How to Find and Retain Great Employees: Winning the Talent Competition

Strategies to turn the Great Resignation into the Great Retention.

In terms of retention and hiring, this could be the biggest challenge businesses have faced in decades: A whopping 95% of workers are considering leaving their current job, according to a survey conducted by the job site Monster. Many began contemplating the meaning of work and life during the pandemic, leading to what is being called the Great Resignation. 

Ongoing labor shortages for key skill sets and high turnover rates have heaped growing pressure on employers. It’s time to look at innovative ways to address your team’s major concerns to retain talent. 

“There are many opportunities for agile companies in today’s labor market,” says Janice Deskus, chief HR officer at Staples. “Smart executives recognize that it’s possible to pivot to meet evolving workforce needs and preferences in ways that create advantage for employers.”

Here are five reasons workers are leaving their jobs—and how you can entice them to stay.

Challenge #1: Burnout 

The past couple of years have been tough on everyone. Many of those who work from home feel isolated and struggle to balance work and life issues—even with flexible hours. And employees who have returned to the office part time or full time are struggling to navigate another wave of change.

Solution: Actively support your employees. 

This is an ideal time for a complete reboot: Rethink roles, processes, collaboration and office configurations for hybrid work. Help employees working remotely set up a good home office and consider providing a stipend for office supplies. 

There’s also a need for managers to take an active interest in employees’ lives and careers. Only 9% of workers think that talking to their boss about career advancement will make a difference, while 34% believe the problem would be solved with a new job, according to Monster. 

“It’s important to examine work situations and ask people how they’re doing,” advises Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. She suggests offering counseling, workshops and training about how to balance work and life and cope with stress. 

It’s time to take a holistic approach, agrees Archana Shetty, an executive leadership and team coach. This includes encouraging workers to unplug on nights and weekends. “Look into creating better employee experiences, where people feel valued and excited about staying,” she says. 

A return to the office, even part time, can help some workers, says Jeff Kortes, an employee retention speaker who advises companies. “A lot of people have suffered from the lack of social interaction during the pandemic. In-person interaction may help.” 

The majority of workers (62%) want to return to the office at least occasionally, and 4 in 10 feel burned out when they work from home, according to Ipsos.

Challenge #2: A lack of flexibility 

Too many companies and managers cling to traditional work models. They force employees to live in the same city or work five days a week in the office. As a result, talent flees. 

Solution: Give staff options. 

“People are a lot happier when they have some level of autonomy over their worklife and their schedule,” Salemi says. She suggests allowing people to experiment with hybrid and alternative work situations and measuring productivity under each scenario. “You can always go back to the old way of doing things,” she says.

People are a lot happier when they have some level of autonomy over their worklife and schedule
— Vicki Salemi, career expert, Monster

Employers must think differently about jobs—particularly thanks to videoconferencing and advancements in remote computing, Deskus says. That might mean allowing flexibility in where and how work gets done. “In an era of talent shortages, it makes sense to find excellent talent wherever you can,” she adds. “This could be anywhere in the country or even the world.” 

You should also establish terms that work for all of your team members, Deskus says. For one person, this might be permanent remote work while for another it may be nonconventional hours or job sharing.

Challenge #3: Not feeling appreciated 

Too many employees think they are taken for granted or are merely cogs in a giant wheel. Workers who feel unappreciated are far more likely to find a new job. 

Solution: Strive for a culture of gratitude. 

It’s a simple solution but one that’s too often overlooked: Offer praise when someone performs well. In addition, take all suggestions seriously—and consider rewarding employees when they come up with a good idea that gets implemented. 

Gift cards or dinner at a favorite restaurant can also go far to foster goodwill, Salemi says. 

When determining perks and benefits, consider teammates individually, Deskus says. “A single person living in a downtown city apartment is very different than a married person with children. It’s important to address the needs of different people appropriately.” For instance, you could request your company provide local entertainment discounts for the one employee and subsidize child care for the other. 

This process of reevaluating compensation and benefits must be continual to better determine how to support employees, Deskus adds. Some companies are expanding healthcare coverage, for example. “Address the things that are most important to employees,” she says. 

Challenge #4: No clear career path 

Most workers (86%) are concerned their careers are stalling out, according to Monster. About 30% of workers are willing to look for a new job because they feel there’s a lack of opportunity in their current position. 

Solution: Be invested in your employees’ career development. 

“Problems arise when there is lack of transparency and clarity around role expectations and career path,” Shetty warns. Consequently, it’s critical to establish clear career paths and make sure that employees understand what education, training and skills are required to reach their goals. 

Check in with your reports regularly to give them constructive feedback and help them hit milestones. Provide opportunities to cross-train and learn new skills within clearly defined career development paths. 

As an employer, you must alleviate fears by communicating that those who take advantage of alternative work options won’t be viewed negatively. Monster found that 63% of respondents worry that hybrid work environments will slow their career growth. 

Problems arise when there is lack of transparency and clarity around role expectations and career path.
— Archana Shetty, executive leadership and team coach

Challenge #5: A mismatch in values 

Employees are increasingly looking to hitch their wagon to a company that represents their values. In many instances, this translates into taking a stance on social issues, whether that’s having green policies, an inclusive culture or support for civil rights. Companies that disregard this trend may find it harder to recruit and retain talent—especially millennial and Gen Z workers. 

Solution: Take initiative—and follow through. 

“There’s growing pressure on employers to highlight their commitment to sustainability, diversity and other social values,” Salemi explains. “People want to feel good about working at a company that makes a difference.” This might take the form of a carbon-reduction program or commitments to hire and promote a more diverse workforce. 

Of course, an organization must follow through on its promises. “You want to make sure you’re a company people are proud of and one that represents their values,” Deskus explains.

You want to make sure you’re a company people are proud of and one that respects their values.
— Janice Deskus, chief HR officer, Staples
3 Ways to Attract and Retain a Diverse Workforce

1. Focus on a culture of inclusion. Make your workplace safe and attractive to all. Provide sensitivity and bias awareness training. Take all reports of a problem seriously and hold people accountable, and institute anonymous reporting systems. 

2. Create opportunities for all. A good way to showcase this is with a management team that’s diverse. But it extends to inclusive hiring practices, advancement opportunities, diversity metrics and feedback, including surveys. 

3. Broaden your search. Extend recruiting to a larger set of platforms, universities and organizations. “Create the broadest possible net,” says Janice Deskus, chief HR officer at Staples. And don’t limit yourself geographically—sometimes the best talent isn’t in your town.

Incentives You’ve Never Thought of Before

“Competing for talent is really about creating a winning and collaborative culture, embodying your core values and having an inspiring mission that people want to be part of,” says Archana Shetty, an executive leadership and team coach. Here are 10 perks and work culture ideas you may have overlooked: 

1. Free subscriptions to movie or music streaming services 

2. A breakroom with video games 

3. Movie, book and other social clubs 

4. Cook-offs and brewing contests with prizes, such as spending an evening with a celebrity chef or a brewmaster 

5. Company-wide sports leagues, walking competitions and 5Ks 

6. Cooking classes or themed group cook-and-dine nights 

7. Pet-friendly policies 

8. Subsided exercise equipment for the home 

9. Team volunteer days 

10. Free haircuts, manicures, dry cleaning 

Images by C.J. Burton/Getty Images, Tom Werner/Getty Images, 10,000 Hours/Getty Images, People Images/Getty Images, Marko Geber/Getty Images