How to Retain Employees in Today's Job Market

Hi, DonorsDreams Readers! It’s me, Marissa. I’m covering for the blog for Erik as he sails the ocean blue on a well-deserved vacation. Today’s post was written by Denise Benages, an HR professional for over 16 years. She shares with us best practices for retaining employees in an ever changing job market. Thanks, Denise!

Once upon a time, people stayed at their first job, moved up the ladder and received a gold watch when they retired. How very Ward Cleaver!
retaining-employeesWelcome to 2015, where the average worker will have 12-15 jobs in their lifetime. Ten of those jobs will be held before the age of forty. So how is a nonprofit to function in the land of no golden watches? Well, we must ask ourselves, how do we retain employees.
First, let me ask you, do you have a retention strategy? In a 2013 survey of nonprofits, 90% did not have formal retention strategy. However, the majority of them did have informal retention strategies. Let’s talk about how you make an informal retention policy into a formal one.
Your first step is to evaluate your policies. What are you doing to keep your employees? What is your turnover rate? Are you turning over staff in a particular department? These questions will lead you to discover what issues your nonprofit faces when it comes to retaining employees.
Remember that statistic about having 10 jobs before the age of 40? It should not be surprising that entry and mid-level staff were reported to be challenging to retain (30% and 40%). It is interesting to note that the numbers were much lower at the experienced-level (17%) and executive level (only 4%). Yet, most HR training dollars are spent on leadership training rather than job specific or business skills training. When surveyed on staffing challenges, 49% of non-profits are concerned with retaining entry level staff.
Retention is extremely important to nonprofits because turnover costs can be as much as 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary when you consider the cost of recruiting, onboarding, accrued time off, workflow disruption, lost clients and replacement costs. So it’s imperative that we look at why employees leave and how we can monitor this.
Here are some of the most common reasons employees leave their current positions:

  • Dissatisfaction – To examine this, immerse yourself in each department. Pay attention and monitor the feeling in the office. Conduct exit interviews to determine why people were unhappy at your non-profit.
  • A Better Opportunity – Employees are always looking to move up, you will not be able to stop some of this turnover. But you can ensure they know you have a career path for them. Build goals into the review process, so employees are clear of what they need to do to move forward. Employees only look when they don’t see their next step.
  • Following Their Map of Success – Some employees know they have do to A, B & C to get to the next place in their career. Their current position may have been a stepping stone from the beginning. Turnover can be stopped before an employee is even hired. Dig deeper in your interview to see where an employee aspires to be. If their dream is not available in your organization, they might not be the right candidate.
  • They Just Quit – This is the most important turnover to dig into because they are reacting to something negative in your organization. You need find out if it’s the job, harassment, bad management, skipped over for a promotion or any other HR situation. You may not be able, or want, to save that employee but it’s important that you resolve a systemic issue before you replace the employee.

We touched on why people leave, but it’s equally as important to know why they stay. You would be surprised to hear it’s not the money.
Recruiting-Retaining-Quality-Employees-croppedHere’s some reasons employees find more important than money when considering staying with an organization:

  • Job Satisfaction – Employees need to enjoy their work and believe their job is important. Give them feedback on how they are doing and how it’s helping the company. Tell them randomly during the year, not just in a review.
  • Employer/Employee Relationship – It’s imperative for employees to have good communication with their supervisor and have a good working relationship. They don’t have to be friends, but need to be considerate and fair. Make sure your team is trained on how to deal with employees. Observe their interactions and coach them.
  • Training and Development – Your investment in them shows them loyalty and commitment. They will give you the same in return.
  • Work/Life Balance – Your organization may not be able to be competitive with salary, but you can also compensate staff with paid time off, flexibility in schedule, or telecommuting.

While retaining employees might seem challenging; the good news is the most important thing you can do to retain your employees is to listen to them. If you do that, you have all of the answers right in front of you and may be able to hand out a gold watch or two.

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