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The New Rules of Engagement: Employee Engagement and Retention in 2023

“Where are all the job seekers?” In 2023, I hear this question being asked by HR professionals and frontline managers on a daily basis. Qualified applicants are out there, but with so many unique job offerings available—from standard jobs now being fully remote to modern professions like social media influencers—it’s harder than ever to fill open positions. That’s why instead of asking where to find people, a better question now is, “How do I keep the good people that I have?”

Business studies have shown that the average employee entering the workforce for the first time lasts six months before moving on to a new company. Studies also show the average cost to find, hire, and train an employee is equal to nine months of their salary. Based on that alone, it makes more financial sense to focus on retention over recruitment. Plus, while the manager tries to fill the position after an employee resigns, the pressure placed on the rest of the team increases the likelihood of burnout which may lead to another resignation, starting the cycle over again. A good employee engagement strategy stops that cycle in its tracks.

The New Rules of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is not a new idea, but in the post-pandemic world, it certainly looks a lot different. I have been meeting with HR professionals at companies across a broad range of industries to learn their “secrets” to retaining employees as well as what changes they have made in their practices since the pandemic. I’ve also been meeting with the twenty-somethings at college business classes to understand what they’re looking for in a job/career. You shouldn’t be surprised when I tell you these are usually two ships passing in the night.

Unfortunately, many companies still rely on old-school engagement techniques that focus mainly on financial benefits such as raises and bonuses. While those are still important, when it comes to employee retention, it’s no longer just about the paycheck. Don’t get me wrong, pay rate is always a factor—in fact, salary is most commonly cited by the students I’ve met with—but it’s not always the factor.

Now, employees and job seekers also consider other elements like workload, management style, work-life balance, and personal fulfillment. Students I’ve interviewed have said they’re willing to accept a lower salary if they can have more flexibility in work hours or be part of something bigger, such as working for a company that gives back to society. Other factors cited were the ability for rapid promotion, doing something cool or innovative like working at a start-up, and being able to “turn off” at the end of the day. If you want to keep your employees satisfied, your engagement strategy needs to consider those factors as well.

Best Practices for Employee Engagement and Retention

While there are many ways to engage your employees, these are a few best practices to get you started. Many more will be explored in future blog posts.

Emphasize Employees’ Importance

Ensure each employee knows how their role contributes to the overall success of the company and how important they are. Be as personal and specific as possible, focusing not just on why their job is important but also on the skills and talents they bring to the organization. This knowledge will give them a sense of pride and connect them to the overall organizational culture and mission, especially those in entry-level positions.

Create a Sense of Camaraderie

Your culture should make each employee feel like they are a valued member of a team and not alone on an island. Creating a spirit of camaraderie through social gatherings (which are different from transactional work meetings) helps your team get to know each other personally and foster friendships. Even remote-based companies can hold virtual happy hours or trivia sessions. Studies consistently show it’s harder for someone to leave a company where they have friends.

One important thing to note is that social gatherings should be encouraged but not required. Forcing attendance can foster resentment and make employees feel like they’re working overtime instead of having fun with friends.

Ask for Feedback

Ask employees to keep a list of their recommendations for the company. This could be anything from improving the snacks in the vending machine to developing more efficient processes or procedures. Then, commit to a quarterly one-on-one to discuss their list and establish action items or next steps. This shows them they are being heard and are playing a role in the organization’s success.

What’s Next?

If you are interested in partnering with M&IW to build or revamp your engagement strategy, contact us today.