Employee Retention: Is Offering More Time Off the Answer?

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Losing an employee can have negative impacts on an organization, even if the separation was initiated by the employer. Despite terminating an employee for poor performance or something else unsavory, the cost of replacing them can add up. From recruiting costs, time and lack of productivity due to being short-staffed, employers need to consider all that goes into this. But what about voluntary turnover? How can this unexpected disruption in the company’s workforce make a difference?

Regardless of the situation, human resources professionals understand the importance of employee retention and are consistently considering ways to make their offerings, benefits and perks better to stay competitive and attractive to their employees and future hires. Offering things like free lunch, tuition reimbursement, bonuses/incentives, training and development or flexible work schedule have all been things companies incorporated into their offerings, but what happens if that’s not enough?

All of these things can cater to different employees’ needs, but truth be told, employers can’t always offer everything that matters to employees. As we discuss the importance of work/life balance, employees are consistently encouraged to take their vacation time but with a capped amount of paid time off, many employees have actually taken less time off despite having it. This could be due to various reasons, ranging from: stress from getting behind in work and/or coming back to a large workload; determining what’s worth taking time off for; or worries something important will come up after all paid time off (PTO) has been used. I know I’ve even been guilty of saving vacation time only to reach the end of the year and realize I have a ton of days left that will be lost. So what can employers do? Remove the limit.

In my career, I’ve come across many companies that have removed the limitations of PTO. Some of the most interesting concepts I’ve come across are as follows:

  • Breaks for learning: A little over a year ago, I came across a few technology companies that offered their employees several weeks off a year for learning. I thought this was brilliant and felt the employer most likely would progress because employees are bringing back outside learning and applying to their work. Employees are given the freedom to learn about the things that truly inspire and interest them without the stress of having to take time off to do it. And the employer benefits because these new insights can help the organization progress in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise.
  • Sabbaticals: A company I interviewed with about 3 years ago offered month long sabbaticals for every three years of employment. Throughout my career, I’ve had many coworkers quit their jobs to take time off to travel, find their calling or soul search. Perhaps this is more common in younger generations before they have the responsibility of taking care of children, pets and mortgages, but with the influx of generation Y coming into the workforce, it’s something employers need to be prepared for more and more. Rather than lose employees due to their wanderlust or desire to get involved in personal projects, employers offer these sabbaticals to allow them to do the things they want to do without losing their key employees. Pair this with good workforce planning, and employers would be likely to incur less costs than if an employee quit.
  • Unlimited vacation time: Another company I’ve interviewed with also offered unlimited vacation time. I asked them how this affected productivity if employees took time off constantly but learned that it didn’t make much of a difference as if they were capped. The reason was because this structure led to accountability and reward. Employees are able to take unlimited time off if they finished projects and completed work on time. This offered them a little more flexibility in their schedules to get their work done and the reward for finishing projects early or on time was something that kept the team motivated.

Are these options feasible for every employer? Of course not. But in the pursuit to find retention initiatives, this should be considered. Employees can’t get everything they want out of life from their employer and may occasionally come to a crossroad between work and personal desires. Employers offering better PTO benefits might help mediate a person’s individual work/life balance needs.

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Stretch Projects to Increase Development and Engagement

Recently, I came across something pretty inspiring. I learned that a department manager has taken the time to learn the individual needs and passions of each of her subordinates, regardless of how insanely busy she was in her own role. She regularly takes the time to speak to them one on one to learn what their career goals are, what skills they want to develop, and address any concerns. Although that is impressive in itself, she doesn’t stop there. She takes the time to find opportunities for her employees to develop the skills in order to work their way toward their personal and professional goals. Since she started doing this, the increase in engagement has been phenomenal.

If you are a manager that’s looking to increase engagement in your workplace, consider trying this:

  • Regularly schedule one-on-one talks with your employees in an open atmosphere.
  • Make sure you talk about your employees’ career goals so you can get a feel for what they’re looking to accomplish.
  • Discuss some of the tasks and skills they would like to develop.
  • Talk to other managers in your organization to learn of different tasks or projects they’d need assistance on.
  • Discuss these opportunities with your employee to see what they’d be interested in pursuing and what would be feasible for them to do on top of their current workload.

The extra work involved in this might seem overwhelming but the benefits are worth it:

  • Employees will feel more accountable and appreciative to have a chance to develop themselves.
  • Engagement and morale will increase.
  • Turnover may decrease because employees will feel like they have professional and career growth opportunities within the organization.
  • Employees will develop skills that can help them become more of an asset to your company.
  • Departments using the employees for their projects may be more efficient with the extra help.
  • Opportunities like this can allow departments to build a stronger bond and work better, cross-departmentally.
  • Employees can gradually work their way into a role or even determine if the role or career path fulfills their passions as much as their originally had assumed.
  • It can bring in new perspective and fresh ideas.

Sometimes extra training or promotion might not be feasible in your organization due to budget, financial, and hiring issues. But, in the interim, this could be a great way to keep your employees engaged and happy while working there. It promotes continuous learning and in a way they are truly passionate about. This can create a stronger and better workforce.

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Why Isn’t Your Company Retaining Employees?

Working in talent acquisition has allowed me to talk to multiple candidates, day in and day out. Some candidates are currently working and open to opportunities, while other candidates are unemployed for specific reasons (either voluntarily or not) and aggressively seeking. While talking to candidates, I like to take the time to ask them why they voluntarily move on from their current employer. I had always assumed that majority of the time it would have to deal with financial reasons, but I soon discovered that compensation was one of the least common reasons that were provided. Needless to say, I was interested in learning more.

Here are some of the most common reasons that I come across when inquiring about a candidate’s decision to voluntarily quit (in no particular order):

  • No room for growth: one of the most common things I come across is the fact that candidates feel like they have hit a ceiling in their current role. Candidates have expressed that management does not take the time to help them define their career path and, therefore, candidates feel like that the only way to professionally grow is to look for a company that offers them a position that fits what they’re looking to reach.
  • No training opportunities/lack of training: candidates have mentioned to me that their employers’ training programs are seriously lacking or non-existent. Many candidates expressed their desire to work for a company that was well known for their training, development, and continuous learning opportunities because it can not only set them up for success at their current role, but it can help pave the way for a better professional future.
  • Not challenged: sometimes candidates are given an unrealistic job preview and learn that the job actually lacks the challenges they had thought it would have. On the other hand, some candidates have excelled at the current role that they are in but have no opportunities to move up or take on more responsibility. Regardless of the situation, employees are feeling unmotivated which is affecting their happiness at their current role and often causes them to look for something else.
  • Feeling underappreciated: some candidates put in extra work, time, and effort but feel like it goes unnoticed. This had caused candidates to feel underappreciated and also feel like their talents are not being appropriately noticed, especially when it comes to incentive or promotion. In these cases, candidates expressed their desire to find a company that is known to have great management that takes notice of each employee’s contributions.
  • Cultural issues: in some situations, candidates were painted a picture of a certain organizational culture only to learn that the organization does not practice what they preach. In other situations, changes in the organization may have caused disruption in a strong culture. Either way, candidates felt that their company culture no longer matches their personal values and have been more focused on finding a company that is better aligned with this.

So, employers, sometimes it’s not about the compensation, perks, and bonuses. Your employees might be looking to move on from you for deeper reasons than your financial offerings. Take the time to talk to employees and find out the things they value and need in an employer. Truly understanding this can help you create an employer brand that not only attracts talent, but retains your current talent to the best of your abilities.

More links:

The Real Reasons Your Employees Are Leaving You

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