This time of year, many employers are laser-focused on quickly growing their ranks to contend with the busy holiday season and the race to meet Q4 goals before the year ends.
Getting throngs of talent in the door, onboarded and off to work is a heavy lift for any HR professional or hiring manager—but ensuring that they will stay in the role is an entirely different, and equally daunting, challenge.
Retention is an HR headache any time of year, but especially so during the holiday season, when many employees face longer hours, tougher conditions and significantly more stress. Those factors may have some talent heading to the door for relief, especially seasonal workers who may not be as invested in the company.
That’s where a smart retention strategy can come into play. Ensuring all employees—regardless of how long they have been with the company or how long they will remain on the payroll—are connected to their work, their colleagues and the company mission can create an environment where talent will want to stick around, long after the hustle and bustle of the holidays dies down.
Here are a few must-haves for a holiday retention strategy:
Focus on engagement
Employee engagement is a primary driver of retention. It stands to reason: When workers enjoy their work and the atmosphere in which they’re doing it, why would they want to leave? And the numbers back that up. According to research by Gallup, employees who are actively engaged are 18% less likely to be flight risks—and a culture that prioritizes employee engagement yields a 23% increase in profitability for the company.
The most important step to promote employee engagement is to first find out where the workforce is in terms of engagement, such as through pulse surveys, focus groups and one-on-one interviews. Assess what workers want from their experience, where the employer may be missing the mark and also what is working well—and, critically, respond to that feedback.
Tailor your benefits
Employee feedback can also be influential in benefits design. Compensation and benefits can be effective tools for attracting and retaining talent—but if they’re not tailored to the unique needs of your workforce, you could risk losing employees.
Employee expectations around benefits have transformed in recent years, as the pandemic, rise of remote and hybrid work, and ongoing tight labor market have put the power in the hands of candidates and employees—giving them more leverage for demanding the benefits they both want and need. Apart from traditional offerings like healthcare coverage and equitable salaries, employers are turning to everything from pet insurance to home-office stipends and work-from-anywhere policies to keep up with what the modern workforce expects. Again, listen to candidates and employees and create a benefits program that shows them that their feedback matters.
Support employee wellbeing
Employee wellbeing has come to the forefront for many people leaders in recent years, and the holiday season is an opportunity for employers to re-emphasize their support. The holidays bring a number of added personal stressors to employees, particularly financial strain—which, coupled with the extra work many employees put in during this time, can increase threats to wellbeing.
To safeguard employee wellbeing during the holidays, employers should ensure all workers know of support and resources available, such as through a company employee assistance group and healthcare coverage. Communicate this information consistently and repeatedly, including during onboarding, and through multiple channels, such as in-person team meetings and company-wide emails.
Engagement and wellbeing can both get a boost when employees feel connected to their colleagues as well as to management. In fact, Gallup found that employees with strong relationships at work are significantly more satisfied than those who lack them—and are up to seven times more productive.
Organizations can bring those goals to fruition by promoting belonging throughout the employee lifecycle—from onboarding to offboarding. Apart from robust diversity, equity and inclusion programs to ensure employees feel represented within the organization, employers can offer mentoring opportunities to help workers across levels build relationships and can also lean on employee resource groups to offer both formal and informal programming.
Demonstrate a career path within the organization
One of the best ways to keep employees from becoming flight risks is to show them how they can grow within the organization. That can involve being transparent with seasonal workers at the time of hire about how they can transition the opportunity into a full-time position as well as offering skills development, stretch assignments, mentoring opportunities and training to all employees. Even during the busy fourth quarter, employees should have the chance to hone their skills and understand how they can put them to the test for their next opportunity.
And employees today are craving this development. According to SHRM, more than 60% of workers who left a job during the pandemic were seeking to re-enter the workforce in a role where they could grow. If employees know that they are able to move laterally or up within the organization, and that their employer is interested in helping them get there, they will be more likely to weather the challenges the holiday season brings.
Connect work to purpose
According to research in the New York Times, employees who feel that their work has a real purpose are more than three times as likely as others to stay. That provides an imperative for leadership to help workers see the link between their efforts and the organization’s ability to meet its mission. That can involve recognition programs so that workers feel valued and appreciated, as well as consistent messaging about the organization’s values, and how employees can help bring those values to life in their everyday work.
The end-of-year rush can be a time for talent to shine—but they need employer support. With a proactive people strategy that places employee needs at the forefront, leadership can help their workforce harness their full potential, leading to more engaged, happy and invested workers—who will be key to organizational success in 2024 and beyond.
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