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How to Retain Key Employees

More than 28 percent of U.S. employees left their jobs last year to go to work somewhere else — an 11 percent increase over 2017, according to the 2018 Retention Report by the Work Institute. That number is expected to continue to climb to a striking 33 percent by 2020.

With the competition for top talent growing more fierce, it’s imperative that businesses take steps to engage and retain the key employees that are the lifeblood of any dynamic and competitive organization.

Here are three ways to keep your best and brightest employees.

Build in More Flexibility and Autonomy

The Retention Report found that work-life balance ranked second among categories of reasons for leaving a job. Employees cited a desire for more favorable schedules, shorter commutes and different travel commitments as top motivations for moving on, the study found.

Lakeisha Robichaux, CEO of HR outsourcing firm Chief of Minds, a Baton Rouge-based firm that offers outsourced HR and payroll, says one way to ease work-life balance concerns for your employees is to offer more flexibility in when and where your employees work. Employees, particularly younger generations, see flex schedules and work environments — such as remote work — as having a positive impact on organizational performance and personal well-being.

Robichaux also suggests that in addition to opening up schedules and work environments, business leaders step back more often and allow employees to complete project tasks in ways that make the most sense for them — as long as the end goal is clearly defined. “It gives them more of a sense of ownership and accomplishment once it’s done,” she says. “Giving them that flexibility brings a lot to the table.”

Invest in Improving Company Culture

The Retention Report found that culture issues represented another frequently cited category employees quit, with workers citing widespread unprofessional behavior and personality differences and required working conditions as concerns that sent them out the door.

“Employee engagement and culture go hand-in-hand,” Robichaux says.

To create a culture that makes people want to stay at your company, Robichaux suggests fostering an employee-driven atmosphere that allows workers to develop and drive the values and mission of the organization.“I found that employee-driven culture is most important — what they want, what they need, how you will get there,” she says.

An effective way to achieve this, she says, is to conduct anonymous employee questionnaires about the company. The goal is to gather valuable employee feedback on the company, its culture and how it could be improved.

“Doing those 360-engagements is very important because you get a realistic view of how the employees view the culture in the org, how they view leadership in the org, how they view the environment of the organization,” she says.

Robichaux says a dedication to diversity — across race, gender, personality types — is another essential element for fostering a company culture that attracts and retains top talent. “You need that diversity of what they’re bringing to the table to bring new ideas that can challenge some of the things that have been going on so you can be successful,” she says.

Offer Professional Development Opportunities

If you want your best employees to stick around and add value to your organization, you need to offer them ways to grow professionally and learn. This is especially important for millennials, who now make up the largest generation of the U.S. workforce and have indicated in study after study that they highly value professional development opportunities.

“Continuous learning is essential,” Robichaux says. “It’s critical to your organization. For employees, it means a lot because you’re investing in them and they can appreciate that investment you're making. They want to do more, they want to work harder and they are more committed.”

Whatever development strategies your company opts to take, Robichaux encourages organizations to explore programs through the Louisiana Workforce Commission and Louisiana Economic Development that offer qualified employers funding toward professional development programs for their employees.

“Take advantage of that reimbursement and invest it back in your employees,” she says. “They’ll definitely appreciate that.”

Zoe Parker