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Employee attraction and retention efforts need more emotional intelligence, study shows

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The dynamics of employee attraction and retention have shifted significantly in recent years, requiring employers to prioritize employee well-being and satisfaction, according to a July 13 report from the Integrated Benefits Institute, a health and productivity research non-profit.

For instance, employers have reported improvements in retention by implementing a strong onboarding process, flexible work options, increased communication, employee development programs and focusing on diversity and inclusion.

“The research shows the need for both tangible strategies and emotional intelligence in attraction and retention efforts,” Sera-Leigh Ghouralal, a researcher at the Integrated Benefits Institute, said in a statement.

“More and more employees are looking for a holistic package of well-being, meaningful work and customizable benefits,” she said. “Employers offering the ‘whole package’ are going to stand out and be successful in their attraction and retention efforts.”

In the report, employers reported an ongoing struggle with attraction and retention efforts. About 61% of employers said they had difficulty retaining employees, and 73% had difficulty attracting employees. The cost of turnover is equivalent to one or two times the employee’s salary.

In response, employers have adapted their attraction and retention strategies. About 82% of employers reported an improvement in retention by using a strong onboarding process, particularly one that fosters employee engagement and a positive company culture.

Employers also reported appealing to candidates by highlighting their commitment to employee safety, flexible work arrangements and robust support programs. They suggested remaining agile, responsive and proactive to changing trends.

Concrete strategies to use throughout the talent cycle

The Integrated Benefits Institute also consulted with top U.S. employers to craft several recommendations for employee engagement and retention.

Incorporate onboarding as part of the overall engagement strategy

It’s important to guide new employees through the full range of benefits and support services offered. In addition to health benefits, employees should know what’s available in terms of financial assistance, family planning and disability support.

Create meaningful connections during the first year

For a new employee, the first year is critical for engagement, which could include initiatives such as mentorship, regular check-ins and team-building activities. 

Educate frontline supervisors and managers

Make training and professional development a priority for frontline supervisors and managers. This will help them to better recognize and address employees’ needs.

Understand engagement and value feedback

Employers should create an environment where employees not only comprehend their benefits, but also have a voice in determining what is offered. This creates a broader sense of connection, purpose and influence.

Emphasize connection and community

Employers should facilitate genuine connections between employees, colleagues and the organization. This includes both virtual and physical workspaces, especially opportunities that may allow for incidental connections.

The retention imperative

Employee retention has become a major priority for HR, perhaps even more so than acquisition, according to a recent report. High-performing HR teams have focused on building the talent pipeline through learning and development, fostering pay transparency and supporting marginalized employees.

Training leaders to recognize, understand and consider employees’ emotions may also improve retention and employee engagement. Emotional skills training can lead to a drop in the number of sick days taken by employees, as well as improvements in well-being and performance.

Flexible work arrangements — whether remote or hybrid — also seem to be key this year. In fact, mandating on-site work could hurt employee retention, according to a new study. No matter the schedule, though, employees voiced concerns about having fewer opportunities to connect with colleagues and advocated for moments that allow for team-building and celebration.

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