Human Resource Manager having casual discussion with new staff

How to Keep Your Talent Happy and Improve Employee Retention

Employee retention is vital to any organization, and with concepts like The Great Resignation, “quiet quitting” and “act your wage” circulating through the labor market, many employers are scrambling to keep their top talent. While you may not always be able to retain your best workers—particularly if they leave due to reasons out of your control, such as higher compensation, more benefits or a shorter commute—there are some things you can do to improve your employee retention.  

Tracy Yoder, a veteran human resources professional and instructor of UC Davis Continuing and Professional Education’s course Talent Management, gave us her take on why employees leave and how to retain them. “Organizations should care about keeping their talent happy,” she says. It improves morale and company outcomes, while the alternative costs time and money.  

Why Employees Leave

Yoder believes that it’s important for employees to feel a sense of balance and wellness at work, and when this is lacking, they are at risk of leaving. According to Yoder, there are three primary reasons she sees for why employees leave:  

1. Lack of recognition

“Recognition is very important, even vital for some employees” says Yoder. When an employee does not feel recognized, they don’t feel valued. “Recognition for projects and accomplishments will make an employee feel valued and give them a strong sense of balance at work.”  

2. Misaligned job expectations

“When a job does not meet expectations, an employee may feel lost and out of place,” explains Yoder. Whether the position doesn’t match up with an employee’s skill set or a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) was not done with the employee to identify their training needs, misaligned job expectations can be detrimental to an employee’s sense of balance at work.  

3. Employee burnout

“Many organizations are short-staffed or are doing more with fewer resources,” says Yoder. “This can put more responsibility on the employee, leaving them feeling stretched beyond their limits.” Employees who feel like they are responsible for wearing many hats often feel overwhelmed and undervalued at work.  

Increasing Employee Retention

“Communication is key when it comes to increasing employee retention,” says Yoder. Strong employee retention strategies revolve around open and regular communication. Employees who don’t feel safe or lack clear lines of communication are likely to be unhappy at work. When organizations invest in a workplace culture conducive to building trust and transparency, they are more likely to have engaged and productive employees.  

“It is very important for employees to feel that they can work in an environment where they are heard and able to express their emotions to upper management,” says Yoder. “And it is up to organizations to create an environment where an employee can feel safe.”  

Yoder recommends working with employees to discover their strengths and weaknesses, which can boost motivation and employee engagement, and help reduce burnout. Identifying SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) goals is a valuable tool for improving expectations, ensuring goals are attainable and helping employees feel involved in the organization.  

Learn More

Get insights, frameworks, and tools to effectively manage, develop and retain your talent. Enroll in Tracy Yoder’s Talent Management course.

“Managers need to sit down with their employees and be specific about their expectations and also learn the employee’s expectations of the job,” Yoder explains. “Ongoing communication about measurable, achievable goals is a win-win for both sides and essential to retention.”  

In Yoder’s course, Talent Management, she helps students develop effective communication methods and apply best practices in mentoring and performance coaching. She also stresses the importance of engaging with employees to understand where they are in their career, so you can implement appropriate SMART goals and identify A, B and C players.  

Yoder uses real-life case studies that human resource professionals deal with on a daily basis, so that students can immediately apply what they’ve learned to their current or future HR role. “Students walk away from my class understanding how to retain an employee and how to resolve quiet quitting.”  

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