Employee retention has long been a thorn in the side of HR departments and managers alike. And while there are a number of ways of increasing your employee retention rates, one that is often overlooked is one of the simplest (and cheapest) to execute.
Asking your employees for feedback has a double pronged effect: not only does it make your people feel valued when you ask for their opinion, it also gives you bona fide insights into your workplace that will help you genuinely improve.
Look at it this way: you might think you know what makes your employees happy (or unhappy!) but you may also be surprised. Go directly to the source and you’ll be gaining a much better idea of how the people who work for you really feel about you as an employer.
Sound daunting? Retention practices don't have to be, providing you are sincere and actually use feedback to effect change.
But how do you collect employee feedback in the first place? Let’s take a look at some ideas you can use in your own organisation.
5 ways to collect feedback to increase employee retention rates
- Suggestion boxes
Let’s start with something old school: the good old suggestion box. We know we’re all hyper connected and there are any number of platforms offering employee satisfaction surveys out there, but a suggestion box is a great way of encouraging employees who may be wary of giving feedback online in a more formal employee engagement questionnaire.
Even if you assure your employees that your online questionnaires are anonymous, you can guarantee that not everyone will feel completely comfortable sharing their honest opinion. A suggestion box is also ideal for workplaces where not all staff use a computer as part of their work - for example shops, beauty salons, restaurants or factories.
Tip: place your suggestion box somewhere that everyone can access it, but not somewhere where it’s in full view and makes it obvious when someone is posting a suggestion.
2. New starter questionnaires
Early in 2019 a study conducted by Gallup found that just 12% of new starters were truly convinced that the company they had just joined had helped them to settle into the workplace via a great onboarding process.
So what happened to the other 88%? Presumably like many new employees who aren’t shown the ropes, made to feel welcome, introduced to the team, shown where the kitchen and bathrooms are, and told exactly what they’re supposed to be doing, they either left within their first 90 days, or stayed but felt little engagement with their new company and role.
This is where you need to implement retention practices. The first 3 months in a new job are the most vital when it comes to establishing new starter happiness, satisfaction and engagement. But how can you tell how happy your recent hires are? How do you know if your onboarding is awesome, fine, mediocre or awful?!
That’s where the new employee engagement questionnaire comes in. Ask how welcome they’ve been made to feel, whether they understand their role sufficiently to meet their goals, if there’s anything they think would also be beneficial to know at this early stage of their employment. This will not only help you gauge the effectiveness of your onboarding, but will also ensure new employees feel valued - thus improving the chances of them staying.
3. General employee questionnaires
You want to know what your new starters think, but equally valuable is the insight that can come from older employees by asking employment satisfaction survey questions. A yearly, half yearly, or even quarterly survey is a great way of checking in on your teams, rooting out any issues, and making employees feel respected.
This is also a good opportunity to put out any fires that may be contributing to rising employee retention rates. Sense a general feeling of dissatisfaction? Now’s your chance to act before you lose employees and your retention rates take another hit.
Increase the chances of your questionnaires actually being filled in (and filled in thoughtfully and thoroughly) by letting your employees know that a) feedback is anonymous and b) why you’re carrying out the survey: its goals and anything you may implement or change accordingly.
4. Stay interviews
Now you know what your new hires think and how your general workforce is feeling. But what about those people whose opinions you really want? Your company’s high achievers. This is what ‘stay interviews’ were made for. Getting crucial insights from the people who bring the most within your organisation - while letting them know that you care about their opinions and that you appreciate them and the work they do.
After all, these are the top performers in your company and it makes sense to hang on to them to stop them defecting to the competition. And conducting regular stay interviews and asking employment satisfaction survey questions is like checking in and making sure that they know how much you value their contributions.
The aim of a stay interview is to find out what is making them stay at your company and what could potentially cause them to seek employment elsewhere. It should also cover what they like the best about their job - and what, if anything, they dislike.
After the employee’s manager has conducted the interview they should then devise a ‘stay plan’ that addresses the findings of the interview. For example, do they want more training? More opportunities to climb the career ladder within your company? Did they mention they would like to be able to work flexible hours or work remotely? Transfer to another department?
When feedback is turned into action and results, the likelihood of your top performers remaining loyal to you is increased.
5. Exit interviews
An exit interview is not a retention practice as such and is not meant to change an employee’s mind and get them to stay; it’s a way of gathering feedback before they depart. And it can also be used as a way to mitigate any damage caused by disgruntled employees who leave and then disparage you on employer review websites such as Glassdoor.
An employee may have any number of reasons for handing in their notice. It could be something innocuous such as them wanting a shorter commute or taking a career break to raise a family, but there could be other factors which you may want to address.
Perhaps they ‘got a better offer elsewhere’. Find out what this better offer was: what is your competitor offering that you’re not - and can you do anything about it to stop other people leaving? Did they have an issue with their manager and if so was it a case of clashing personalities or do you need to take a closer look at the way this manager handles their team?
The good thing about exit interviews is that you can be direct and inquisitive. Ask what you want to know: the employee is leaving anyway! Then use that knowledge to help retain other employees that might be feeling the same way.
Employee feedback and employee retention: conclusion
As mentioned at the start of this article, asking employees for feedback is only worth it if you’re going to act upon it. It’s all part of building a great company culture and heightening employee engagement.
Ask for feedback and then use it to create retention practices and a company you can be proud of, a company that people want to join, and a company that is envied for its low turnover of staff.