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Thoughts on Employee Retention

By Victoria Plettner-Saunders

How much do you think about employee retention in your organization? We all know those organizations that seem they have a revolving door. While at others, it seems, staff never leave.

Employee turnover can cost between 25% and 200% of an employee’s salary. When you add up the cost of replacement (recruitment to hiring); training; lost productivity while the position is vacant (including the cost of existing employee’s filling in for the vacancy when they should be doing their own job); and the cost of an un-motivated employee prior to departure‚Ķit is not an insignificant expense.

An organization loses time, productivity, money, and worker morale when employee turnover takes place. Plus, in a small arts and culture community, getting a reputation as an organization with high turnover is never good for attracting the best talent.

Why Employees Leave

It’s a fact that turnover happens in every organization – people come and go for all sorts of reasons. What I’m referring to here though is needless turnover. The kind of churn that could be avoided with a little intentional effort on leadership or management’s part

We often think people change jobs for better pay somewhere else. But one of the top reasons people leave is feeling that they are underappreciated or devalued. Another reason is that they feel disconnected from the organization’s mission. Still another reason, one we are all too familiar with, is stress and burnout. Long days or unrealistic expectations about workload can be exponentially more difficult when there are child care of elder care issues at home as well. There is only so much mission-driven passion that can sustain a worker who feels disengaged, undervalued or too tired to care.

Identifying Worker-Centered Solutions

So what can an employer do? There is a lot actually. First its important to find out what drives your employees feelings of job satisfaction. What puts the “meaning” in “meaningful work”? employee retention To do this you can use confidential employee satisfaction surveys to understand your organization’s workplace strengths and weaknesses as they relate to worker needs and perceptions. Ask questions about management, salaries and benefits, workload, morale, and internal communication. Ask how people want to be rewarded for good work and what benefits are most important to them. Be ready for honest answers and have the desire to make changes to support workplace concerns.

In our sector, we know too well that compensation and benefits are rarely competitive with the private sector. Advancement within an organization is hard when its org charts is fairly flat. But often, people choose this work for other reasons including working in the arts, believing in the mission and wanting to make a difference. They know the pay is low going in. Showing them they are valued and that their contribution to the organization makes a difference can be as much of a reason for them to stay as an increase in pay. Finding ways for an employee to grow within a position such as paid time off for professional development or a flexible work schedule for better integrating work and life can offset the frustration that comes with slow pace upward mobility.

Invest in Your Assets

Making an investment in your most valuable asset doesn’t have to cost a lot. Be creative, engage them in the conversation and identify workable solutions that are meaningful to them. It will payoff in greater productivity, morale and support the bottom line.

There is a ton of information about employee engagement and retention out there. As we know, it’s a little different in cause- or mission-driven organizations. This article from TalentMap provides similar perspective and a few more ideas you can use.