The last two years have been a job-market-sized game of musical chairs. After initial pandemic-sparked layoffs, workers now appear to have a distinct advantage over employers.
Unemployment rates are at some of their lowest levels, while job openings and people voluntarily leaving jobs remain numerous. The message to employers is clear: Stay competitive or lose out on talent.
Limited career growth, insufficient compensation, and overall dissatisfaction are just a few of the reasons why good employees leave. There are just as many reasons why retention and engagement should remain a top priority for every company.
Hiring is a time-consuming and expensive process, as is training. Whenever a good employee leaves, institutional knowledge is lost, and productivity and morale drop.
If your company wants to stay relevant in the current labor landscape, half-measures will not suffice. Your approach to acquiring and retaining talent should be intentional, dynamic, and tailored to the individual. To attract and keep the best people, refresh your strategies with these four creative ways to give back to your employees.
1. Help Them Grow Professionally
Putting time, energy, and resources into professionally developing your employees can seem like a risky investment. After all, no employer wants to spend money grooming another company’s newest junior VP.
One of the biggest reasons for turnover is a lack of growth and advancement opportunities. When employees feel they can’t progress their careers, they lose both motivation and engagement.
In contrast, when employees feel a company is investing in them, job satisfaction increases, as does their loyalty to the organization. Work with your team members to find out what sort of development works for them.
Whether it’s online or in-person courses, seminars, or independent study, there are options to pique any interest. With skills training, you directly increase employees’ value to the company and create new leaders for employees yet to come.
Building mentorship programs is another way to increase engagement, deepen buy-in, and strengthen relationships throughout your organization. Mentees gain access to a senior member for counsel and support and a clear example for advancing within the company. Mentors can hand down hard-won skills and knowledge and also give back to the company that has enabled them to prosper.
2. Recognize Them Often
One of the easiest ways to give back to your employees is to create a culture of praise and acknowledgment. Exit interviews show time and again that many employees feel underappreciated and overlooked. Thank-you notes, awards, newsletter spotlights, grateful emails, meeting shout-outs, and even private verbal approval can improve morale and performance.
This is an area where it is important to know and understand your individual employees. Not everyone appreciates public praise, while others thrive on it. But almost everyone appreciates hearing when their skills, knowledge, and impact make a difference.
In creating a culture of praise, be sure to showcase both individual and team performance. You can also build a workplace that encourages peer-to-peer praise, not just top-down recognition. This helps to foster an environment that emphasizes teamwork, validation, and positivity. When employees feel good about their work environment, they are encouraged to put their best efforts into their jobs.
3. Give Them Choices
When you allow employees’ input on when, where, and how they work, you imbue them with agency and autonomy. Furthermore, you send the message you trust their judgment and have confidence they will be accountable for their decisions. When employees have the flexibility to make choices, they tend to be happier, more productive, and more loyal.
If your organization has a work-from-home policy, give employees the freedom to choose where they would like to work. The time and expense saved on daily commutes are major benefits for many workers. You can also allow employees to dictate their work schedules. This is invaluable for those who depend on child care or take care of older relatives.
If your company does not allow for this sort of flexibility, there are still plenty of other ways to involve your staff in decision-making processes. Allow employees to develop their own performance goals or give them the leeway to decide how to approach job tasks and duties. Ask for their input on issues that will affect them and get feedback for improving procedures and policies. Nearly everyone works better when they feel they have the liberty to make decisions for themselves.
4. Compensate Them Well
Let’s face it: Money talks, and there are few places where it speaks louder than in the workplace. Paying more in wages and salaries than is strictly necessary may seem counterproductive.
However, well-compensated employees are more productive and far less likely to look for new jobs. That means you can avoid the interruptions and costs of continually having to backfill positions when employees move on. Additionally, when money is not a concern, employees can give more attention to their work.
When people contribute things of value, they should be properly compensated. Keep your salaries competitive and on the high end (or above) market rates. Give raises and increases often, and award bonuses when possible. Offer stipends for things like cell phones and internet, and reimburse for travel expenses. You can give gift cards or buy meals as smaller tokens of appreciation.
Because time is also money, PTO and family leave are also great ways to give back to your employees. This conveys your organization’s conviction that their personal time and lives are valuable. Good benefits packages send similar messages to staff.
If you’re looking for less formal ways to give back, there are plenty of options there, too. Group outings, parties, and on-the-clock volunteering opportunities are all fun ways to show employees you appreciate their time and efforts. And when it comes to attracting new talent, few things travel faster than word of a generous employer!
As you strive to give back to your employees, leave out the guesswork and ask what kind of recognition is most meaningful to them. Some people may strictly appreciate monetary gifts, while others may benefit more from additional work flexibility. Either way, when employees feel valued, compensated, and supported, they become loyal and productive contributors to your bottom line.