Opinion: 4 key ways to retain and engage employees

A major cause of turnover, which hurts companies financially, unhappy employees can also drive away loyal customers

Credit: Image by rawpixel from Pixabay 

Disengaged workers can cost your business money and damage your brand. Here’s how to keep staff happy—and keep them around

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, Richmond-based employee engagement and internal brand communications expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about creating influence through trust.

Employee retention is a huge problem for any organization. Hiring someone and keeping them around long enough to plan their retirement party has become such an anomaly that it isn’t even part of the conversation. Unhappy employees are a major cause of turnover, which costs the U.S. economy somewhere between $450 billion and $550 billion a year, according to Gallup.

No matter what you call it—disengaged employees, disenfranchised employees or simply unhappy employees—the net result is the same. They’re costing you money and hurting your brand.

Your company is only as strong as your unhappiest employee on their worst day. 

But there is a choice: you can work to fix the situation, or you can let it fester. Doing the latter will eventually damage your bottom line and your reputation. Besides wreaking havoc with your internal culture, unhappy workers tax the efficiencies of your organization. And if they’re client-facing, they can be the difference between loyal customers who are profitable and those who go looking for other options with your competitors.

Who wants that?

If your staff are unhappy, the big question is why? Is it all of them, or are there systemic reasons that drive them to quit—or, worse yet, to be miserable and stick around anyway?

In my experience, everyone wants to be listened to, understood and valued. These are not millennial or Gen-Z desires; they’re what all employees need. It doesn’t matter how old someone is, how long they’ve been with the company or what their responsibilities are. If people feel ignored, undervalued or don’t understand how their efforts matter or will be recognized, they’ll become unhappy.

The question you’re probably asking yourself right now is, So what? People are unhappy; we’re all unhappy at times. Shouldn’t people just have to deal with it?

Unfortunately, that unhappiness comes with a price. On average, an employee leaving could cost a business $100,000 or more. That staggering figure accounts for everything that happens from the time the employee quits to when someone is hired to replace them and is on-boarded, trained and brought up to speed. It includes lost opportunity costs and inefficiencies due to human resources challenges.

How much will it cost youwhen an employee walks? To help figure that out, I’ve created a calculator to download to your desktop.

So what can you do to fix this problem?

In my latest webinar, I discuss the four major factors that influence how you engage, retain and grow your most valuable asset—the people who work for you.

The four factors are: 

  • Hiring
  • On-boarding
  • Creating a leadership instead of a management culture
  • Effective communication

For each of these factors, it’s about listening to, understanding and valuing your staff. You must give them a reason to believe in you, your company, the direction of the business and their role in its success.

If senior management and owners can effectively communicate and live their brand’s values and culture, there’s a much better chance that employees will believe in it and feel they have purpose and meaning within that culture.

But if a company doesn’t live by the values it claims to uphold, no one else will, and employee unhappiness, dissension and turnover are the next logical steps. The choice is yours.

Ben Baker wants to help you engage, retain and grow your most valuable asset…your employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Lead at Any LevelThe author of Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and the host of the IHEART Radio–syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, he writes extensively on brand and communication strategy. 

To schedule a free 30-minute consultation to establish how Ben can help you create success on your terms, click here.