How to retain your best employees? 5 tips from an expert

07 October 2022
motivated group

1. Improve general wellbeing by starting with your leaders

As an organisation there is no denying that wellbeing is an absolute priority. In 30% of all cases, employee turnover is due to stress-related aspects! So you can see how it is more crucial than ever that you position yourself as a caring employer. But how on earth can you tackle the wellbeing of all your employees at the same time?

“If you want to increase employee retention, you need to start by mapping the wellbeing of your leaders”, De Vleeschouwer advises. “Often, when an employee resigns, they cite the manager as the reason for quitting, rather than the job. People managers have many roles: often on the work floor, they are responsible for strategic projects, they are coaches, they must report to management, and they must care for their employees. Wellbeing also influences their performance, and consequently the wellbeing and productivity of their direct employees. Research by the VIGOR Unit, a spin-off of Ghent University, demonstrated the inextricable link between leadership and wellbeing. In stress-related turnover, a lack of leadership is often cited as the cause of specific cases of burnout and absenteeism. Businesses thus would do good to gain an insight into the wellbeing of their leaders. If you actively focus on this, you can use their wellbeing as leverage for the organisation as a whole.”

Recent research has shown that training programmes that provide support to your leaders in terms of stress management are highly effective. The physical, mental, emotional, and social energy plays a substantial role in this. As an organisation you would do well to collaborate with experienced experts. “Most importantly: do not develop programmes from an ivory tower. Involve your leaders, show them that you care”, De Vleeschouwer advises. “They will be more likely to work on their stress management, as a result”.

2. Invest in a good onboarding process

The onboarding of new talent is just as important because retention starts on day one. “By ensuring that new employees land in the company in a well-thought-through, efficient manner, they will feel at home sooner”, De Vleeschouwer explains. “Ensuring faster engagement and meaning they will be less inclined to leave the company. While this may sound obvious, we find that organisations often tend to overlook this.”

What does a good onboarding process involve? “The aim is to properly introduce newcomers to your company’s operations and culture”, De Vleeschouwer elaborates. “Do everything you can to ensure they understand your company culture. Explain how your company mission, vision and values are put into practice. Share information about your processes and customs. Bear in mind that this takes time. This is a long-term process. Also give your new employee the opportunity to build their own network within the company. If you do not focus on this, the risk is very real that your new employees will run into problems sooner rather than later or fail to understand certain aspects of their job. Which can be tremendously frustrating. Once this happens, you will be fighting a losing battle”.

3. Take the initiative and enforce an open feedback culture for everyone in the company

Retention management essentially means that prevention is better than the cure. Ideally, you should find a way to keep track of individual and collective wellbeing. But what does such a proactive approach involve?

An open (feedback) culture could be one of the recipes for success. “Many employers have observed that their employees don’t find annual or occasional feedback sufficient”, De Vleeschouwer says. “Regular feedback, whereby everyone continually checks the way of working and job content with each other, has a much more lasting effect. It allows you, and your leaders, to intervene in a timely manner and adjust where necessary. Remember: this company dynamic should not just be restricted to your leaders and their employees. All the team members could potentially benefit from regular presentations about their work, regardless of their role. You cultivate a constructive atmosphere, as an organisation, where employees learn from each other. They will better understand each other’s duties and responsibilities and chances are they will also work together more seamlessly. Something they also understood at local government level. We implemented a project on connecting communication with the City of Aalst, for example. We use sustainable communication techniques to provide support to managers, enabling them to establish enduring relationships with each other and with their employees.”

4. Use a hybrid approach to capitalise on ‘the new way of working’

In 2020, the pandemic undermined physical and mental wellbeing in the labour market. Workers were often required to work onsite during these uncertain times, while employees found themselves having to work from home, sometimes in suboptimal circumstances. This temporary trend has made way for a phenomenon that is increasingly becoming the new normal in most organisations: hybrid working . "This implies so much more than the combination of working from home and working virtually”, De Vleeschouwer explains. “This requires an alternative modus operandi: one that revolves around working whenever you want, where you want instead of the more traditional ‘input is output’ approach. Three criteria play a role in this: bricks (the physical organisation), bytes (the technological possibilities and solutions), and behaviour (the behaviour and habits required to ensure this way of working is successful)”.

Obviously, this requires an adapted policy, if you want to maintain the wellbeing and productivity of your employees. Various companies have already rolled out different programmes, such as the Healthy Hybrid Habits programme, that takes the different dimensions of hybrid working – authenticity, productivity and concentration – into account. And that is tailored to the different job profiles, of course!!”


5. Use physical wellbeing to create a connection

While businesses tend to focus on mental wellbeing (and they are right to do so), the recent lockdowns have also taken their physical toll. Organisations that choose to ignore this will also notice the consequences of this in terms of employee retention. So, you would do well to make a concerted effort to improve the physical wellbeing of your employees. Better yet, it helps to create a more connected workplace.

“Another thing that the City of Aalst experienced first-hand”, De Vleeschouwer remembers. “Thanks to the Globetrotter Challenge,  team members were able to go on a virtual journey around the world, exchanging experiences by registering their daily movements in My Health Partner, a digital solution that promotes wellbeing. Their reward? One hundred ball chairs for employees, with which the city stresses how important posture is when sitting. The city also invested in workshops to improve ergonomics at work. Onsite and remote workers learned how to correct their sitting posture and strengthen their backs at their own pace, during workshops. The main takeaway here is: use rewards!”.

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