Employee Experiences That Create Meaningful Retention

Over the last year, the Great Resignation has been a point of critical focus for HR professionals. And while opinions may vary on whether or not the mass exodus of employees is over, one thing remains unanimous: Employee retention is a top priority.

As the pandemic ended, the Great Resignation kicked into high gear. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a record 47.4 million workers voluntarily quit their jobs in 2021. In a recent BambooHR survey, 45 percent of respondents said that the current trend in departures at their company was higher than usual. And 81 percent said that resignations have had a negative impact over the past year. This unprecedented migration of workers left many employers struggling to find ways to keep their best people.

Of course, salary bumps, bigger benefits packages and other incentives can all boost your retention metrics, but turning each of those traditional dials isn’t always realistic these days. Instead, taking a more holistic, meaningful approach to retention can help you focus on more than just the number of employees you keep. What if there’s another layer to employee experience that goes beyond having workers fill jobs and actually connects people to their work in meaningful ways?

To help you achieve a level of more purposeful retention, we’ve listed a few things you can do to elevate your approach to the employee experience.

Why retention matters

As an HR pro, you’re intimately familiar with all the reasons why employees are your organization’s most valuable asset. Simply put, it’s expensive to replace someone. The average cost per hire across organizations and industries is over $4,000.

The effects of the pandemic shined an even brighter spotlight on employee experience and retention. In a Willis Towers Watson global survey from 2021, 92 percent of employers said enhancing the employee experience will be an important priority over the next three years. Pre-pandemic, just 52 percent indicated that employee experience was important. Comparing those numbers puts the significance of retention into perspective. It’s clear that a solid retention strategy is a must-have for any business that wants to stay in business.

The key is growth

Employee retention is a straightforward measurement: Simply calculate the percentage of employees who remain at a company for a fixed time period. Meaningful retention, on the other hand, isn’t so easy to measure. Quantifying things like engagement, satisfaction and purpose can be tricky, but keeping these initiatives in mind are exactly what will take your retention strategy to the next level.

Meaningful retention is about more than just keeping employees around forever. It means keeping the right people for the right reasons, for the right amount of time. And the key to gauging that is growth. What makes an employee’s tenure with your company truly meaningful is when an environment of mutual growth exists—where the employee and the company are both benefiting. The organization should grow as a result of an employee’s input, and the employee should grow (thereby gaining meaning and purpose) from their experience at the company. So, how do you, as an HR professional, help make that happen?

Three ways to find meaningful moments at work

Taking a well-rounded approach to retention and employee experience is necessary in a climate where employees want more than just money. People want opportunities to improve their skills, advance their careers, and have a healthy work-life balance, among other things.

In today's workplace, companies that create authentic experiences for their employees can strengthen employee purpose and ignite better performance. Here are a few ways to make sure your employees feel valued and that their contributions to the organization are meaningful.

1. Flexibility

Organizations that design an employee experience with flexibility in mind create a culture where innovation can thrive. And when employees feel free to innovate, share new ideas, and believe that their voices will be heard, that goes a long way in helping them identify with their purpose.

When 94% of millennials and Gen Z can see themselves leaving their current industry for another, companies almost have no choice but to offer flexible experiences. This can include things like flexible working hours, remote work options or offering a variety of communications tech apps to accommodate different preferences. Especially for younger employees, having the freedom to work when, where and how they want will help them feel like their contributions are meaningful.

2. Direction

Imagine the difference in an employee’s mindset when they feel like they’re doing a job versus when they feel like they’re engaged in a career. A job may be only a matter of fulfilling tasks whereas a career means progressive achievement, goal setting and long-term engagement.

A study by Employee Benefit News found that the top reason (22%) employees leave is a lack of career development, with 21% of that attributed to a lack of growth opportunities. Growth comes from being given new challenges and learning new lessons along the way. Moments of meaning happen when a person has direction and feels as though they have a say in their future with a company.

Do you know how employees feel about their compensation and what they want from employers? We surveyed 1,000 employees to find the answers.

Read the Full Report

3. Connection

A Gallup poll found that employees who have good personal and professional relationships at work enjoy higher levels of employee engagement, resulting in higher retention. The benefits of emotional connection with peers are hard to measure but easy to see—friendship is something meaningful that money can’t buy.

If your teams are all or partly remote this becomes more difficult, but not impossible. HR can help create moments of connection by being intentional with team interactions. For example, start meetings with a few minutes of personal, non-work catch-up time. Or, if one doesn’t exist already, create a virtual water cooler channel for friendly open chatter. A little bit of effort can go a long way in achieving more meaningful employee experiences.

Final word

Making an employee’s experience at your company meaningful begins even before their first day. From the interview process, onboarding and throughout their continued experience, there are countless ways you can find moments to add meaning.

In the midst of the Great Recession, workers crave social connection and purpose. They want their personal sense of purpose to align with the direction and goals of their organization. If given opportunities to flexibly chart their own career path, your people will stay happy and stick around longer. Look for ways to foster meaningful connections and strive to create an atmosphere aimed at growth.