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4 creative employee retention strategies (that cost $0)

These little-known tactics might surprise you – but they really work.

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Employee retention is one of the most discussed topics in human resources, so it’s no surprise the same ideas come up over and over again. 

But you already know that salary is a big factor for keeping top talent around, so we don’t need to go over that point again. 

The tried and true employee retention strategies work — up to a certain point.  A competitive benefits package and good pay are important, but they aren’t unique to your organization. To gain truly loyal employees, it takes offering them something unique. 

It’s about how your values align and how you can provide a sense of purpose to your employees. 

To do this, you’ll need to dig deeper and get a little creative. 

Let’s explore these employee retention strategies to see what they’re all about. 

1. Hire fewer employees

It may sound unintuitive at first. You want more employees, not less. 

But it makes a lot of sense given that much of first-year employee turnover is due to a mismatch in fit

Maybe the duties aren’t quite what the employee expected, the culture clashes with them, or they don’t see themselves moving up into any higher position in the company. So, they leave for a better match. 

To change that, you have to prioritize hiring the right people — and rejecting the wrong candidates. 

There are some aspects of your company that just can’t be conveyed without experiencing it, so you can’t get the perfect fit every time, but you can optimize your hiring process to reduce turnover rates. 

Look at your applicant-to-hire ratio. It’s a recruiting metric that indicates how many hires you make from the total pool of applicants.

Formula for selection ratio.

The average selection ratio is .004.

If your number is higher, you need to be more discerning throughout your selection process. If it’s on-par or lower, then it’s time to look more in-depth at each aspect of fit:

  • Qualifications
  • Workstyle
  • Trajectory
  • Culture 

2. Increase cross-functionality

Learning opportunities are one of the most critical factors for an employee retention strategy. Studies show that one in five employees leave due to a lack of professional development opportunities. 

Bar chart showing the top reasons employees stay or leave at their current organization.

Formal training, sponsored classes, and mentorship provide resources for employees to grow and acquire new skills, yet there’s more your organization can do to make on-the-job training a priority. 

For instance, you can build cross-functionality into roles where possible. 

Frontline team members like retail associates, drivers, and hospitality professionals could be a valuable resource for higher management or development roles within the company given proper training. 

The key is to give your employees opportunities to take on tasks they want to learn more about outside of their primary duties. It takes their role from a job to a career path.

To enable that, you’ll need to empower your managers to become career coaches and advocates for your employees by regularly meeting with employees to learn their interests. 

For example, if a cashier in a retail store is going to school for design, their manager could arrange for the employee to shadow or assist designers at the corporate level for signage. 

Although the average worker changes career three to seven times, they may not leave your company with this employee retention strategy. 

3. Focus on a few fantastic benefits

There are a thousand concrete and intangible benefits companies can offer employees to make them want to stay. 

Flexible scheduling, a relaxed dress code, catered lunches, remote shifts, plenty of vacation time, a healthy work-life balance, healthcare benefits, and more play into job satisfaction.

What makes matters challenging is everyone values benefits differently. To solve that, many companies try to offer the broadest net of benefits without considering or evaluating what their workers specifically value most. 

For example, you may realize after surveying your workers or conducting exit interviews that they don’t value free food benefits but would rather have more paid time off. 

You can then reallocate your budget so you aren’t just checking benefits boxes but really hitting it out of the park where it counts for your employees. 

Narrowing your benefits focus also helps you communicate precisely what potential hires can expect from your company culture and boost employee engagement.

4. Take a year to onboard

First impressions matter — which is why your onboarding process may be the key to your employee retention strategy. 

The first year is one of the most vulnerable times for employee retention. The Work Institute suggests over one in three employees leave before their first year. 

However, those who receive excellent onboarding are less likely to do so. 

Glassdoor showed employees who receive highly effective onboarding are 18 times more likely to be highly committed to their organization. Companies with a strong onboarding process improve employee retention rates by a whopping 82%

Infographic with three statistics that demonstrate effective onboarding helps employees form bonds within the organization.

Implementing a well-developed onboarding program is essential, but there’s a good chance after the training is complete, they still need more guidance and support that they no longer have access to. 

Some estimates find that it takes on average eight months for an employee to reach full productivity at a new job, and some take longer. That’s why a typical onboarding period of 90 to 100 days can be too short. 

Extend your onboarding process by adding additional benchmarks and goals and establishing regular mentorship opportunities with each employee.

Wrapping up — 4 employee retention strategies you probably aren’t using

The bottom line is that an effective employee retention strategy is probably one of the most important tools for your organization’s development, especially for a remote work environment.

That’s why it’s worthwhile to push your employee experience above the standard. Communicate extensively about the role, build growth opportunities, niche down on stellar benefits, and support new hires. 

Mentorship and communication are vital parts of retaining new employees, which is why Blink’s employee communication app is an unbeatable tool for your organization. 

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