How to Improve Employee Retention: 5 Ways to Keep Your Employees

how to improve employee retention

Are your employees sticking around?

Turns out, keeping employees is often harder than hiring them. But employees are a valuable (and steep) investment for your company and the future of your business. So hiring the right people and keeping them for the long haul is crucial to building a successful business.

In this article we’ll cover why employee retention is important, plus how to improve employee retention at your company.

  • Why employee retention is important
  • How to improve employee retention

Why is employee retention important

Turnover costs U.S. companies $1 trillion a year. Yep, you read that right. One trillion dollars—and one trillion reasons companies should prioritize employee retention efforts.

Why such a high price tag? When employees leave a company, there are a number of costs to account for, including: 

  • Time and money to replace the employee (including recruitment and onboarding of new talent)
  • Lower morale for employees left behind
  • Reduced productivity during hiring and onboarding stage
  • Lost expertise and company knowledge

In fact, replacing an employee can cost from one-half to two times the employee’s annual salary, according to Gallup’s estimate. On the other hand, companies who keep their employees longer, see benefits beyond hiring and training costs.

Employee retention leads to:

  • Better customer experiences
  • Consistency and momentum across teams and the organization
  • Stronger company culture (which supports employee engagement)

And when turnover is low and engagement is high, companies can more easily attract the right talent for the job. In other words, it’s in your company’s best interest to take care of your employees and find ways to boost retention and engagement at every opportunity.

How to improve employee retention

So how do you reduce employee turnover? There’s no one right solution. Instead, you’ll need a multi-pronged strategy to build engagement and boost employee retention over time. Here are 5 ways to get started.

1. Hire the right people.

Our research found a strong connection between employee engagement and employee turnover.

  • Disengaged employees were 3.3 times more likely to leave their company within 90 days of the survey compared with highly engaged employees
  • After 180 days post-survey, disengaged employees were 2.6 times more likely to leave the organization
  • 1 year after the survey, disengaged employees were 2.1 times more likely to leave their organization compared with their highly engaged counterparts

That’s a huge investment of time and money in recruiting and training costs for just a few months of work. That’s why it’s so important that companies invest in the right hires from the start. To avoid mismatches in skills and role responsibilities, communicate your expectations clearly and pay attention to possible misalignments in experience and culture.

2. Optimize the onboarding experience.

Once you’re confident you found the right match for the job, it’s time to onboard and train them. But onboarding is more than just signing a contract, taking an office tour, and setting up the employee’s desk.

Your onboarding process should be strategic and “last at least one year to ensure high retention” according to SHRM.

The onboarding process should target several goals:

  • Reinforce a positive first impression
  • Set clear expectations for their work and future at the company
  • Communicate what to expect the first week
  • Connect new hires to the team and help them build relationships with coworkers and colleagues
  • Provide structured opportunities for new hires to offer feedback on their job, company processes, and culture
  • Start planning for their long-term future and development at the company

How does your onboarding experience stack up?

3. Create a culture of recognition and feedback.

Employees want to feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. And building a culture of feedback and employee recognition can go a long way to helping employees feel seen and heard—and less likely to seek that validation elsewhere.

Here are a few ways you can build recognition and feedback into your company culture:

  • Practice continuous listening—use annual and pulse surveys to gather employee feedback.
  • Hold regular one-on-ones with employees—review performance together often, offer (and ask for) feedback, and discuss career development with employees.
  • Create an employee recognition program—Build recognition into your culture through peer-to-peer recognition, public and private praise from managers, and company awards or shoutouts.

4. Develop your employees.

Employees want to know they have a future at your company. If they don’t see it, they’ll look for it somewhere else.

That’s why employee development is key for engaging and retaining top talent year after year.

  • Prioritize internal hires and promotions when possible
  • Provide opportunities for coaching and mentorship
  • Make long-term employee goals and development a part of your regular performance conversations

Communicate with your employees to understand their goals and expectations for development. Where do they see themselves in five years? What skills or experience do they hope to gain? Be sure to let them know what opportunities are available to them, including training, mentorship programs, and education support.

5. Act on insights from exit surveys.

You can’t avoid some employee turnover. But whether you have high turnover or low turnover, you can gain important insights from employees on their way out the door.

Use exit surveys to get direct feedback from your soon-to-be ex-employees on exactly why they’re leaving and what suggestions they may have for improving the company. You might be surprised what you learn.

Coaching to Engage: 12 Rules to Effective, Ongoing Employee Coaching

Employee Coaching

The role of a coach is extremely valued in athletics. But for some reason, that belief rarely extends to the workplace. Managers are too often viewed as overseers instead of mentors. In reality, coaching is just as essential in the workplace as it is on the field or court.

Employee coaching is an important part of continuous performance management. When managers maximize employee potential and surround employees with supporting talent, they put their teams in a position to grow and help the organization succeed.

Great managers foster open, honest relationships with employees that motivate and engage them. In this blog, we’ll share 12 rules to master employee coaching and create a productive team of engaged employees.

1. Give employees regular, frequent feedback.

Employees crave constructive feedback from their managers, but don’t always get it. Your employees want to know how their performance is viewed, what they’re doing well, and what they need to improve.

Intentionally set aside time to provide feedback on employee performance. Use one-on-one meetings and GOOD sessions as regular feedback periods. Consider setting reminders in your calendar to consistently provide feedback to each employee.

2. Create a culture of team feedback.

Contrary to popular belief, feedback shouldn’t just come from the manager. Employees should be encouraged to provide feedback to each other and to you, their manager.

Strive to build a culture where 360 feedback is the norm. This creates an ongoing dialogue that gives employees at all levels of the organization an opportunity to be heard.

3. Push employees to their attainable limits.

While you don’t want to overwhelm employees, motivating your team to get out of their comfort zone can help them grow and perform at their highest potential employees who demonstrate a lack of interest in their work are much more likely to become disengaged.

In many cases, they need to be challenged and provided regular feedback and recognition to grow and improve. Identify each employee’s experience and skillset, and have them take on new tasks or assignments that help them expand. Be available and willing to help when questions arise.

4. Be open to employee ideas.

Employee listening is an essential part of coaching. It opens you to different concepts you hadn’t previously thought of, and it makes employees feel heard. When they feel their opinion is respected and valued, they’re far more likely to be engaged and push harder.

Build in opportunities to capture employee voice through one-on-ones, feedback, and employee surveys. Listening to different perspectives from a variety of venues can help you create a more complete picture of the employee experience.

5. Encourage employees to learn from others.

No two employees are exactly alike. They come from different backgrounds and have varying personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Simply connecting employees with their peers opens new possibilities and creates a more connected workplace.

Encourage employees to interact frequently so they teach each other new skills or approaches. Welcoming differing perspectives and asking for all employees to contribute will help you foster a more diverse and inclusive culture at work.

6. Ask employees for opinions.

Employees aren’t the only ones who can learn from each other—you can too! Keep an open mind during conversations and frequently source new ideas or tactics from them. Collecting regular feedback from your employees shows you’re willing to listen and always looking to improve.

Simply asking for feedback creates an open dialogue and gives employees a voice. This can make the workplace feel more like a democracy instead of a dictatorship. Make sure you take notes and follow up once you’ve heard from your team.

7. Build confidence.

Confident employees are more likely to achieve their goals than those who feel unsupported and misguided. As you coach employees and provide feedback, it’s critical that you instill them with confidence.

Look for opportunities to recognize employees for strong performance and extra effort. Make sure you understand how employees like to be recognized too, but always strive to make it public so that others in the organization can take note. Acknowledging employees’ contributions boosts their confidence and sets them up for success.

8. Don’t do employees’ work for them.

When you notice an assignment is proceeding slowly or heading in the wrong direction, you might be tempted to take it into your own hands and simply complete it yourself. This might be beneficial in the short term, but employees need to learn through trial and error.

Instead of taking the task off their hands, teach them how to handle the situation by offering guidance. Ask leading questions and help them navigate their way through the muck. Remember—a good coach gives their team a pathway to success.

9. Tolerate and support failure.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Mistakes will be made and deals will fall through. It’s just a part of work. But how you respond is what really matters. Accepting failure and moving to the next task can create a lower standard for performance expectations. But you don’t want to crush employees’ spirits for their mistakes either.

Ask your employees to explain what went wrong and how they could have performed better. Encourage them to consider what opportunities exist and how they might improve in the future. Remain positive and solution-oriented.

10. Recognize employees often.

Mistakes happen, and so do successes! Oftentimes, managers get caught up in being a constructive coach instead of a celebratory one. When an employee succeeds or goes over the top, let them know that you noticed.

Recognition can be as simple as a thank-you note, a cup of their favorite coffee drink, or a shout-out during the next team meeting. Little acknowledgements can go a long way toward securing buy-in and building a stronger team.

11. Make a goals roadmap.

If you hope to get everyone pushing in the same direction, you need to show them where to go. Goals are the clearest and most effective way to do so.

Sit down with employees to create personal goals that help them develop and further their careers. Work to connect those goals to the over benchmarks of the team and the organization as a whole. Aligning goals in this way will give employees a clear picture of how their work contributes to team and business success.

12. Ask what you can do to help.

Good coaches don’t just throw their players into a competition and say, “figure it out.” They actively encourage their team and search for solutions to help athletes succeed.

Let your employees know they can come to you with questions or concerns. Use one-on-ones to understand the challenges they are facing and build a plan together. You’re there to help them, and they should feel comfortable asking for advice and or assistance.

5 Benefits of Creating Professional Development Goals with Employees

We all know the research shows improving employee engagement and improving employee retention go hand in hand. But is your employee survey actually connecting the dots?

This simple survey hack is helping our clients create customized retention strategies and simultaneously showing leadership the ROI of engaging employees.

What’s the secret? Connecting your turnover data to your engagement data.

Uncover the top 5 reasons employees leave:

Step 1: Connect Your Turnover Data to Your Employee Survey Data

First, you must be able to link an employee’s engagement survey data to his or her exit survey. Why will this link revolutionize your employee retention strategies? We’ll get to that in a minute.

But first, we must warn you: employee confidentiality CANNOT be sacrificed. If someone in HR is matching engagement data to exit data, the confidentiality you promised employees is compromised. (And your employee retention strategies won’t make a lick of difference.) Instead, have your survey partner match the data sets.

Step 2: Pinpoint Items Related to Turnover

Once the data is connected, you can identify the survey items that most strongly differ between your termed and non-termed employees. What should you look for?

Start by examining the biggest differences in overall favorability. (e.g. Remaining employees were 86% favorable on the item, “If I contribute to the organization’s success, I know I will be recognized,” while termed employees were only 50% favorable. A 36-percentage point difference in favorability is a BIG deal.)

Then, see if termed employees had high levels of uncertainty (where they said “somewhat agree” or “somewhat disagree”) on particular items. Uncertainty leads to turnover — when employees aren’t sure if you value their contributions, they’re more likely to find a company that does.

Step 3: Take a Deeper Look at Different Populations

Retention opportunities may differ from population to population. Take your analysis one step deeper by analyzing engagement and exit data by employee demographics.

For example, the biggest gaps in favorability among termed and remaining millennials might be around employee development and career growth, while the difference in favorability between termed and remaining baby boomers in the same category was almost non-existent. That tells you that career pathing might be a more effective employee retention strategy for millennials than baby boomers.

By analyzing your engagement and exit data among different demographics, you’ll be able to implement tailored employee engagement strategies that actually work.

Step 4: Educate Leaders, Managers, and Supervisors

As much as HR likes to be involved in organizational engagement, managers and supervisors are really the ones on the front line. They often feel the pain and costs of turnover – time spent reworking schedules, managing around under staffing, and training new employees.

It is essential that managers and supervisors understand what drives retention because they are in the best position to better retain employees. Share any turnover trends you uncover with your team leaders and ask that they help you develop employee retention strategies.

Step 5: Customize Your Employee Retention Strategies

You understand the problems, you’ve equipped your troops, now it’s time to fight turnover. Put your employee retention strategies into place, and make clear that these initiatives are the result of engagement data, exit surveys, employee input, and manager effort; this demonstrates that your organization listens to and values the employee voice — that’s an employee retention strategy in itself!

Step 6: Determine If Your Retention Strategies Worked

In order to determine if your initiatives were successful, track related metrics for trending. This is where we close the loop: next time you administer the engagement or exit survey, look for improvements. First and foremost, has turnover decreased? Is overall turnover rate down? 

Next, did the favorability gaps you identified (and created employee retention strategies to address) in Step 2 and Step 3 shrink? Did the favorability of termed and remaining employees increase on the categories where you created plans? Did turnover decrease among different demographics?

Manager Checklist for Employee Compensation Conversations

Portrait of a maneger with schedule on factory background

Employee compensation conversations can be a little … uncomfortable. But initiating discussions about money matters with your employees is a routine part of being a people manager.

And it’s not just about making sure your employees are paid. Our research shows that position level and perception of pay follow a perfect decline. As position level decreases, employees are less likely to believe they are paid fairly.

Regardless of your position level, having conversations about money can leave you feeling a little green. But as a manager, it’s important to be prepared when an employee initiates a conversation about compensation.

Employee compensation conversations are perfect opportunities to bolster trust, increase engagement, and improve retention. Ideally, these discussions should help align expectations for both parties through a deep dive into employee career and compensation goals.

Use the following checklist as a starting point for having effective compensation conversations.

1. Know your internal compensation data.

Setting clear expectations and boundaries about salary range is the first step in bolstering employee trust. Arrive at any compensation discussion prepared with your internal compensation ranges.

This spectrum of compensation helps to inform employee salary across the company. Use this data to guide discussions around how the amount was determined and how it compares to the rest of the team.

2. Document your raise or promotion policy,

Whatever your role in the promotion process, providing documentation will set the record straight. Whether you hold personal evaluations for every individual or provide a signature to approve of a compensation increase – referencing documentation or bringing it to a meeting will help you maintain consistency and integrity.

If an employee is raising concerns about their current salary, it’s important they see and understand the company-wide policy for receiving a pay increase. Make sure that everyone from entry-level employee to HR has a clear understanding and direct access to your approach.

3. Create individual promotion plans.

Every employee has their own unique career path within your organization. Take time to map out where the employee started, where they are now, and what the next series of steps will be in order to move up in the company. Developing a personalized plan shows you are engaged in facilitating their growth and success.

Once a plan has been outlined, walk through the progression plan together to gauge how the employee feels about this growth track and make sure they know exactly what needs to be done to reach their goals.

4. Develop a comparison chart

If transparency is the goal, don’t be afraid to discuss alternatives outside of the employee’s current role. Employees will appreciate the honesty and at the end of the day, if they’re not satisfied with what you can offer, they’re going to leave anyway.

Take time to look at possible compensation if the employee were to move to another company. This will help you identify the best next step for both parties and work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

5 Benefits of Creating Professional Development Goals with Employees

When a manager and employee sit down to create goals, the conversation typically centers around what the employee will do for the organization:

What is expected of the employee over a certain stretch of time, and how will their productivity impact other team members? What steps can the employee take to contribute to the organization’s success?

These questions focus on employee performance, but managers should also be discussing professional development goals. Development conversations should center around what the organization can do to support employees and their future aspirations.

Here are five major benefits provided by professional development goals:


1. They give employees a voice. 

Rather than simply tell an employee what they should improve on, managers should listen and understand how an employee would like to grow. Professional development goals open the lines of communication and give employees a platform to explain their vision for the future. They might be interested in developing additional skills, learning how their work affects other departments, or adopting new technology that could help their performance. These learning experiences benefit both the individual and the organization and are critical to having effective career conversations.

2. They help build previously undiscovered muscles.

If an athlete performs the same workout every day, they’re not going to improve. They will maintain their current level of fitness, but they won’t get faster or stronger. The same is true with any skill. Our minds need to be stretched in different directions to continue growing in new and different ways. The more tactics and opinions an employee is exposed to, the more ideas they can generate to increase productivity and update stale processes. Create an employee development plan to open employees to ideas they hadn’t previously considered.

3. They help teams stay up-to-date on industry changes.

The state of business is constantly evolving as new techniques, practices, and technology are introduced. Employees should be empowered to keep up with the latest trends. Encourage them to embrace new technology, expand their education, and increase emotional intelligence to keep your business moving at lightning speed.

4. They increase employee buy­-in and engagement.

Employees want to know they’re valued as people, not just for what they do at work. When managers go out of their way to ask employees about their developmental aspirations, it shows they are recognizing the employee as an individual. This gives employees a sense of great value, increases engagement, and pushes them to grow and work more efficiently. Managers should be very intentional in recognizing individual employee skills and suggesting specific areas of growth based on the employee’s interests. They must also be open and willing to listen as the employee shares areas in which they would like to improve.

5. They help employees move beyond work goals.

Managers should know who their employees want to be, not just the job they want. Managers should be comfortable discussing development outside of just organizational and team constructs. Growth should be defined in terms of the employee as a human, not just a worker – this allows the manager to tap into their motivations and discover what drives them. Maybe they’re passionate about personal finance, disciplined when it comes to health and fitness, or generous when it comes to lending their talents. By framing development conversations in terms outside of just compensation or job status, managers can help their employees grow as people and set them up for future success.

8 Employee Recognition Programs That Will Always Fail

No one can argue against the benefits of employee recognition programs, but that doesn’t mean that any ol’ recognition program will suffice. Some recognition programs are great: they engage employees, motivate performance, and drive organizational culture. But some do more harm than good.

1. Reward-Only Programs

Rewards might be appreciated by some, but more often than not, the flimsy plaque or cheap watch ends up in the trash. Employees don’t want or need all “the stuff.” 

Instead: Use your words. Authentic, detailed recognition is far more motivating and valuable.

2. Employee of the Month Awards

General awards (like Employee of the Month) include no context, no authentic praise, and really, no value.

Instead: Specify what went right. Awards that acknowledge specific behaviors will drive the same actions in other employees, and will mean more to the recipient.

3. One-Winner Programs

Don’t you want all your employees striving to be the best? Though one-winner recognition programs may work with employees who are inherently competitive, it can de-motivate those who don’t think they stand a chance of winning.

Instead: Encourage recognition for all. Make it clear that your program seeks to recognize everyone’s contributions.

4. Private Programs

Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a thank you note placed on an employee’s desk. But you know you could be doing so much more.

Instead: Shout it from the rooftops. If an employee did something fantastic, let everyone know. Publicly sharing recognition means more to the employee, breaks down workplace silos, and encourages the same behavior in others.

5. Achievement-Only Programs

You recognize employees when they reach formal goals and metrics. That’s great. But aren’t there more great things happening within your organization? 

Instead: Recognize achievement and behavior. Even if a specific goal isn’t met, recognize employees for the activities that make your organization successful: perseverance, generosity, or any other company value.

6. One-Time Awards

An award your employee can only win once? Might as well fire ’em after they win.

Instead: Reoccurring recognition programs are the way to go. If an employee knows they can no longer receive recognition at your organization, they’re going to find someplace where they can.

7. Annual Programs

When recognition occurs infrequently, you’re giving up your chance to motivate employees throughout the year.

Instead: Recognize all the time. Fuel employee performance all year long.

8. Supervisor-Picked Awards

One word: favoritism. How is that supposed to motivate your organization?

Instead: Support social recognition. So many good things are happening at your organization, but supervisors aren’t going to see it all. Enabling anyone to recognize anyone else showcases more awesomeness and breaks down department and hierarchy walls.

9 Things Your Employee Goal Setting Software MUST Do

After using our goal setting software internally across all teams and seeing it work for customers, like Hudl and Nebraska Families Collaborative, we’ve learned different types of organizations and different types of job functions approach goals differently.

As a result, we understand that the best employee goal setting and tracking software provides flexibility and customization while allowing you to incorporate crucial goal best practices.

If you’re looking for a system that will support goals across your entire organization and ultimately improve employee performance, here are the top eight features you need in your goal setting software. 

1. Align With Your Organization’s Goal Philosophy

Before you start using a goal setting software, consider what your organization’s approach to goals will be. Who sets goals? How do you define a well-phrased goal? Do you prefer S.M.A.R.T. goals or OKRs? How do you measure success? How do you communicate about goals? How often do you look at progress?

Even the best goal setting software can’t define your goal philosophy, but it can support it. Think through your desired state for setting and tracking goals and make sure any new software can support your philosophy.  

2. Provide transparency, clarity, and alignment.

Trusting leadership and understanding how individual roles align with company objectives are key drivers of engagement. Implementing a goal setting software in your organization can be used to provide employees with transparency and clarity about goals and accountability, as well as an understanding of how their personal and team goals align to organizational goals.

This is a piece of your goal philosophy. How much transparency do you want to give employees? As employee engagement experts who understand the importance of transparency in building trust, we recommend a high level of transparency.

Our goal setting software makes it possible for employees to view goal progress and updates across the organization. Make sure the goal setting and tracking system you choose provides the level of transparency that’s best for your organization.

3. Empower managers and teams.

Managers and teams are the lifeblood of your organizations – and thus, your goal setting software needs to be built for their easy use. Automated goal summary emails, progress alerts, and goal observation permissions save managers time; triggered tips and educational resources take the guesswork out of building an effective team.

4. Support private and public goals.

Even if your organization believes in total transparency of goals, you might consider looking for a goal setting software that also supports private goals. Why? To support personal development goals.

By expanding your view of your goal setting software to be a tool for not only key company objectives, but also employees’ personal growth, your new goal software can become an invaluable tool for employees.

5. Meet the tracking needs of different goals and roles.

Different goals require different methods of tracking. Here are a few examples:

  • Hit $25 million in revenue in 2017 (tracked in dollars)
  • Create listings on 20 review sites by end of Q2 (tracked in whole numbers)
  • Increase Promoters on NPS by 5% in 2017 (tracked in percentage)
  • Launch employee engagement survey by Jan 31 (tracked in binary (simple yes/no) achievement)

Look for a goal setting software that will support the various tracking methods your different roles and teams will require. You’ll also notice these examples track achievement by a deadline, another required feature of goal setting software.

6. Encourage in-software collaboration.

Making goals and goal progress transparent is the first step. Next, allow for communication. When employees have the ability to comment and ask questions right in the goal setting software, it promotes collaboration and clarity.

Look for a goal setting tool that makes it easy to comment, like, and ask questions about goals and progress updates.  

7. Connect goals with coaching and recognition.

A progressive goal setting software will integrate with feedback and recognition tools. Why? Because the connection between goals and recognition and between goals and employee coaching are essential to an effective performance management strategy. Here are two examples:

  • Jim, your marketing coordinator, delivered 1,000 new leads from the trade show he organized, which was a 500% increase from last year. This achievement greatly impacted his overall progress toward lead generation from shows for the year. He’s updated his goal progress, and the sales director Demi posted a recognition of Jim thanking him for his hard work. At the end of the year, it will be easy for Jim’s manager Susan to see the record of his goal progress and recognition received all in one place. This helps Susan review Jim’s year without suffering from recency bias.
  • Andre has 25 direct reports. They are strong, independent self-starters, each with individual goals. Andre meets with his direct reports one-on-one every quarter. When Andre sets up his online one-on-one with Carmen, he easily pulls up her progress on goals and notices she is struggling to meet one of her key metrics. This helps Andre create his agenda for their one-on-one by preparing some questions and coaching advice for Carmen. Without visibility to Carmen’s goal progress, their one-on-one would be less productive. 

When selecting a goal setting software for employees, ask how it will help foster recognizing achievements among employees.

8. Provide friendly, responsive tech support.

A product’s tech support can be difficult to access when you’re researching options, but it’s not impossible. Here are a few questions to use to evaluate goal setting software:

  • How much training do they provide on how to use the tool?
  • Are processes and timelines communicated clearly?
  • What resources do they provide to help with internal change management?
  • When I have a question, how long does it take to hear back?
  • Does the support go above and beyond my expectations?
  • Does the software company ask for and follow up on feedback?

Trendy tools are great, but if the tool doesn’t provide the level of support you need, you should probably keep shopping.

9. Practice what they preach.

Why would you want to purchase a company’s goal setting and tracking software when they don’t even use it at their organization? Here are some questions you can ask:

  • How do you use your goal setting software internally?
  • What’s your favorite feature as a user?
  • What improvements have you seen on your team from using the software?

A partner who believes in and values what they’re selling will not only use their products internally, but also be able to speak to the first-hand benefits they’ve received.  

4 Considerations for Understanding Diversity and Inclusion Results

understanding diversity and inclusion
More and more companies are beginning to focus time and energy on diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. And these efforts have been shown to have real business impacts.
In order to maximize DE&I efforts, organizations should pair them with the efforts already in place to enhance employee engagement and performance management.

1. If a problem is not immediately visible then it must not be an issue.

Why that reaction misses the mark: Approaching the results through your lived experience prevents you from seeing how others might perceive it. If you are an executive or someone of privilege things might seem okay to you, but that doesn’t mean others share the same experience.

What to do instead: Look internally and assess your own privilege to better understand how your experience might not be the same as others. Ensure you hear from multiple voices in your organization that can help challenge your current perspective and shape future perspectives.

2. This is not solvable and every company is dealing with it.

Why that reaction misses the mark: It is a defeatist attitude and promotes the notion that you can’t move forward on addressing racism or prejudice in the workplace unless some expert figures it out first. The burden is now placed elsewhere and is suddenly not on your plate.

What to do instead: Tap into the expert resources that exist in your community and industry that work directly in the DE&I field. When you feel stuck on a solution but are committed to making positive change, utilizing expert resources can help you overcome the feeling of immobility.

3. Diversity of thought is good enough.

Why that reaction misses the mark: While it is important to get a broad array of thoughts and perspectives in the room diversity of thought is often used as an excuse when the room is dominated by one race or gender in particular. Blaming a lack of diversity based on your perceptions of historical industry trends or geographic settings is not an acceptable excuse.

We are in a world now where remote work will continue to be more and more acceptable thus freeing up many organizations to tap into talent beyond their immediate geographic setting.

What to do instead: Different perspectives and backgrounds add value but can perpetuate the problem if those individuals still look alike. Here are two ways to create more diverse and inclusive discussions.

  1. Examine and define what diversity of thought means for your organization.
    If it just means we have good debate and conflict, welcome to the business world, that should be the norm for all businesses. Having good debate and conflict on a team is not synonymous with diversity, equity, and inclusion.
  2. When it comes to industry and geographic trends, do your research.
    There are organizations and groups who promote the inclusion of minority men and women in their respective field. Take this list—promoting Black developers and founders in the tech world—as an example. Don’t rely on traditional job boards and word-of-mouth to generate potential candidates. Put more effort into broadening your talent pipeline.

4. It’s not a gender or race issue, it has more to do with the type of work.

Why that reaction misses the mark: In these cases, executives and leaders try to make the argument that one group or job role is more or less engaged simply because of the job they hold. For example, hourly employees enjoy greater work-life-balance than salaried employees simply because they can clock out and leave their work behind at the workplace.

While this assumption may hold true in some cases, the danger here is that it effectively ends the investigative work necessary to understand where issues might lie.

What to do instead: Talk through the assumptions you have about your D&I data, but then take it a step further. If your data indicates that hourly folks do enjoy better work-life balance, challenge your organization to understand why. Ask these questions to dive deeper:

  • Are there differences among hourly and salaried folks when slicing the data by gender or race?
  • Among both groups, are there comments or trends that would indicate what would make their experience better?

If we simply accept the assumptions about the data, it takes the burden off our shoulders to do the necessary investigative work.

Employee Development Opportunities That Work

Attracting employees who bring the right skills and experience to the workplace often feels like searching for a needle in a haystack. That’s why companies are investing more in employee training and development.
But sprinkling in a few extra learning opportunities isn’t going to get you the impact you’re looking for. Meaningful and sustainable employee growth relies on robust learning and development opportunities. An effective employee development program depends on a handful of components, all essential for employee learning.

In this article, we will cover:

  • What employee development is
  • Why you should invest in employee development opportunities
  • Best practices for employee development
  • 6 types of employee development opportunities employees want

What is employee development?

Employee development is the process of working with your employees to develop, improve, and hone existing skills and train them on new skills. Employee development aims to build a talent pool that supports the organization’s mission while creating highly engaged employees.

But employee development isn’t just about paying for some seminars or having employees complete training exercises.

Employee development should:

  • Center around short and long-term goals
  • Motivate and encourage employees
  • Be accessible and available to all employees
  • Cater to the needs and interests of your employees at different levels and tenure

A robust employee development program should be focused on the long-term facilitation of a strategic workforce that engages employees at each level based on their needs, and your organizational vision.

Our research has found that tenure has a significant impact on employee development needs and interests. For example, 70% of employees ages 25 and younger and 60% of those with less than one year of experience at their current organization chose promotion and advancement as more important than opportunities for development and training.

However, as tenure and seniority increases, employees become less interested in promotions and more interested in training and development opportunities that deepen their skill sets and expertise.

When you understand what employee development is and what your employees need, you can create a program that successfully engages, develops, and retains top talent.

Why you should invest in employee development opportunities

Of course you want employees who are always improving and growing—the more skilled your workforce, the better for business. However, not all employees are self-motivated. And many won’t know where to look for development opportunities.

That’s where an employee development program comes in. Employee development requires commitment and investment. But when done well, the payoff is worth it.

Employee development opportunities are linked to better performance and higher engagement—both of which impact business success.

In fact, 79% of employees who had access to a formal development program were engaged (compared to only 58% of employees whose organization didn’t have a formal program).

Of employees who participate in learning and development opportunities: 

  • 71% feel motivated
  • 55% feel empowered
  • 64% feel more equipped to do their job

When employees have access to development opportunities, it’s good for them, and it’s good for business.

Best practices for employee development

Planning and implementing your program can be tricky—but getting it right is crucial. Without the right opportunities and structure in place, you’ll have a hard time executing your ideas, getting buy-in from employees, and seeing positive results in performance and engagement.

Here are a few best practices to keep in mind as you plan your program.

Gather information.

Don’t just assume you know what opportunities employees want or need. To create an effective program, you need to make decisions based on reliable data. Survey managers and employees to uncover key insights and identify areas of opportunity.

Plan and prioritize.

Based on the data and feedback you gathered from your employees, you can begin planning your program. Map out what you will need and how you will achieve those benchmarks. Use insights from your data to prioritize opportunities so you can invest in things that will have the most impact.

Collaborate with stakeholders.

Work closely with stakeholders and subject-matter experts to build a robust and effective program. This will ensure your learning opportunities are high-quality. Plus, including input from team members will also encourage participation and engagement from the rest of your workforce.

Make it accessible.

The easier it is to access and participate in your development program, the more likely employees will be to take advantage of the opportunities you offer. Meet employees where they are so they can access opportunities anytime and anywhere in their preferred format.

Empower learning.

If employees don’t have a chance to practice and apply their knowledge regularly, they will have a harder time retaining the information and keeping those skills up. Empower learning by giving employees opportunities to share what they have learned and practice their skills. For example, they might present lunch and learns or help cross-train other co-workers.

6 types of employee development opportunities employees want

There are many ways to train and develop employees. Consider including these 6 employee development opportunities in your program.

1. Online training sessions and webinars.

Online training and webinars are time-efficient and cost-effective ways to train your employees. Online sessions make it easy for managers to track employee progress and reach out if and when assistance or support is needed.

Additionally, online training often allows employees to interact virtually or in-person with their colleagues to develop skills and grow their knowledge of specific topics.

2. Manager coaching and mentorship.

Manager coaching is the simplest, yet most effective development opportunity for employees. Employees want more feedback and direction. And managers have direct visibility into employee performance so that they can assess and ensure continuous employee development.

Consider creating a formal mentor program to integrate coaching into your manager-employee relationships and ensure team members have built-in support when they have questions or need direction.

3. Classroom-style learning.

According to an SHRM Skills Gap Report, 25% of Americans believe educational institutions should be responsible for solving workforce-development issues—making a case for exploring classroom-style learning.

This style of learning is useful when training a group of employees on the same tasks. The group setting allows for communication and encourages questions. Addressing specific topics all at once will help standardize messaging and build consistency.

4. Peer coaching.

Training can be intimidating, especially when it’s facilitated by someone you don’t know well. Peer coaching eliminates the intimidation factor and fosters a more relaxed learning experience.

Employees may feel more comfortable asking questions in this setting, which leads to a better understanding of the concept or development area at hand. Additionally, managers observing these sessions can learn valuable insights about employees’ personal goals and their perspectives on the organization.

5. Cross-training.

Cross-training develops employees to be their best selves in several areas of the business. This development style helps curb position fatigue while expanding employees’ horizons to build and grow different skills.

Explore providing alternative cross-training opportunities for your employees—such as conferences, online courses, or facilitating a company-wide book club. Regardless of the types of opportunities you provide, cross-training allows your employees to enhance their skill sets in various disciplines that will improve their fit within their role and the organization.

6.  Stretch assignments.

A simple way to help your employees grow is by assigning stretch assignments. Stretch assignments challenge employees with something new, which can spur learning and inspire greater confidence. Just be sure to connect the extra work to an opportunity for growth.

This is best done by tying the work to the employee’s professional goals. Work with them to identify areas they want to work on or skills they would like to learn so you can offer them relevant opportunities as they arise.

Keep in mind that with stretch assignments, it’s important to set employees up for success. Be careful not to overload them with responsibilities. Make sure you give them the resources they need to rise to the challenge.

5 Simple Tips for Having a Successful One on One Conversation

It’s no secret that communication is key to good management. But good communication isn’t always easy.
One-on-one meetings are a simple but effective way to improve communication with
your employees and increase engagement. In fact, 86% of highly engaged organizations conduct one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. However, just holding a one-on-one meeting isn’t enough. In order to be effective, your meetings must add value and build the manager-employee relationship. Otherwise, they’re just another meeting.Enthusiastic businessman and businesswoman discussing company business, talking about new project, sharing ideas during meeting sitting at office desk near big window with urban cityscape, side view

In this article, we will cover how effective one on one meetings can help your employees, teams, and business succeed by understanding:

  • Why one-on-one meetings are important
  • 5 simple tips for effective one-on-one conversations

Why one-on-one meetings are important

One-on-one meetings are a crucial part of a manager’s communication toolbox. Effective one-on-one meetings with employees can help you build a foundation of trust and collaboration with your team members as you work towards common goals.

One-on-one meetings give managers the opportunity to:

  • Discover employee goals and challenges
  • Understand employee and team morale
  • Identify opportunities to develop and train employees
  • Provide and receive valuable feedback 
  • Create actionable roadmaps for improvement
  • Share information about the organization and offer needed context for decisions
  • Coach and mentor employees

In other words, having good meetings is not just about reviewing performance—it’s about cultivating a relationship. One-on-one meetings are an important part of building those relationships so you can not only develop great talent but retain it. 

Meeting with your employees regularly helps you understand how each person is motivated, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and their potential within your team and the overall organization. This allows you to lead your team more effectively as you personalize and customize your management style and decisions based on your unique team dynamics.

Managers that listen to, understand, and respect each team member can successfully empower their employees and leverage each individual’s strengths to lift the entire team.

5 tips for successful one-on-one meetings

While holding one-on-one meetings is a good start, you also need to ensure they are actually effective. No one needs another meeting clogging up their schedule if it isn’t adding value.

Follow these one-on-one meeting tips to stay on track and make the most of you and your employees’ time.

1. Create a regular meeting schedule.

How often you hold one-on-one meetings will depend on the needs and workflow of your team. However, we found that 55% of highly engaged organizations hold 1:1s at least once per quarter.

Keep in mind that one-on-ones should extend beyond performance reviews. They are an opportunity to touch base with your employees individually and personally to understand what is working well, what you can do to support their success, and to provide needed context around decisions you or other company leaders make. Whatever cadence you choose, be consistent.

Add the meetings to your calendar on a regular schedule so they are routine and predictable. This will help your employees prepare for their one-on-ones and streamline the communication process.

Pro Tip: Make your employees a priority. Do not cancel one-on-ones unless absolutely necessary, and always reschedule as soon as possible. Actions speak louder than words, so failure to respect your employees’ time shows you don’t value them—no matter what you may say otherwise.

2. Listen to your employees.

Employees value a manager who respects them and listens to their ideas. Don’t turn your one-on-ones into a lecture or presentation (or strictly a performance review). Instead, use this time to have an open dialogue with your team members. Give your employees time to share, report, and brainstorm with you.

A report by Salesforce found that employees who feel their voice is heard at work are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Practice active listening by: 

  • Asking open-ended questions 
  • Seeking clarification
  • Demonstrating concern
  • Listening without mentally formulating your response while they are speaking
  • Making eye contact and avoiding multitasking (hint: close your laptop and get off your phone)

When leaders practice listening and encourage true dialogue, they can build authentic relationships with their employees and discover crucial insights they might otherwise have missed.

3. Come prepared.

One-on-ones are the perfect opportunity to check in with each employee and see how they’re doing, what challenges they’re facing, and what you can do to support them.

Familiarize yourself with the projects they’re currently working on and the progress they’ve made already. Not only will this save time, but it will demonstrate you know and value their contribution from the start.

If you have a specific agenda or goal for your one-on-ones, prepare questions you want to cover in advance and gather any data or materials you’ll need to reference. Communicate with your employees on what to expect for the meetings.

Don’t forget that this is time for your employees to bring their ideas, concerns, and feedback to you as well. Ask them ahead of time what specific topics they want to discuss in your one-on-one.

When each person knows what to expect and comes prepared, the conversation will be more productive and less likely to veer off track.

4. Set and track goals.

Only 20% of U.S. employees strongly agree that they’ve had a conversation with their manager in the last six months about achieving goals.

That’s a lot of potential left on the table. As a manager, you can use one-on-ones to bridge that gap and help your team members:

  • Understand the company goals and vision
  • Set achievable professional goals
  • Align their goals with the organization
  • Create a strategic plan to meet those objectives

One-on-one meetings can help you gain visibility into how your employees are progressing, identify roadblocks to their success, and create strategies to overcome or remove those challenges.

They are also a great time to share the company’s overarching goals to provide context for the work your team is doing and help your employees develop goals that align with the organization’s direction.

By focusing on your employees’ goals and putting their work into context, you can empower them to succeed.

5. Focus on growth opportunities.

No one wants to feel stagnant in their job or career. Yet too often that is exactly what happens. In fact, a whopping 43% of employees feel unsatisfied with their career path. And only 21% of employees see opportunities for personal career growth at their organization.

Luckily, managers can make a big difference. Managers are in the perfect position to empower employees and create paths for growth and advancement. And one-on-ones are a chance to get to know your team members individually and work with each employee to set customized goals and development plans.

When you meet, don’t focus solely on current performance metrics and short-term goals. Talk to your employees about the future.

  • Where do they see themselves in a few years?
  • What roles are they interested in?

Work together to identify opportunities to grow within the team and the overall organization and then create a plan for success.

As you practice listening and communicating with your employees through regular one-on-ones, you will build stronger relationships with your employees, leverage their unique talents effectively within the team, and empower them to succeed now and in the future.