How to improve employee engagement and retention

Written by: Officevibe | Edited by: Jessica Romera | Illustrated by: Raff Labrie
Published on: May 18, 2022 |  Reading time: 9m

As the Great Resignation shows no sign of slowing down, knowing how you can improve employee engagement and retention will not only save time and resources but will spare you the heartache that comes along with losing and trying to replace exceptional talent.ย 

While you can’t stop every employee from pursuing new opportunities, a recent Gallup poll shows that approximately 52% of all exiting employees believe their manager or employer could have prevented them from leaving their job.

Being proactive about employee retention often correlates with being proactive about employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to enjoy their work and are less likely to seek out other professional opportunities.

High employee engagement also enriches your organization through:

  • Stronger team bonds
  • Increased productivity
  • Higher overall employee morale

Employee engagement refers to how motivated your employees are to achieve their workplace goals. While some people use employee engagement interchangeably with employee satisfaction, the two are quite different.

Employee satisfaction means that a team member is satisfied enough with their position that they aren’t actively seeking other work. But It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re committed to giving their 100% to the organization and their role. In many cases, satisfied employees may be more motivated by external factors like salary or benefits than their daily tasks.

On the other hand, employee engagement measures how actively involved and emotionally invested an employee is with their job. Engaged employees are excited to come to work, ready to tackle new challenges, and often encourage the rest of their team to strive for success.

The relationship between employee engagement and turnover rates is a simple one. Employees who like what they do are more likely to stay in that job than hunt around for new employers.

Addressing engagement concerns often leads to improved morale and lower turnover. Proactively maintaining a high engagement rate promotes company success by retaining your top talent.

10 strategies to improve employee retention via engagement

Improving employee engagement and retention may feel like an overwhelming task, especially in companies with high attrition and low job satisfaction. The good news is that there are an array of cost-effective employee engagement solutions that will reduce turnover costs while simultaneously boosting employee wellness and effectiveness in the work environment.

1. Have a solid onboarding process

The onboarding process is often the first interaction an employee has with a company. New employees will often feel uncertain about their position in the organization, and neglecting them at this point will often lead to poor engagement and retention.

Positive interactions will set a strong foundation and ensure that the employee feels valued and appreciated.

Employees with a positive onboarding experience are 69% more likely to stay in the company for three or more years.

Few organizations have a fully defined onboarding process. Developing one means that your new hire can hit the ground running and have the confidence to perform well from the very beginning.

2. Foster a positive company culture

A competitive workplace culture may seem like it produces results, but the truth is that whatever gains you reap are mitigated by attrition and loss of talent. Many companies have noted that a happy and engaged workforce is significantly more productive.

A positive company culture is generally more cost-effective. Teams and employees can focus on excelling rather than worrying about a lack of support or dealing with a negative workspace.

one-on-one employee feedback session
Gather employee feedback during one-on-one meetings.

Fostering an inclusive company culture can be challenging, especially as most employees and managers will be skeptical at the start. However, with consistency and hard work, any business can improve retention and employee engagement through a more positive, open culture.

3. Seek employee feedback

One of the best ways of gauging and improving engagement is to ask your employees what they think. Even the process of collecting employee feedback can engage employees, as they feel more in control of their jobs, expectations, and company culture, especially when they see their input taken seriously and implemented.

Collecting honest employee feedback can give you deeper insights into issues that matter to the workforce and may even reveal potential improvements to business operations and processes.

Even better, companies can tailor their feedback collection strategies to their needs, with methods ranging from simple anonymous pulse surveys to longer questionnaires, one-on-one meetings, team meetings, and performance reviews.

4. Make your employees feel valued

One of the biggest culprits of low employee engagement is a lack of recognition. If you treat employees like cogs in a machine, they will start to feel disposable and invisible. Soon, they will likely leave for a company that values them as individuals. 

Research even shows that the best employees will often be the first to leave if they don’t receive adequate recognition.

A common employee engagement strategy is to provide regular recognition for employees who have exceeded expectations or added value to the company. Recognition shows that your business values them and motivates their colleagues to challenge themselves to achieve the same level of recognition.

As with most retention strategies, it’s important to get employee input on the type of recognition they’d like to receive โ€” some introverted individuals may be uncomfortable with “shout-outs” in front of the company, for instance.

5. Promote a healthy work/life balance

A healthy work/life balance is the key to keeping employees motivated and engaged. Human resources professionals have noted that employees who spend more time at work are at higher risk of burnout and performance decrease than those who feel they have the time to pursue personal interests.

The challenge is that many people struggle to balance their work and personal lives. One solution is to ensure employees get appropriate workloads without overwhelming them. Doing so allows employees to handle their assignments effectively without forcing them to stay after hours to finish their work.

6. Offer competitive pay and perks to retain engaged employees

Some employees may genuinely feel passionate about their work but may still seek employment elsewhere to get a better paycheck. While money doesn’t automatically guarantee happiness, higher-paid employees are usually more satisfied with their position and less stressed than their underpaid counterparts.

Picture of a team having a coffee break

Higher employee morale translates into higher employee engagement. Paying your people a competitive salary and having appreciated perks can improve performance and dramatically reduce turnover rates of your talent.

Compensation and benefits are a sure way for organizations to increase retention.

7. Practice what you preach

Many employees will seek out organizations with strong values that align with their moral compasses. Employees want to contribute to these values, so employers must adhere to them in their jobs.

If employees feel that the company doesn’t embody those values in its day-to-day operations, they’re less likely to feel passionate about their work. As a result, they may leave for an organization that upholds and lives by its mission statement and company goals.

8. Provide growth opportunities

Few people want to stay in the same role throughout their careers. Having clear growth paths can improve employee engagement by motivating your people to exceed their expectations and achieve their career goals within the organization.

A lack of clear growth opportunity is usually an indicator of high turnover, as employees move to other jobs that offer them support for professional development.

Providing growth opportunities for engagement and retention is about more than meeting training needs. As managers, we need to sit down with employees, identify career development goals, create clear growth paths, and provide opportunities for success within our companies.

Increasing employee engagement through career development has several added benefits to your company. Benefits include retaining higher-quality talent over a more extended period, resulting in a more experienced workforce and an improved body of expertise.

Some might worry that their best employees will leave after receiving development opportunities. However, as long as your organization uses other retention strategies and keeps your employees engaged, you can reap the benefits of having a highly-skilled, motivated workforce.

9. Keep employees informed

Many leaders neglect to inform their employees about significant organizational changes. Rumors and uncertainty can significantly impact employee engagement and retention.

This anxiety may lead to loss of talent as employees pre-emptively look for other work to escape what they fear may be an unstable environment or a change in leadership.

Keeping employees informed can reduce high turnover by providing clarity about corporate issues.

Well-informed employees are less likely to panic and start looking for other jobs, but don’t underestimate the importance of making them feel more valued and respected by being included in decisions about how the business culture can adapt to changes. This strategy will improve engagement.

10. Track employee engagement

The best way to avoid high turnover is to proactively manage staff retention and employee engagement. Measuring employee engagement can range from directly asking employees about their feelings to sending out regular pulse surveys and questionnaires.

Understanding the current level of employee engagement gives business leaders the ability to correct course and identify potential issues that may be leading to the loss of talent. Tracking also allows HR leaders to monitor the success of any employee engagement initiatives.

Engaged vs. disengaged employees

Focusing on fostering employee engagement and retention highlights the vast differences between engaged and disengaged employees.

Motivated employees will encourage fellow employees to achieve their goals and celebrate their team’s success. One engaged employee can have a ripple effect, resulting in a more satisfied workforce and higher employee engagement within the team and across the company.

In contrast, disengaged employees avoid communication, lower employee morale of existing employees, work alone, and change jobs more frequently. All of these behaviors tend to discourage fellow employees and may lead to a poor employee experience, decreased overall morale, and high company turnover.

The cost of disengaged employees and high employee turnover

Poor employee engagement and retention can have severe consequences on a business and its organizational culture. Studies show that losing an employee can cost a company up to two times the individual’s annual salary. The costs of employee turnover can include:

  • Missed deadlines and decreased team performance
  • Damage to the company brand
  • Lowered employee morale
  • Decreased team performance
  • Associated costs of searching for and hiring new talent
  • Delayed revenue and lost sales

Measuring the impact of your employee retention and engagement initiatives

Employee engagement and retention are critical to organizational success. Engagement can affect almost every aspect of an individual’s performance, from productivity to their ability to inspire their team members.

The key to improving engagement is to measure it accurately. Officevibe offers an array of tools to enable companies to measure the engagement of existing employees, identify issues with the current employee experience, and even track the success of current employee retention strategies.

One of Officevibe’s most popular tools is the pulse survey, which takes a snapshot of the current employee experience and offers insight into employee engagement and retention. The surveys facilitate honest feedback by being short and anonymous, allowing employees to provide a clear picture without fear of reprisals or reduced performance.

Discover how Officevibe can help you increase employee retention, keep an ear to the ground to satisfy existing employees, and find new ways to keep your employees engaged and motivated.