The Best Employee Retention Strategy Starts with Three Simple Words

It’s more difficult than ever to retain employees. With U.S. unemployment rates at near historic lows and with workforce demographics shrinking the size of the labor pool, main street businesses need to take a hard look at their current employee retention strategy and determine whether or not it’s getting the job done.

Retention begins with driving employee engagement; engaged employees are much more likely to stay with their current employer. Unfortunately, employee engagement is at an all-time low: the most recent results from the Gallup Employee Engagement Survey show that a staggering 67% of employees are not engaged at work.  The survey also suggests that companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers on an earnings per share basis by 147%.

So we know that 1) employee engagement sucks at most companies and 2) companies that #DoItRight significantly outperform their peers. There’s your motivation. Now, where to start?

Here’s the thing: you don’t need to hire expensive consultants to tell you how to retain employees. Retention begins with engagement because engaged employees exhibit lower turnover rates. Employee engagement is a function of many factors: shared expectations, mutually agreed-upon goals, culture fit, comp and benefits, peer interactions, and countless others. Since your employees are (most likely) actual human beings, your retention strategy can start with three simple words:

Giving a sh*t.

It sounds glib, but I’m dead-serious. If the CEO and/or management team doesn’t give a sh*t about employee engagement, engagement will suffer. Conversely, if they do give a sh*t, they’ll be compelled to do stuff that improves engagement. It’s not rocket science. And like any other business process where management actually gives a sh*t about the outcome, you need to have a pre-defined playbook that’s followed by all.

Hireology’s engagement playbook can be summarized in five parts:

  1. Make day one great
  2. Public introduction
  3. Learn the basics
  4. Earn your spot
  5. Celebrate your success

Make day one great – When a new hire leaves work on their first day, their spouse, friend or significant other will inevitably ask, “How was your first day?”  We want that answer to be, “It was great!” We aim to accomplish this goal with a few specific tactics.  First, we have a scripted first day: our Director of People runs the same playbook for every Day One; from the welcome sign on the door, to the pre-stocked and established desk, to the previously configured computer equipment and phone, it’s all defined and designed to produce the desired outcome.

Public introductions – We introduce all new hires in front of the entire company at the weekly all-company huddle on Tuesday mornings at 8:35 am. They’re asked three questions:  What’s your name?  Where are you from?  And my favorite – What’s your spirit animal? (it’s a Hireology thing).  We want them connected to the culture as soon as possible and breaking the ice by asking them to share some fun but benign personal information begins the trust-building process.

Learn the basics – New hires are given two books that are incredibly important to helping them understand what we do and how we do it.  First, they get a copy of my book, The Best Team Wins, which outlines the hiring concepts and best practices that are the foundation for our software solution. Second, they get a copy of the book Traction, which explains the internal operating systems that govern the way we manage the company. If you read both of those books, you’ll get what we’re about.

Earn your spot – We believe that the highest-performing workplaces are managed as a meritocracy: pay raises, promotions and additional opportunities are awarded to those who do the best work. Goals and objectives are not only set, but they’re universally understood and visible to everyone on the company intranet.  If you want that additional opportunity, you know what it takes to get there because expectations are made clear to everyone.

Celebrate your success – Over the years, we’ve created a number of culture moments that celebrate successes and big occasions during an employee’s tenure.

  • Core Value Shout-outs – Every week, we open up peer-submitted “core value shout-outs” for submission and read all of the nominations out loud at the weekly all-company huddle.
  • Lab Coat Ceremony – When an employee hits their 90th day, they’ve earned their lab coat. We host an all-company ceremony and induct them as official Hireologists, complete with toasts.
  • Hireoloversaries – As the CEO, I hand-write cards to employees on their annual anniversary date and we celebrate with cake.

There are numerous department-level awards and events, too. In my opinion, the more celebrations of success, the better.

This entire playbook exists because we give a sh*t about our people, our culture, and leveraging both into a source of competitive advantage. Engagement is high, and therefore retention is high.  Some of our competitors approach their people strategy this way, but most don’t come anywhere close. It gives us a leg up in recruiting and hiring, and it reduces our costs due to turnover. Our customers get better service because they see and hear from the same people year after year. Our sales team wins more deals because they’ve built relationships with prospects over the years.

Lots of benefits accrue to companies who give a sh*t about driving high employee engagement. They’re yours for the taking.