In the “Great Resignation,” an estimated 47 million employees (and counting) voluntarily quit their jobs. The job market still hasn’t recovered from the unprecedented “quit rate” of 3.3% at the Great Resignation’s peak. Now, about 50% of the workforce are “quiet quitters” according to a Gallup poll — meaning, half of workers are disengaged at work and do only the minimum required of their job.
Having engaged talent is a competitive advantage for companies in today’s work environment. Replacing an employee who’s handed in their two-weeks notice can, after all, cost your company 21% of the employee’s annual salary. Employee retention strategies — ones that go beyond a box of donuts in the breakroom — are key to keeping workers engaged in the workplace. But given that overly played-out retention tactics can be ineffective at best and make your company look insincere at worst, it’s important to prioritize the right strategies. To that end, let’s go over some new and improved employee retention strategies that you may not have tried yet.
In this article, you'll find:
- Why employee retention strategies fail
- The best employee retention strategies
- Your employee retention strategy is your DEI initiative
Why employee retention strategies fail
There are plenty of employee retention strategy examples out there, but efforts can fall short. For your employee retention strategies project to be successful, you need to avoid these four common pitfalls.
1. Not delivering on promises. If you say you’re going to do something, follow up on it. Consistency is key to building employee retention strategies. Don’t ask employees to be honest about how they're feeling at work and then ignore their input. Or worse, promise big reform and fall short with token changes.
2. No trust. Studies indicate that “quiet quitting” is largely due to the relationship between employee and boss. Managers need the time, skills, and training to build solid relationships with staff. There are resource forums for people leaders to share ideas. Using tried-and-true best practices is the best strategy to build trust.
3. Siloed initiatives. Employee retention strategies can’t just live in HR. The moment they become siloed within one department or position, they fail. Employee retention strategies need to be a priority in every department and at every level.
4. No resources. Employee retention strategies need resources. To put it plainly, unfunded initiatives don’t work. Employees should be compensated for extra work such as sitting on an employee retention committee or putting together a workplace social. Likewise, pay raises and compensation should be a central part of the conversation. Remember, one of the main issues for quiet quitters is doing extra work for no extra pay.
The best employee retention strategies for 2022
With the don’ts out of the way, let’s move on to the best employee retention strategies you can start implementing today.
Listen to your employees
Well-run companies spend time and effort collecting feedback and customer satisfaction information. But what about employees? Managers need to ask, “how’s my driving?” Having data is critical to understanding how your employees are affected and making the necessary changes in order for employee retention strategies to take off. Send out an anonymous workplace survey asking about stress levels, feelings of creativity, people’s sense of inclusion, and how connected they are with their managers. If you’re not sure what to measure, start with a couple in-depth interviews. See what people want to talk about. The responses in the interviews will give you the basis for your wider survey.
If you ask your employees to be honest in giving feedback, management needs to be honest and transparent too. Acknowledge publicly the challenges the company faces based on what your employees have told you. This is the first step in accountability. Be transparent about compensation, pay raises, and benefits. Did you realize it is perfectly legal for employees to openly discuss compensation? This traditional taboo is becoming a common water cooler conversation. Social media is informing workers how to advocate for themselves. Meet them where they are. Actions speak louder than words.
Recognize and reward people, not just numbers
Over 1 in 5 employees does not feel valued at work. Feeling valued means knowing that your work is worthwhile and desirable. Watching the same sales people get rewarded for hitting their numbers again and again can be demoralizing for those who go comparatively unrecognized. Know your team and what they’re working on. Openly celebrate different kinds of triumphs, big and small, and be specific when you do. Helping people feel seen takes more than a generic “good job.”
Be flexible about work
Rethink how, where, and how long we do work. Research shows that 52% of workers prefer a hybrid remote-office work model. Employees even prefer it over a 10% pay raise. Employers must respond to this need as part of honing effective employee retention strategies.
And, as far as flexibility goes, time ownership is a massive benefit to offer employees — including by enabling them to work fewer days. Iceland is a leader in experimenting with the 4-day work week. Icelandic companies found it reduced burnout while improving work-life balance. Consider flexible arrangements that have proven results like these. Imagine how teams can be ambassadors for the company when they enjoy a new normal.
Employees that can’t see a clear career path within their company will look elsewhere to grow. The longer an employee stagnates in a position, the more their likelihood of leaving increases. Managers need to regularly work with each employee to envision their growth. Movement can be within their same position or laterally, as well. Give employees a discretionary budget for ongoing education and skills enhancement. Encourage projects and rotations with different departments to learn new skills.
Dust off that DEIB initiative
The best employee retention strategies are ones that are formed through a DEIB lens. DEIB strategies can be innovative for employee retention, as they (should) focus on all the things that make everyone supported, safe, and valued in the workplace. DEIB is, after all, not about making special accommodations for marginalized people; it’s about making the workplace better for everyone.
Your best employee retention strategy is a strategic DEIB initiativeDEIB initiatives make apt springboards for a number of successful employee retention strategies by listening to talent, creating custom work environments, and making employees across identities feel valued. Focus your efforts on DEIB, and employee retention will be one of many positive outcomes. PowerToFly has expert DEIB consultants that can help you jump start your DEIB-informed employee retention plan.
An estimated 15-20% of the world’s population is neurodiverse. Yet, few companies consider learning and thinking differences when building out their diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging programs, or when formulating strategies for hiring and retaining diverse talent. That's likely one reason why people with autism, for example, continue to experience such high rates of unemployment – up to 85%.
Neurodiversity in the workplace is a competitive advantage for companies that embrace it. It brings creativity, honesty, and innovation to professional teams. Here’s what companies need to know about neurodiversity and how to support neurodiverse individuals in the workplace.
What is neurodiversity?
If you want to recruit, hire, and maintain a neurodiverse workforce, it’ll require first making a better ally of yourself by understanding the definition of neurodiversity and which identities are considered neurodivergent, as well as some other key terms and ideas.
No single neurodiversity definition is helpful unless we understand that neurodiversity describes a full spectrum’s worth of neurological uniqueness, as seen in different characteristics and behaviors. The term “neurodiversity” itself was coined by Australian sociologist Judy Singer in 1997. It refers to the concept that people think, interact, and process the world around them in different ways.
According to Harvard Health, neurodiversity emphasizes that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to think, learn, or behave. Some neurodiverse people may identify as disabled, but many do not. Neurodiversity advocates seek to embrace people with neurological differences in all aspects of society. This goes for neurodiversity in the workplace as well.
Download the (free!) guide: Recruiting, Retaining, & Elevating Neurodivergent Talent
Types of neurodivergent identities
About 1 in 44 children in the U.S is diagnosed with autism. Neurodiversity is often used to refer to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), but it also includes ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Tourette’s syndrome, depression, anxiety, hallucinations, and more. Importantly, neurodiversity includes those with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities as well as those with learning disabilities. If you want to create a program to foster neurodiversity at your organization, you should be clear about the amount of variety within this umbrella term, and be transparent about the particular kinds of neurodiversity is able and aiming to support.
When we fail to do this and instead operate under a limited understanding of neurodiversity, that’s what winds up being reflected in companies’ hiring and retention efforts – which I think is well summarized by the quote on our next slide.
Neurodiverse and neurotypical
Neurotypical (NT) is an adjective that originated from those in the autistic community as a way to refer to individuals with what’s seen as typical intellectual and cognitive development. A neurotypical individual doesn’t have the same social, behavioral, or communication challenges as a neurodiverse (ND) person.
Terms not to use
“High-functioning” and “low-functioning” are not appropriate ways to refer to neurodivergent folks, despite a long history of these terms being used. In addition, the term “Asperger” — once considered a distinct type of autism — is now outdated, with Asperger’s syndrome having been officially retired from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-5 in 2013. That said, although it’s no longer an official diagnosis, some within the community still identify with the label and proudly refer to themselves as “aspies.” You should of course observe whatever terms individuals want to be referred to by.
Why does neurodiversity matter in the workplace?
The benefits of neurodiversity at work, like the benefits of biological diversity to the planet, are significant. Just as we seek to protect and cultivate biodiversity in the environment, the same applies to neurodiversity at work. Neurodiversity in the workplace in 2022 means a creative, innovative, empathetic, honest, and productive team.
Research shows people with ADHD to be extremely creative and generate more ideas than neurotypicals. Dyslexic individuals often rank high for complex problem-solving. Other neurodiversity articles suggest that ND teams are 30% more productive, 66% more loyal and 32% more innovative than others.
More and more employers are beginning to understand the benefits and develop hiring initiatives that focus on neurodiversity in the workplace. These efforts have proven beneficial for businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries. Hiring and retaining ND talent means maintaining well-rounded teams, as well as making sure your products and services appeal to ND individuals in the marketplace. This provides companies with a competitive edge that brings measurable benefits, in terms of both finances and workplace culture.
How to support neurodiversity in the workplace
If you want neurodiversity in the workplace, you need neurodivergent folks to thrive at your company. That means understanding neurodivergence to be a wide umbrella. And you need to be thoughtful in how you build your culture, execute your retention strategies, and set your career advancement frameworks in order to help neurodivergent people succeed.
1. Write inclusive job descriptions.
Inclusive job descriptions keep neuroinclusion in mind. Traditional methods of screening talent can leave neurodivergent people out. Entry-level neurodivergent talent has it doubly tough. After overcoming educational barriers, neurotypical behavioral expectations are often embedded in hiring efforts.
Rather than a laundry list of skills, pare job descriptions down to the essentials. Use unambiguous language. A vague description like “strong communication” can make some neurodiverse individuals, like those with dyslexia or autism, apprehensive about applying. Be clear or don’t include it.
In addition, ever considered a captioned video in addition to a text-based job description? Consider how these choices affect who the job description attracts.
2. Consider what you expect to see in interviews.
We all have unconscious biases. To improve neurodiversity in the workplace, interviewers should be sensitive to these. Take care not to make assumptions based on eye contact, handshakes, or unexpected gestures.
As in the job description, be specific rather than abstract. Open-ended questions such as, “What do you bring to the table?” is more confusing than asking directly, “Describe a time when you added value to a project at work.”
When you can, make interviews a hands-on test of actual job requirements — and give feedback so people can learn how to improve. For added accessibility, consider sharing interview questions with candidates in advance. Not all jobs require spontaneity.
3. Make your onboarding clear and explicit.
Instead of waiting for candidates to take the initiative and be great networkers, consider how neurodiversity in the workplace affects onboarding.
Formalize things like expectations, team structures, key processes, and workplace best practices to help neurodivergent talent have a smooth start. Segmenting this info into different stages of onboarding can reduce the chance of people feeling overwhelmed.
Don’t be afraid to ask how a new hire would like orientation to go. Inviting input helps a new team member feel valued and welcome from the start.
4. Make allies out of your neurotypical workers.
First things first, state that you value neurodiversity and see it as a priority. From there, put words into action. Research shows that “tolerance” and “acceptance” aren’t enough. Rather, companies should foster belonging so that every employee feels they are a supported and valued member of the team.
Ask ND team members to lead workshops about neurodiversity, rather than neurotypical people always defining what is the norm. Neurotypical employees can gain new insight, empathy, and compassion via training and role-plays that allow them to experience situations from a neurodivergent perspective.
Valuing input can earn the trust of the neurodiverse talent you already have. It makes a clear case to other neurodiverse talent that you’re a safe, supportive place to work.
5. Promote neurodivergent-friendly environments.
Be clear about your efforts to create ND-friendly work environments. Neurodiversity experts in PowerToFly’s network point out that we should avoid the term ''accommodations'' and refer to various forms of support as success enablers.
Success enablers include letting people have agency over:
- when to work - offering asynchronous meetings
- how to work - avoiding on-camera requirements for video meetings, offering noise-canceling headsets and other focus aids
- where to work - providing flexibility and teleworking options
At working age, many ND employees know what lighting, temperature, and noise controls they need to be most productive. Consider creating “How to Work With Me” documents and share productivity ideas within your teams to avoid potential issues.
To support neurodiversity in the workplace, the most important aspect of any success enabler is to confer with individual employees about their specific needs. Allowing people to choose and customize their work environment goes a long way towards making people feel a sense of belonging.
Neurodiversity in the workplace is an assetPeople with neurocognitive diversity offer talents, perspectives, and skills that are distinctly beneficial in work environments. Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) experts can better educate companies on how to attract and retain these valuable workers. Download PowerToFly’s report on workplace neurodiversity to learn more.
Read more tips for supporting neurodiverse talent on the blog.
Starting out as a viral trend on TikTok, the phrase “quiet quitting” has since taken over headlines everywhere from NPR to the Harvard Business Review. But what, exactly, is quiet quitting — and why are so many business leaders getting this so-called “crisis” wrong??
What is quiet quitting?
Per Psychology Today, “quiet quitting” isn’t actually quitting in the two-week notice sense of the word. It’s when employees keep doing their job, but only do the work that’s in their job description or covered by their explicit responsibilities. No going above and beyond. No late hours. No taking on extra projects that don’t come with extra remuneration.
Gallup similarly defines the trend as employees who are “not engaged” at work — people who “do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.” Per their research, that’s a full 50% of the American workforce.
Why quiet quitting isn’t actually a crisis
As a burgeoning attitude toward work, quiet quitting makes perfect sense. With the challenges and stresses of the last few years impacting all workers — but especially working parents, people of color, women, and other marginalized groups — employees are looking for ways to set boundaries, disengage from work, and find working rhythms that work for them and their lives.
And that’s something companies should be supporting. Employers’ responsibility, after all, isn’t to slap a Band-Aid on the problems that are driving quiet quitting in order to get productivity metrics up. It’s to create the conditions for employees to succeed, with work that can be accomplished within reasonable working hours, and to incentivize and tangibly reward any engagement that goes beyond quiet-quitting levels.
It’s time we got this clear. Quiet quitting was never the crisis. Expecting employees to go above and beyond at work in order to maybe stand a shot at a pay raise and promotion next year was.
If you want to ensure your company culture is creating opportunities for folks to feel truly engaged, we’ve rounded up the steps to take below.
8 things your company needs to do to stop facilitating quiet quitting
Quiet quitting doesn’t mean that employees don’t want to work. It means that everyone — employees and employers alike — are recognizing, more than ever, that the workplace can and should be evolving to meet the needs of everyone involved in making work happen. Here are some ways that companies can ensure they are doing that, sourced from McKinsey research on burnout and engagement:
1. Hold your leadership accountable.
Culture is set by the people on the ground, and you need to know that your managers and leaders are creating a culture that’s supportive of mental health. This looks like incorporating mental health questions into regular employee satisfaction surveys, so you have data to track, and including the management of employee well-being as part of how leaders are evaluated and compensated. It also means getting rid of toxic leaders.
2. Destigmatize mental health and boundaries.
Most employers know that stigma exists at work, despite best intentions to fight it. But when employees are afraid to ask for help with mental health needs or to request accommodations so they can do their best work, everyone suffers. Companies can work to destigmatize the issue by highlighting senior leaders’ own experiences with mental health. Vulnerability can help promote psychological safety, as can rewarding employees for setting boundaries and using mental health and wellness benefits.
3. Evolve the kind of benefits you offer.
45% of people who have recently left their jobs said that their care responsibilities were a big part of their decision. Do the benefits your company offers reflect that reality? For instance — if employees must be on-site, can you offer on-site childcare? If not, do you offer a childcare stipend? Do you know what issues they are most struggling with, and are you responding?
4. Promote sustainable working hours.
Do your employees need to be at work — whether online or at the office — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Or can they set those hours to fit their own schedules? Do you have flexible work policies that are available to everyone, no matter their level of seniority? Hybrid work can facilitate unfair treatment when policies aren’t clear and universally applicable.
5. Provide opportunities for employees to build social ties.
Another reason employees are disengaged at the office? Lack of social support. It can be hard to make connections over video calls and chat, especially for new employees or those who haven’t worked remotely before. Investing in team building can help give employees access to social connections that make their work more meaningful over time.
6. Enable right-size workloads.
As employment has ebbed and flowed over the pandemic, and especially now during the Great Resignation, many companies are finding themselves short-staffed. But piling more work on the people who have stayed isn’t a sustainable solution — it just speeds up their own burnout. Creating
7. Facilitate upskilling and reskilling at work.
Per the McKinsey study linked above, employers who offer reskilling and upskilling opportunities end up with more engaged employees. It pays off for everyone involved: giving employees the chance to laterally move into a different job in order to learn a new set of skills can predict employee retention 250% more than compensation can, for instance.
8. Strengthen your commitment to DEIB.
Employees don’t want to work somewhere they don’t feel like they belong. McKinsey calls out five key action areas when it comes to making a DEIB commitment real: ensuring representation, holding leadership accountable, increasing transparency (like with analytics on promotions and pay), tackling issues with a zero-tolerance policy, and embracing intersectionality.
Check out PowerToFly's DEIB solutions for employers.
Diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) work is sometimes in the details. A study by PowerToFly showed that although a majority (72%) of participating organizations have LGBTQIA+-focused employee resource groups, only 50% encourage gender pronoun identification. A mere 18% have held trainings to address gender pronouns at work.
As a company leader, you may feel confused over the best way to be sensitive. You are willing to meet the needs of your team members in an ever-evolving space, but you may simply not know how. Facilitating pronoun sharing at your organization will go a long way in creating an open and welcoming environment. Below, we’ll walk through seven practical steps your company can take to practice more inclusive workplace communication.
Why do we talk about pronouns at work?
Why are gender pronouns at work important? Let’s start by acknowledging that pronouns and identity are important concepts to people’s lives in general. Outside a work setting, how people present themselves affects daily life. Every interaction is socially informed by how we are perceived by others. Being perceived as their correct gender (or as gender non-binary) makes a person feel seen. The same is true at work.
As decision-makers, we also know this hard truth about retaining talent: Happy employees stay, while unhappy people leave. Per a Catalyst report and McKinsey findings, 1 in 10 LGBTQIA+ employees reported leaving a job because of an unsupportive work environment. In fact, 50% of all LGBTQIA+ employees in the U.S. are closeted in the workplace because they are unsure or fearful that it wouldn’t be a supportive environment. Whether we’re talking about gender identity or sexuality, being seen affects our work.
Also, we talk about gender pronouns at work because it’s our job to. Our work is to foster environments where our employees feel they can be themselves. Need stats to back it up? See the complete guide Inclusive Language: How to Talk about Gender & Sexuality at Work from PowerToFly. With the increasing use of non-binary or gender-nonspecific pronouns, making our employees feel welcome means leading education efforts and ensuring open communication around pronouns at work.
Face the reality
Normalizing the use of gender pronouns at work is key to creating a sense of belonging for everyone on the team. According to Pew, 42% of American adults know someone who is transgender. Half that number knows somebody who uses a gender-neutral pronoun like they/them. Since gender is a spectrum, the pronouns we use need to reflect that. Many people choose to use gender-neutral pronouns, multiple pronouns, non-traditional pronouns, or even no pronoun at all! Our pronoun choices reflect personal identity and should be respected at all times.
Safety is an absolute factor in the workplace. Since 2019, U.S. state legislatures have introduced a record number of anti-trans bills (more than 100 in 2021 alone) that discriminate and criminalize people based on gender identity. With 2021 being the deadliest year on record for transgender and gender non-confirming people, violence against trans people is on the rise. A concrete way for trans and gender non-conforming employees to feel safe (whether out or closeted) at work is to have their identities seen and respected in the workplace.
Know your team members
Some might ask “How do you avoid pronouns at work?” but this is not a solution. According to Harvard Business Review, the best approach to a respectful conversation about gender identity and pronouns at work is to stay clear, straightforward, and casual (and, of course, to not put folks in situations where they feel forced to disclose personal information).
It’s also best to, when addressing people, use non-binary terms from the outset, so as not to exclude trans or non-binary team members by constantly being gender-specific. Don’t assume people’s pronouns based on their appearances, and stick to gender neutral language in group settings, too.
Sharing pronouns at work: 7 practical steps
How do you respectfully use gender pronouns in the workplace? A good place to begin as a leader is to start the conversation. Attitudes towards pronouns at work can be set by decision-makers like you.
1. Always share your pronouns first
How do you use pronouns at work? Create an open environment by sharing yours first. Remember to bring up pronouns when you introduce yourself one-on-one.
- “I’m Trisha. I go by she/her pronouns. Nice to have you on the team.”
2. Model, don't mandate
In a group, set the tone for introductions by leading with your pronouns, too. Cisgender people, or those who identify with their gender assigned at birth, may learn a thing or two about identity in the process. Note that it’s best to model this behavior without explicitly requiring it; you, again, don’t want to put anyone in the position of feeling forced to share.
- “Let’s go around and make introductions. I’m Trisha, my pronouns are she/her, and I’m the CEO.” Versus: “Let’s go around and share our names, titles and pronouns.”
3. Include gender pronouns in your work email signature
Include your pronouns in all your work signatures, out-of-office, and away messages. Not sure how to structure it? A simple example is below. For a more uniform solution to use company-wide, you might consider reaching out to a DEIB-focused mentorship program for guidance.
- “Caroline Mayo (she/her/ella)”
4. Don’t overcorrect
Addressing gender pronouns at work doesn’t need to be uncomfortable. If you forget or aren't sure of a person’s pronouns, just use that person’s name. If you make a mistake when referring to them, stay calm. A quick apology and correction is fine before moving on.
- “My mistake. When he is back after the break, Aiden will lead the team meeting.”
5. Don't police without permission
What about when you hear someone else refer to a teammate by the wrong pronouns at work — what’s the best way to respond here? Know that there really isn’t a single, blanket solution, since not every person who’s been incorrectly gendered will want the same type of response or intervention. People are individuals, and it’s important not to lump all employees together who, for instance, use they/them pronouns by assuming they’ll want the same thing. Whenever possible, it’s best to hear directly from individuals themselves about how they’d like to be supported in these situations and at work in general.
That said, if you hear an incorrect pronoun used, the following example may be sufficient for the situation:
Colleague: “I was thinking we could ask Sara to take on this project. She’s great at this sort of thing!”
You: “I think that they would be a great fit for this project, yes.”
Colleague: “Sorry, yes! They would be perfect.”
How about if you repeatedly hear someone refer to your colleague by their wrong pronouns, knowing that they've been made aware of what their correct pronouns are — what then? Don't go straight to HR without talking to your colleague who is being misgendered first. That's a classic example of how supposed "allyship" becomes harmful. You should be listening to what your colleague wants to do about a situation like this that impacts them, not making assumptions.
6. Audit the wording of your hiring processes
One of the most basic places to address pronouns at work is with your hiring process. How is your HR system presenting a gender pronouns list to potential applicants? Are you scaring away trans and gender non-binary individuals by including or excluding certain options? There are three ways to go here:
- Add more options: The Human Rights Campaign Foundation suggests the addition of the more inclusive “Mx.” if you already have “Ms.” and “Mr.” as options.
- Offer a text box: Give candidates the option to self-identify.
- Leave gender off: Consider eliminating gender from applications until further along in the process.
Remember that for some, their legal name isn’t the name they go by professionally or socially. Include a space for names that aren’t reflected by official identification documents. During the interviewing process, suggest that recruiters and hiring managers share their pronouns as well as ask candidates how they’d like to be addressed. Then, reflect that response throughout the process. If a candidate knows early on that the company is supportive of all pronouns, there is a strong foundation.
7. Make a plan for facilitating pronoun updates
Haven't yet managed someone who's updating their pronouns? Don't wait until you encounter this situation for the first time to know what your plan of action will be! Know in advance what logistical steps you can offer to take to support someone in this position, especially if a pronoun change is accompanying a larger gender identity update.
Common pronouns on job applications
Here’s a short gender pronouns list with commonly used terms today.
- He/him - traditional male pronouns
- She/her - traditional female pronouns
- They/them - gender-neutral pronouns
- Ze/hir - gender-neutral pronouns borrowed from non-English languages
Keep in mind that pronouns continue to change and evolve over time. The list can grow. Some individuals are comfortable with multiple pronouns too; for example, “she/they.” Note, too, that international workplaces with multilingual team members should consider seeking out further guidance, as from a global DEIB consultancy team like PowerToFly.
Continue to learn about emerging practices
As social theories evolve, so do the variations of gendered and non-gendered pronouns that we collectively use. By continuing to learn, keeping the conversation open, and incorporating emerging practices, employees at every level of your organization can enjoy an inclusive, safe, and identity-affirming work environment.