Job Quit Rates Are Soaring: Here Are 5 Tactics to Keep Your Employees ​

December 26, 2018

In the United States this year, job attrition reached its highest rate since records began in 2000. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that 3.5 million people voluntarily left their jobs in October — a quit rate of 2.3%. And with the number of open jobs exceeding the number of unemployed people by almost a million, it’s a candidate’s market out there. 

The good news? It’s not just things like salary and perks that influence an employee’s decision to stay or go. In fact, data from the Work Institute’s 2018 Retention Report reveals that 77% of employees who voluntarily leave their jobs do so for addressable reasons like a lack of career development or poor work-life balance. And, these are things every company can do something about.

With that in mind, here are five simple strategies you can use to boost engagement and increase retention.

1. Recognize achievements big and small to help employees feel engaged and valued

Recognition is a key component of engagement. Without it, it’s all too easy for employees to feel isolated and unvalued, causing them to lose interest and pride in their work. In fact, two out of three employees say they would likely leave their job if they didn’t feel appreciated.

Unfortunately, 87% of employee recognition programs focus on tenure. That can leave newer employees feeling like their contributions aren’t being noticed, making it more likely that they’ll quit — and unlikely they’ll be around long enough to celebrate any milestone work anniversaries.

To boost retention and job satisfaction, recognize milestones big and small. The key is remembering to thank employees often — even when managers and leaders are busy and distracted — and ensuring the thanks feels authentic.

Zappos puts a unique spin on employee recognition. The online retailer allows employees to thank colleagues who have gone above and beyond by awarding them $50 coworker bonuses, which are especially meaningful coming from teammates.

Showing appreciation doesn’t always have to involve bonuses, promotions, and other perks. It can be as simple as remembering to say thank you.

One of Google’s most effective ways to recognize employees is its “gThanks” tool, which lets anyone at the company send kudos and thank-you notes to fellow Googlers. If you don’t have your own platform for this, a wall of sticky notes can be just as effective

2. Create a learning culture to show your company is invested in employees’ personal development

In the United Kingdom, 98% of employees say learning opportunities are an essential part of their decision to stay at or leave their current job. Yet only one in four British companies has a learning culture, where learning and professional development are prioritized. This is a huge missed opportunity and could ultimately cost companies their most ambitious and enthusiastic staff.

Millennials get a bad rap for job-hopping — a recent study from Bridge found that 90% want to grow their careers within their current company. Many, however, feel that they don’t have growth opportunities and that their employers fail to provide adequate feedback about their professional growth. Without opportunities to grow and develop at work, professionals can start to feel like they’re stagnating and prompt them to look elsewhere.

The same study from Bridge found that career training and development opportunities would keep 86% of millennials from leaving their current positions. Chances to develop new skills show employees that your company is willing to invest in their future and can also help your organization avoid looming skills shortages.

Many companies are making continuous learning and development a core part of their culture and benefits package. Employers like Walmart reimburse some or all of an employee’s college tuition costs, while LinkedIn and Certn offer access to online courses. Perks like these can help boost retention and serve as a powerful recruiting tool.

3. Consider flexible work options to improve employees’ work-life balance

The benefits and pitfalls of flexible work arrangements are hotly debated. Some companies, like IBM and Yahoo, argue that flexible work hurts productivity and makes management harder, while others find it makes their teams more effective. One expert even calls remote work “the world’s smartest management strategy.”

But the statistics show that employees want these arrangements and are more likely to stick around if they have them. Deloitte found that 55% of millennials expect to stay in a role for 5+ years if their company offers more flexibility around where and when they work.

Flexible work options can promote a better work-life balance. Giving employees the option to work from home sometimes or leave at an unconventional hour can reduce stress and prevent burnout (a major cause of attrition).

This option can be especially useful for retaining working parents. Companies like Reddit offer new moms and dads a flexible work schedule when they return from parental leave, helping them juggle their new responsibilities more easily. By making work fit more seamlessly into employees’ lives, you can reduce the risk that your workforce will feel overwhelmed and leave.

4. Encourage lateral moves to help employees to find their calling at your company

Employees often consider leaving their job because they feel like they’ve hit a wall in their career or they’ve lost interest in the work they’re doing. Either way, they’ve got one foot out the door — unless you can offer them the meaningful change they crave.

One way that employers can curb attrition is by making it easy for employees to make lateral moves within the company. Chocolate giant Hershey’s has mastered this approach. Using a data-driven retention model to predict when an employee may be on the verge of leaving, the company intervenes by offering targeted staff a chance to work on projects with another department. If crossover employees discover an aptitude for the new work, they have the option to switch departments.

Hootsuite takes a similar approach. After committing to shuffle 20% of its workforce by the end of 2017, the social media management platform has worked hard to make lateral moves a big part of its culture.

Giving employees the chance to try on new hats keeps work fresh and interesting. It can even help people discover a passion for work they’d never considered before, leading to more engaged, productive, and happy teams.

5. Make work feel more meaningful by giving back to the community — and getting employees involved

Another way to help employees feel more engaged in their work is to connect their work to the community at large. A whopping 79% of employees would prefer to work at a socially responsible company, so showing that your business gives back can help keep employees in the fold.

But to really go the extra mile, consider giving employees a hands-on opportunity to help the community through their work. Companies like Salesforce and Genentech make volunteering a core component of their culture, either by offering paid time off for volunteering or by organizing company-wide events.

Volunteering can work wonders for retention. Turnover drops by an average of 57% when employees feel connected to their company’s community service efforts. When your philanthropic program aligns with your company’s values, the time employees spend volunteering is ultimately time spent building a deeper relationship with the company itself.

Final thoughts

When employees love their work, feel valued, and have opportunities to grow, they’ll stay longer, which lifts morale, preserves institutional knowledge, and allows a company to put its resources against growth rather than rebuilding.

While switching jobs can be exciting, it can also be immensely stressful, so happy employees aren’t actively seeking a ticket out. At the end of the day, what employees want most is to find a role in which they feel comfortable and that allows them to do their best work. Help people feel engaged and satisfied in their work through recognition and growth opportunities and they’ll stick around for the long haul.

*Image from Death to the Stock Photo

To receive blog posts like this one straight in your inbox, subscribe to the blog newsletter.