Retention woes: Why employees job hop and what communicators can do to keep them

Communications and HR leaders on the reasons employees bow out, and how to encourage them to stay.

The relationship employees have with their workplaces has shifted in recent years, bucking the trend of people holding jobs for a decade or more in favor of frequent, strategic (or, in some cases, haphazard) moves from one employer to another within a few short years.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that quit rates have seen a slight decline since record highs last year, LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report shows that 93% of organizations are still worried about retention.

Turnover can create challenges for organizations looking for longer-term momentum and lasting relationships with employees well-versed in the brand. These insights from Ragan’s recent Employee Experience and Wellness Conference may help reduce departures — or at least help managers and communications leaders understand what factors are going into those decisions.

Why people leave

A 2022 survey from FlexJobs Jobvite reported that the biggest factors that led employees to leave their companies were toxic work environments (cited by 62% of respondents), pay (59%) and management style (56%).

Employees want to feel rewarded, challenged, appreciated and connected — not to mention safe and cared for.

“Work is a leading cause of death in America,” said keynote speaker and former Chief Well-Being Officer at Thrive Global David Hoke. “The work we’re doing today disproportionately impacts people’s health and leads to early death. What will be our response to this epidemic of burnout and mental health issues that we deal with every day?”

Miikelle Mitchell, executive director for Michigan Universities Coalition on Health, explained that a dispersed and remote workforce can also face challenges around feeling a sense of isolation, seeking stability, control and flexibility in their work environment.

Four critical retention considerations

Retention basics for managers and comms leaders

Fair wages and benefits, of course, are core to retention, Mitchell said, but it’s also essential to “create an environment where people can show up as their true selves” by understanding what employees are navigating — both at work and in their personal lives.

She identified three “to-dos” for managers:

  • Energize (help the team focus on self-care)
  • Empathize (with the team)
  • Encourage (team to grow)

Communicators and HR leaders can assist by equipping managers, who have more immediate relationships with the people on their teams, with the language and resources needed to support employees in these capacities.

Consider how people are finding out about jobs and employers.

Mark Mohammadpour, owner and chief well-being officer at Chasing the Sun, shared considerations for HR and comms professionals looking to boost retention and improve job satisfaction.

He emphasized setting expectations even before an employee starts by asking: How are they learning about the organization and the job? Is what they’re seeing and hearing on job sites and at career fairs an accurate reflection of their experience on the job?

Mohammadpour cited Spotify’s career page as a strong example of how organizations can set expectations for applicants so that culture, values and similar factors don’t come as a surprise.

Consider on-the-job communication dynamics

The way managers and teams work together may play the most significant role in employee retention. That includes how managers handle meetings, receive feedback and set expectations around KPIs and success; how they discuss wellbeing and benefits; and in what ways they live out unwritten “rules” around PTO and stress management.

“One of the first things we need to make sure that we’re doing is making sure that the people that are coming on board — who are changing their lives — are set up to succeed and they understand right from the start what they need to do to succeed,” Mohammadpour said.

When developing training programs, Kabira Ferrell, executive vice president, corporate reputation, Ketchum, advised managers and comms pros to “Listen, listen, listen. We’re seeing more and more pulse checks these days. This can provide a constant feel for what’s going on. It allows the employees to guide what’s created to support them.”

That also means keeping tabs on employees’ mental health, needs and wants. Steve Winkel, sr. director, talent, development and engagement at Constant Contact, said the company conducts stay interviews to ensure needs and desires are being met.

Consider training and upskilling

A poll conducted by SurveyMonkey revealed that only 52% of employees think their organizations provide the right amount of training, but 86% said training is important to them.

Today, that may mean training in new technology and software such as AI-powered tools to create a sense of security and investment, or it may mean better training around mental health protocols for managers seeking to understand their employees’ state of mind.

Anniese Lemond, senior director of compensation at Denver Health, cited transparency and personalization as keys to developing programs that assist with retention.

“Knowing your employee population is critical,” she said. “There’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to develop programs that meet the needs of all our employee populations.”

As employees navigate a changing workforce in a less-than-predictable economy impacted by dramatic global issues, turnover will happen. The communications and HR professional can be ready to meet those needs, however, through transparency, personalization and careful consideration of what their incoming and outgoing staffers seek.

We’ll explore these trends further October 10-12 at Microsoft HQ during Ragan’s Internal Communications Conference in Seattle. Register now! 

COMMENT Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from directly in your inbox.