How Can You Boost Employee Longevity? It’s easy. Hire the right people and give them a reason—or two—to stay.
by Teresa Fausey
According to the Gallup Employee Engagement Index, only about 30 percent
of employees are engaged in their work.
Although employee longevity has increased a bit over the past few years, there’s still no guarantee that smart, passionate people won’t make the leap from an organization where they’re unhappy to one that seems to offer greener pastures. The days of retiring with a gold watch from your first job aren’t likely to return—and that’s not really what anybody is shooting for. What most companies want is a stable workforce made up of employees who have a commitment to the company, understand its mission, share its vision and possess enough knowledge (the kind that comes with experience) to contribute in meaningful ways and mentor new hires.
Recruiting, hiring and training people can be expensive and disruptive to your business. High turnover becomes demoralizing—and contagious. The larger the exodus, the more remaining employees begin to think, “Maybe it’s time to go.” It’s just human nature. High turnover, whether people are laid off or leave voluntarily, causes those left behind stress and anxiety. One way of dealing with that discomfort is to disengage. Another way is to leave.
And face it, if people are happy as part of your team—if they are challenged and engaged by their work, have real opportunities to learn and grow professionally, are respected and appreciated by their bosses and know their contribution matters—they’ll want to stay. And their friends and family members will want to join your team, too. Yes, you’ll need reasonable pay and benefits, but they’re not generally what prompt employees to stay or go. It’s the day-to-day work experience—how empowered, supported and trusted each employee feels—that affects employee longevity most.
But there is good news.
If you’re not satisfied with your current employee longevity rate or level of employee engagement, you can fix the problem…and here’s how:
- One of the most important things you can do is hire people who want to do the jobs you’re hiring them for: Sounds obvious, but it’s often not; make sure you know what this job at your company actually entails—not a cookie-cutter, generic job description, but what the new person will really be doing; many jobs turn out to be something other than what was advertised; NOTHING causes a new hire to lose enthusiasm, and trust, more quickly than stepping into a job she or he didn’t sign up for
- Offer interesting challenges and the resources your employees need to meet them: Make sure your people have the tools, the information and the freedom to achieve
- Support learning—don’t just pay it lip service: Allow employees time, and financial support if at all possible, to improve their skills or acquire new knowledge; notice (or ask) what an employee is good at or excited about—encourage and support that
- Empower and trust—these two go hand in hand: If you won’t empower your people, it’s because you don’t fully trust them; if you don’t trust them, they’ll know it; and not being trusted to do good work pretty much guarantees that they’ll have a harder and harder time doing good work—it’s one of those self-fulfilling prophecies
- Be transparent: Be upfront, open and honest with your employees; after all, trust has to be a two-way street
- Rethink recognition—it’s not your grandfather’s gold watch: Prizes and awards, by themselves, have not been shown to make people feel appreciated; in fact, if you’re not offering respect and trust day to day, gifts will seem like insincere, even cynical, tokens; after all, you don’t have to “reward” people for doing things they’re excited and passionate about—interesting and meaningful work is the most important reward
Now comes the hard part.
You actually have to do the things listed above if you really want to increase employee longevity. It’s not enough to say, “That’s a great idea,” and then go back to business as usual. Just knowing won’t help. Delivering speeches or making promises won’t work. This is not public relations. It’s the life blood of your business. You have to do things that will make a difference.
And, you need to be patient. If you haven’t been living your employment brand, if you haven’t been providing opportunities, if you haven’t been treating your employees with respect, your employees will surely adopt a wait-and-see attitude with regard to this new initiative. It may be frustrating, but it can’t be helped—it’s that pesky human nature again. You’ll have to make real changes and stick with them for awhile before your employees will believe they’re genuine.
One more thing…
You have to get leadership and management on board. A single, determined manager could make a difference for his or her own team—and they often do. But if you want to change your company’s overall workplace culture, you’ll need to get a substantial commitment from pretty much every person in a leadership position.
Here’s the payoff.
The changes you make, if they’re sincere and permanent, will pay off. Before long, yours could be one of those great companies that people LOVE to work for. You’ll also reap some other amazing rewards: Better morale; higher productivity; lower turnover; easier recruitment; less cost; bigger profits; and of course, an increase in employee longevity. Best of all, you’ll come to work every day and find engaged, even happy, employees, using their intellect and imagination in ways that will bring your organization the success you’ve been looking for.
With substantial copywriting and editorial experience to her credit, Teresa has been a member of the NAS creative team for more than a decade and has, for the past few years, handled the agency’s marketing communications. She conceives and writes promotional and corporate materials, such as press releases, ads, case studies, website pages, white papers, employee communications and more. Managing the agency’s RFP process, Teresa helps NAS business development professionals and other team members craft effective responses. Recently, she became Talent Talk editor and the agency’s social media manager.
Teresa holds a bachelor’s degree in English, awarded with honors, from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Toledo.
Entry filed under: Employee Management, Retention, Teresa Fausey. Tags: Employee engagement, employee longevity, employee retention, employee turnover, employer of choice, empowerment, hiring and retention, HR, Recognition, retention, Teresa Fausey, trust, workplace culture.