Not many HR professionals take the importance of retaining top performers for granted. Recruiting, hiring, and bringing new employees up to speed can bring on a sense of dread. Plus, having to slog through daily work while a position goes unfilled adds to the burden.
So employee retention and engagement becomes a priority, and the question “Why do people stay or go?” becomes compelling. The 2012 Workforce Retention Survey from the American Psychological Association provides some answers.
Why workers stay
The survey identified a number of reasons people stay with their employers, top among them pay, benefits, work-life fit, and enjoying what they do. The survey found 60 percent of the workers surveyed said they stay with their current employers because of benefits, and 59 percent named pay as a top reason for staying. But 67 percent named having a job that fits with the rest of lives and enjoying the work as main reasons for staying.
More full-time employees than part-timers named benefits as an important reason they stay (67 percent compared to 35 percent). Also, full-timers were more likely to name pay as a main reason for staying than part-timers (62 percent compared to 50 percent).
Seventy-two percent of women cited work-life fit, compared to 62 percent of men, as main reasons for staying with an employer. Seventy-two percent of women also named enjoying the work, compared to 63 percent of men.
Workers age 55 and older were the most likely to cite enjoying the work (80 percent), work-life fit (76 percent), benefits (66 percent), feeling connected to the organization (63 percent), and having an opportunity to make a difference (57 percent) as reasons for staying with their employers.
In spite of the fact that many employees stay with their employers because they enjoy the work and appreciate having an opportunity to make a difference, others say they stay in their jobs because of a lack of other job opportunities. The survey found that 41 percent of full-time employees, 37 percent of part-timers, and 43 percent of employees with children under 18 said they stay with their current employers because they don’t have other opportunities.
Of the employees who plan to stay with their current employers for at least two years, “the biggest drivers of expected tenure were enjoying the work, having a job that fits well with other life demands, and feeling connected to the organization,” the survey’s summary states.
Keeping employees engaged
The survey points to a need to focus on keeping valued employees engaged. Just how to do that most effectively can be elusive. Too often organizations can be misguided in their engagement efforts, according to Hal Adler, founder of Leadership Landing, a consultancy concentrating on helping leaders reach higher performance.
Adler, who is a former president of the Great Place to Work Institute, the research and consulting firm that created the annual Fortune “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, says managers and leaders need to understand that their job is not to engage their people to stay. Instead, they need to view their job as creating an environment in which people can engage themselves.
“It’s not my job to engage you. It’s got to be up to you,” Adler said during a webinar for employers on March 23. Although it can be effective at times to focus on engaging people, that’s not sustainable unless an organization’s leaders create the right environment. “If that opportunity is not there, then the engagement is fleeting and it doesn’t last,” he said.
From the employee perspective, a great place to work is one in which employees trust the people they work for, have pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with, among other things.
Effective leadership is key to keeping employees engaged, and Adler speaks of five attributes great leaders should possess:
- Self-awareness. Leaders need a clear sense of identity and purpose, and they need to have a consistent way of interacting with others.
- Bravery. Leaders must be willing to take measured risks.
- Kindness. The most effective leaders integrate the needs of the business with the needs of team members and colleagues.
- Innovation. Leaders should bring creative, daring and productive approaches to challenges.
- Inspiration. Great leaders share excitement and enthusiasm for the organization’s vision in a way that unites and aligns
Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR web and print publications. In addition, she writes for HR Hero Line and Diversity Insight, two of the ezines and blogs found on HRHero.com.