Creating an employee retention strategy: Tips for people leaders

Today’s job market remains highly competitive, but with the right insights and tactics, people leaders can build employee retention strategies to keep top talent on board.

Creating an employee retention strategy

While company layoffs have been making all the headlines lately, a vastly different story is taking place on an alternate timeline.

Employees are jumping ship, on purpose and in record numbers, because many companies are desperately looking to grow their employee rosters. Workers, at least those not facing layoffs, are being openly recruited—cajoled, texted, called, direct messaged, and maybe even faxed—by organizations struggling to meet their staffing needs. They offer perks by the truckload, encouraging employees to leap.

When the Work Institute finds that replacing an employee can cost up to double their salary, and 81% of people leaders state they are “personally burned out,” these added stressors are not welcome.

So, what can you do to boost employee retention, ensure your top talent stays at your company, and continues doing the great work they have always done for you? 

Let’s look at some employee retention strategies that can make the difference in keeping your employees happy, engaged, and able to withstand the onslaught of job offers coming their way.

Enhance compensation and benefits

It’s not always about money. It rarely is. But compensation still matters—quite a bit. And if the pay and benefits packages you provide for your employees aren’t keeping pace with the market, you will face stiff headwinds trying to keep your best people from taking a new job. Some ways to ensure your organization offers competitive compensation packages include:

  1. Research compensation practices in your industry to see what salaries, benefits, health insurance, and other forms of compensation are offered.
  2. Review your current packages and see if they align with industry standards.
  3. Assess employee retention percentages and the value positions bring to the organization—and adjust for those roles as needed.
  4. Consider non-monetary compensation that could be used to retain employees, such as flexible schedules, paid parental leave, or professional development opportunities. More on this later!
  5. Review and adjust your compensation packages as the market and needs change.
  6. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure employees know what, if any, changes are being made to your compensation strategy, as well as why they are being made. 

In the big picture, please take a look at what your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is and understand that it affects job seekers and current employees. 

Improve the onboarding process

Almost 33% of new employees leave a job in the first 90 days, and a negative onboarding experience significantly contributes to that statistic. When a new hire signs on, how the HR orientation, compliance training, manager 1-1s, and introductions to team members go is at the heart of a positive experience.   

Improve the onboarding process

The Firstup platform offers intelligently-powered onboarding journeys that help to reduce digital overload and sustain your workforce while connecting the employee experience, unlocking real-time intelligence, and delivering personalized communications at scale.

For additional insight into the importance of onboarding, check out Why CEOs need to care about onboarding or download our guide, The ultimate onboarding checklist for the comms-driven HR leader.

Prioritize a healthy work-life balance

Workers today expect an equal work-life balance more than ever before, especially amongst younger workers like Gen Z. Whether due to cyclical changes in how work is done or brought on by the pandemic, a positive working environment that focuses on the needs of an employee and providing such things as flexible hours, opportunities for remote work, employee well-being, modern technology, and respect for personal time, shows that the working world has changed.

For example, 74% of the US workforce is willing to quit a job to work remotely. With that high percentage, leaders should understand just how important it is to meet their needs to keep them on staff and reduce turnover. 

The key is to be flexible in whatever ways are possible. Workers expect it and will look for employment elsewhere if they don’t feel their employer is willing to work with them on their work-life balance. In this job market, they have that choice.

Build a healthy company culture

Did you know that Glassdoor found that 77% of workers consider a company’s culture before even applying for a position? Gone are the days of job seekers applying for jobs based on blurbs in newspapers; they now research who they may be working for—and company culture is at the top of their list.

Your current employees expect the same; they want to work somewhere that encourages open communication and feedback, fosters teamwork and collaboration, operates honestly and transparently, uses inclusive language, and prioritizes a work environment of dignity, respect, and equity. They want every employee to feel welcomed and valued; if they think that is not the case, they may look elsewhere for new opportunities. Plainly put, organizations, and their leadership, need to invest in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives to retain their most valuable employees.

“Millennial and Gen Z professionals are avoiding companies without a diverse workforce, clear promotion track, and a commitment to confronting systemic racism in their ranks.”

Washington Post, 2021

Improve employee appreciation and recognition

Employee recognition is how companies recognize employees’ contributions and value to the company. It is not so specific as to only refer to appreciating contributions that bring in business and profits; it can be for personal or team achievements, project completions, being a great team player, or going above and beyond job descriptions. A recent McKinsey survey found that 34% of workers said that “uncaring and uninspiring leaders” was why they left a job and that 26% of employees quit because of a lack of support for health and well-being.

healthy company culture

Everyone wants to be recognized for their efforts, and positive feedback and rewards (Extra days off? Free lunches? Mentions on social media channels?) should be given frequently to engage and motivate employees. 

Here’s how to create a culture of employee recognition.

Encourage creativity

If your organization is looking for its next big idea, there may be no better place to start than with its employees. After all, they know your business better than any outside consultants or new hires! Plus, you’re showing them that you value their ideas and feedback and trust them to contribute to the company’s success, which is a vital part of any employee retention strategy.

A fundamental way to make that happen is to allow for (and promote) open, two-way communication between leadership and employees. This will encourage team members to share their ideas, so if those two disparate groups aren’t talking with each other now, here are some tips on implementing a meaningful employee listening program to get you started.

Focus on manager training

Turns out, all those headlines about “quiet quitting” weren’t necessarily about bad employees; instead, it was about bad bosses and a lack of employee job satisfaction! A 2022 report from Harvard Business Review found that the least effective managers have three to four times as many people who fall in the “quiet quitting” category compared to the most influential leaders, who saw 62% of their direct reports willing to give extra effort. 

A lot of employee satisfaction, and thus retention, comes down to management behavior. When 82% of employees decide they would potentially quit their job because of a bad manager, it’s time to take a hard look at the training your managers receive.

Good leaders encourage good habits and lead by example in a successful business; they can delegate efficiently, are committed to learning and accepting constructive feedback, and can listen to their employees. Organizations need to invest in their managers by providing regular training in leadership and communication, providing them with the tools they need to manage their teams effectively, and how to create a positive team culture through trust, transparency, and collaboration. 

Avoid drastic, sudden changes

If you notice that your company makes significant changes in haste, your employees notice, too. And while change is inevitable, it is also a big stressor and cause of employee turnover and burnout

Constantly changing direction, or launching new products or services too quickly, introduces disruption and possible negative consequences for your employees, like plummeting employee morale. That’s not to say changes shouldn’t be made; that’s part of work (and life). But forcing ongoing changes too soon can affect your employee retention efforts.

To soften the impact of changes in your organization, communication is critical. Requesting feedback, involving team members in decision-making, offering training and support on new initiatives, gradually implementing changes where possible, and avoiding making change just for the sake of change helps to keep employees engaged and willing to do the work necessary to achieve company goals, rather than resisting the change itself.

Offer employees the opportunity for advancement

Instead of looking outside your organization for your next hire, look at who is already there that could grow into a role you want to fill. After all, they most likely know the ins and outs of the business already, and if you hired them in the first place, you understand the value they provide. Why start with someone brand new, with all the associated costs and training, when you can help a talented employee develop their career while fostering employee loyalty?

employees the opportunity for advancement

Here are some ways to create pathways for career growth and development:

  1. Design and implement an internal talent management program focusing on career and professional development.
  2. Create advancement opportunities and make sure employees are aware of them.
  3. Offer employees educational opportunities, workshops, and tuition reimbursement for training costs as part of your retention strategy. 
  4. Provide feedback and evaluations encouraging employees to understand what they are doing well and what areas are ripe for improvement. 
  5. Connect experienced employees with less experienced ones to provide mentorship and new skills. 

Creating clear paths for career growth and development will help you retain employees, increase employee engagement, and attract top talent when you need to bring in new people.

Conduct exit interviews you can learn from

People leave jobs; it happens every day in every industry, and even the best employees sometimes take other opportunities. And it happens for many different reasons, some of which are most likely related to the employee experience they had working at the organization they left.

When one of your employees leaves the company, are you connecting with them to learn why they are doing so? Doing exit interviews can provide a wealth of information you can utilize in an effective retention strategy with remaining employees. 

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), employee surveys and exit interviews serve three primary functions:

  • Learn how the company can improve and what the source was of any employee dissatisfaction
  • Make sure employees leave feeling good about their service
  • Encourage the employee to stay under new circumstances (in some cases)

And while exit interviews often take place when it’s too late to change someone’s mind, and the focus for leadership should be to reduce employee turnover before it gets to the point where someone leaves, they can provide valuable feedback to strengthen your employee retention efforts further. Because if the employee exiting your company for another opportunity had legitimate reasons for leaving, then chances are others may, too.


An organization’s employee retention strategies must be in place—and utilized—to retain your top talent and make employees feel valued. With employees empowered to require a better company culture, higher compensation packages, and a better work environment in their work lives, employee retention strategies should be at the heart of every organization’s people management efforts to reduce employee turnover. Don’t let your most valuable resource walk out the door as your next departing employee; make sure you’re offering it to them so they stick around and don’t accept that new job.

Firstup is the first intelligent communication platform, enabling every company to connect the employee experience ecosystem, personalize the employee journey, and get insights to improve engagement, productivity, and retention.

Discover Firstup and learn how to make the most of every moment in each employee’s journey!

Related resources

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David Quilty

Dave Quilty is a Content Marketing Specialist at Firstup, with more than 16 years of experience in digital content initiatives. Before joining Firstup, Dave has been featured in The New York Times,, The Albany Times Union, NPR, and Richard Branson’s blog.

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