Employee Experience

8 employee retention strategies that work

“People are increasingly important in our digital information economy,” says Geoff Ho, Director of Organization Development at Rogers Communications. “Any company can be the next Google or Apple with the right people, culture, and set of HR practices in place.

“If you get people right, you’re going to have the best innovation, best technology, and best products.”

If employees are your source of innovation, it’s clearly important to retain them.

But not only that, retention is crucial for the bottom line. Employee turnover is very costly for organizations and can directly impact business

SHRM (Society of Human Resources Management) says that direct replacement costs can reach as high as 50%-60% of an employee’s annual salary.

And it doesn’t have to be this way. According to Retention Report: Truth and Trends in Turnover more than 3 in 4 people who resigned from their role could have been retained.

Total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary.

We spoke to HR leaders across different industries to uncover their secrets to attracting and retaining people. So, here are 8 things you can incorporate into your people retention strategy...

1. Listen (and do it regularly)

Listening – and listening regularly – has a big impact on engagement and therefore retention too.

We surveyed 13,551 employees for our 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends report and found that regular listening has a huge impact on employee engagement and employee retention.

For example, engagement rises to 61% for those whose company has a feedback program, compared to 45% for those without.

Frequency of listening makes a big difference too. Even if you’ve got an engagement program, asking people for their responses once a week (or even more) can boost your engagement score by as much as 10%.


Not often enough according to our research. The highest engagement is for those surveyed monthly. But surveying your employees on a weekly basis (or even more than once a week) can have a big impact.

  • Annually - 56% engagement
  • Bi-annually - 59% engagement
  • Monthly - 67% engagement
  • More than once a week - 66% engagement
  • Quarterly - 64% engagement
  • Weekly - 66% engagement

Asking for feedback not only makes employees feel heard and valued, it has the often highly lucrative benefit of gathering ideas to improve the entire business - not just an employee's day-to-day life.

By creating an inclusive culture that’s engaging, creative, and highly sought-after, people feel part of something greater than themselves.

Culture is built on a strong mission, vision, and values that employees have bought into.

Asking for feedback through employee engagement surveys helps you to understand your employees’ attitudes at work and how they view your company.

Highly engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave their companies than their less engaged counterparts.

They’re motivated to meet the organization’s goals and objectives and are more productive in their jobs.

2. Analyze – and act on – the results

Don’t bother asking for feedback if you’re not going to analyze and act on the results.

That can cause more harm than not asking at all. Why? Because then you’re not really listening. Analyzing and acting are crucial steps in the listening process. Your people will soon lose faith with the process if they don’t see changes being implemented.

There’s very little in (and out) of the workplace that is as demoralizing as being ignored.


For people who said they may leave in the next 3-6 months, what are the common reasons? Look for trends in career progression, senior leadership communication, and managers.

For instance, if 50% of your employees state their managers don’t empower them to make decisions, you can set up a manager training program.

If employees feel like your senior leadership is not transparent, then have your CEO film a weekly video series or send out a newsletter from the c-suite.

Buzzfeed is a top example of this. CEO Jonah Peretti set up Ask Jonah Anything – a Slack channel that does exactly what its name suggests. It’s all designed to make people feel they can approach him about anything that’s on their minds, and it’s a huge driver of transparency.

Plus it communicates the leadership team’s vision and priorities — something we know is a key driver of employee engagement.

3. It’s not about all the perks, but the right ones

It’s great having nice perks, but your people might surprise you with the benefits they care about most.

By offering the right perks you’re saving money on underutilized benefits and creating a better employee experience.

According to a study by LinkedIn, employees actually care most about healthcare coverage, PTO (paid time off), and flexibility.

Consider increasing your health and wellness benefits and offering more time off around the holidays. You could also offer remote options, unlimited paid time off, or time-shifting as a policy.


To understand exactly which benefits your employees want, ask them directly for their tradeoffs rather than just assuming. The Qualtrics Employee Benefits Optimizer makes that easy.

Consider using the Employee Benefits Optimizer to identify the optimal benefits package for your unique company needs and budget.

Launching studies to adjust benefits have historically been costly and time-consuming, but this new solution provides an effortless way to gather data on what really matters to employees. It puts employees at the center of these critical decisions, and provides you with a fast and cost-effective way to KNOW what employee benefits matter most.

4. Help your people to grow

Our 2020 Global Employee Experience Trends report found that the number 1 driver of engagement is opportunities for growth and development (62%).


  1. My company provides me with the opportunity for learning and development: 62%
  2. My manager is effective in helping me resolve work-related issues: 62%
  3. I can see a clear link between my work and this company’s strategic objectives: 58%

Having a manager who helps manage their employees’ workload and consistently acknowledges their employees for doing good work is unsurprisingly a huge booster of retention.

In addition, having a manager who helps their employees solve work-related issues is a top driver for job satisfaction. All-in-all, if you have great manager you are far more likely to have more satisfied employees.

Samantha Hammock, Chief Learning Officer at American Express, believes that the future of work will value leadership and management skills more than ever.

Samantha says American Express is doubling down and investing in leadership and human skills:

“Most leadership development only readies a small portion of your population, but we’re focused on scalable leadership development for everyone.”

Employee engagement surveys are a great way to ask for feedback about employees’ direct managers and senior leadership. From there, you’ll have an understanding of which skills you need to focus on with your managers.

5. Being more family friendly

Sheryl Sandberg’s bestselling book Lean In states an alarming statistic:

“43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time.”

Many of these women don’t return from maternity leave because their companies don’t offer flexible work environments or on-site childcare facilities. The Child Care Aware of America says the average cost of childcare is more than $9,000 per child, and for single parents, this can amount to 37 percent of their household income. Childcare costs are on the rise and unaffordable for many families.


One great example of a company who invests in childcare and sees a return is Patagonia. It’s operated on-site child development center at our headquarters in Ventura, California, for 33 years, and they’ve seen an incredible 100% of new moms return to work after maternity leave.

Patagonia estimates 91% of their costs are recovered annually, and believes the company is contributing to “raising the next generation” by providing on-site childcare options.

In addition to on-site childcare, generous paid parental leave is increasingly becoming a critical benefit to attract and retain working parents. Paid parental leave eases the financial burden on families, helps with employee retention, helps attract talent, lowers the infant mortality rate, and longer leave can lower the rate of postpartum depression.

6. Do ‘stay’ interviews

Companies often perform exit interviews when an employee is leaving, but rarely do they incorporate stay interviews to help with employee retention.

A stay interview is a conversation with an employee to help managers understand what’s important to the employee. It should be an individual conversation with an employee and their manager. Common questions include:

  • Which aspects of your job make you eager to come to work each day? Which aspects do you not look forward to?
  • How well do you believe your talents are being utilized? What skills do you possess that you feel aren’t being utilized?
  • What are you career aspirations? How are we doing in helping you accomplish them here?
  • Have you ever thought about leaving the company? If so, what caused you to consider leaving? Why did you decide to stay?
  • What are the biggest challenges you face? Is there anything you’d like to change about your job? Are there things you would like to change about your team or department?

7. Regularly look at how much you pay

Even if your employees are totally bought into your brand and company values, they still want to be paid a fair and competitive rate.

PayScale research found that only 1 in 5 employees feel like they’re fairly paid, and this can make or break your company culture. Many employees leave because they get a better offer from another company. Ultimately it could cost you more to find another employee than it would to simply give them a pay raise. Not to mention the knowledge drain that comes with losing a valuable employee.

To make sure you’re paying employees competitively, use 3rd party data to conduct an audit on your compensation and compare what you’re offering to current market rates.

If you find your salaries are lower, make a 3-year plan to get them where they need to be. SHRM says it’s crucial to close the pay gap between genders to keep engagement high, and that organizations must correct the cause of the disparity to prevent it from happening again in the future.

8. Actively encourage a healthy work/life balance

Work-life balance isn’t a static objective that you can do once and then tick off the list. It’s a continual process that needs regular adjustment.

Identifying the right approach for your business rests on an understanding of what kind of company you are and what makes your employees the most productive and engaged.

Personality types, life stages and the other employee-specific factors we’ve touched on all play a role. So too does the kind of work you do and the country – or countries – you’re based in, including the kind of technological and transport infrastructure available and whether you’re in a rural or urban location.

We recommend taking feedback and suggestions from staff regularly to find out what matters to them most, and what’s negatively (and positively) affecting their work-life balance. As well as collecting ideas, you can measure staff responses against indicators of employee experience like intention to stay and eagerness to go to work each morning.

Doing this will point towards the deeper relationships between work-life-balance factors like:

  • Stress levels
  • Employee perception that the company cares about work life balance (and its people)
  • How well management supports people in achieving work-life-balance

A statistical analysis of these metrics can help you reveal the key drivers of employee engagement at your business, show you where improvements can be made, and ultimately help you to retain – and motivate – your people.

Want to Find Our What Really Matters to Your Employees?

Download our essential guide to employee experience surveys