresh job seekers.
Establish fluid intra-office communication channels
Employees at every level have grouses. Unless they are addressed, the disgruntled will develop a negative outlook and, eventually, nurture thoughts of leaving.
It is important, therefore, to have in place easy-to-use communication channels that facilitate seamless interaction between employees and their seniors. Emails, Whatsapp messages, and informal weekly meetings would suffice most of the time.
But multi-departmental organizations with a large employee base could additionally use apps like Zoom, Slack, and Google Chat, each of which has distinct advantages.
When establishing across-the-board communication channels, make it a rule to keep messages brief, interact only when necessary, and avoid email wars when heart-to-heart meets can resolve issues.
To retain, train
Salary increases might keep employees from leaving, but such measures are neither sustainable nor adequate. Young, fire-in-the-belly professionals demand more than handsome remuneration.
They seek growth opportunities and clear trajectories to senior positions within specific timeframes–in other words, good reasons for staying long-term with their employers.
These expectations can be met through incentive-driven training programs with built-in rewards. Participants could be awarded points merely for participating in such programs.
More extensive training sessions could incorporate tests and exercises to give participants an opportunity to qualify for higher positions. In short, training programs that offer a leg-up for professional advancement are sure to nurture loyalty in employees and are, therefore, worth investing in.
On its website, the Statista Research Department mentions that “employers worldwide spent on average approximately 1,270 U.S. dollars per worker on learning and development”.
That’s a tidy sum (considering the global COVID pandemic was raging at the time), and it underscores the importance of continued training, even during economic downturns.
Depending on the general makeup of your company, its line of business, and its employees’ professional profiles, training programs could include (among other things) comprehensive onboarding (for new entrants), soft skills development, technology training, business management, cybersecurity protocols, and leadership grooming.
Seattle Genetics offers onsite training courses and access to career-related conferences and seminars to help employees improve their professional prospects.
SAS, whose area of business is analytics software and services, offers its employees leadership programs and career mentoring, backed by a career resource center.
And Bonobos, a leader in retail, runs management training programs to make its employees better equipped to handle relationships with fellow professionals and customers.
Writing in The Times of India (June 8, 2022), Shilpa Phadnis highlights some companies in India with very successful training programs:
Wipro offers new entrants a clear road map for career advancement over a five-year period. This is in addition to its “Project Velocity” program, which allows selected freshers to “double up competence to double up compensation.”
TCS has signed on more than 300,000 employees for its “Elevate Programme,” a career-boosting training program. From this pool, [PF1] 13,000 individuals that were identified as exceptionally talented have been financially rewarded.
Walmart Global Tech India has partnered with IIT Madras and IIM Bangalore to provide exclusive learning experiences in technology and management (respectively) for its top performers. And IBM India has in-house learning programs and career-development frameworks in line with its employees’ aspirations, both of which have resulted in a significant increase in promotions in recent times.
Make work meaningful
A survey of more than 1000 U.S. workers by management consultancy McKinsey & Co. has revealed that workers’ sense of purpose is largely defined by the work they do. However, while 85 percent of senior managers and executives find work meaningful within the larger framework of life, 49 percent of the workforce don’t.
Closing the “purpose gap” is, therefore, crucial. To do this, top management needs to take a deep dive into the hearts and minds of workers to better understand their short- and long-term needs.
Schneider Electric, an energy and automation firm with upwards of 19,000 U.S. employees, gets its employee resource- and focus groups involved in decisions related to benefits. The insights it has gained have enabled the company to offer benefits that make a difference (such as a pet-sitting service at a nominal cost).
CGI, an IT consulting firm, regularly interacts with employees to gauge satisfaction levels and determine steps to take to improve company-employee relations.
Feedback gained from surveys has led to the company offering autism support services. While this effort might have limited appeal, it still goes a long way toward projecting a CGI as progressive, empathetic, and labor-friendly.
Allow flexible hours
The work-from-home (WFH) model revolutionized the way companies and their employees worked together. It underscored the viability of a flexible arrangement, proving so effective that it became the norm with some organizations.
An organization that allows flexible work hours and, therefore, greater individual autonomy, is likely to be looked upon more favorably by its employees, especially those who desire a closer alignment between work and life.
Such employees might willingly accept pay cuts for working fewer hours with flexibility thrown in, as was evident when Schneider Electric introduced a part-time-work option for a limited period each year, with a commensurate reduction in pay.
Nurture ties that bind
Companies can strengthen employee loyalty by establishing and nurturing ties between themselves and the workforce, between employees at all levels, and even between themselves and their employees’ families. In short, developing an extended family whose members share interests, empathize with one another, and, betimes, forge lasting friendships.
There are many ways of going about this. All that the Human Resources (HR) team needs to do is combine a bit of heart and imagination. Company-organized annual picnics, contests (“Most Eligible Single,” “Best Dressed Worker”), karaoke-at-the-pub nights, and quizzes would do wonders for fraternal bonding among workers.
Going a step further, a company could engage workers’ families by sending out gifts and greetings on birthdays, anniversaries, and festive occasions, offering assistance during crises, or even subsidizing the education of workers’ children demonstrating exemplary academic prowess or having special needs.
Salary increases, bonuses, and promotions can’t ensure worker loyalty, because workers can be poached upon by competitors with more to offer. Experience shows that workers stay faithful to their employers when their expectations are met when a) they envision a clear career growth path, b) do work that’s meaningful to them, and c) feel emotionally connected to the larger corporate family. Building worker loyalty is hard work, but it pays off in preserving vital human capital over the long term.