Business Leadership Today

Retention Roadblocks: Identifying and Overcoming Problems in Employee Retention


Matt Tenney, Author of Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process

Attracting and retaining highly skilled workers is essential for organizational success. Yet, it remains a challenge for many organizations as they compete in the new talent market and struggle to combat turnover amidst shifting worker priorities and expectations. 

Employee retention refers to an organization’s ability to retain its employees over a prolonged period. It reflects the strategies and practices that encourage employees to stay with the organization for the long haul.

High employee retention rates contribute to a wealth of institutional knowledge, promote a strong company culture, and drive business performance. 

In contrast, high turnover rates can lead to increased recruitment and training costs, a loss of productivity, and a potential decline in morale among remaining employees due to increased job stress and inadequate staffing.

High turnover has long been a challenge for companies but grew to a fever pitch during the pandemic. In the aftermath of the Great Resignation, organizations need new and better approaches to retention. 

To identify the right strategies for increasing retention, we must first address the problems in retention that are driving turnover. 

The top problems in retention include limited advancement opportunities, inadequate compensation, poor work-life balance, lack of recognition, toxic work environments, and ineffective leadership. Tackling these issues is essential for cultivating a loyal, productive workforce and increasing retention.

In the following sections, we will delve deeper into the concept of employee retention, explore how it is measured, identify common problems in retention, and discuss effective strategies to enhance employee retention. 

What Does Employee Retention Mean?

Employee retention is a comprehensive term that represents the array of strategies, policies, and practices that organizations implement to prevent their employees from leaving and keep them engaged. It’s a critical aspect of human resource management aimed at maintaining a stable and productive workforce. 

Employee retention goes beyond the physical presence of employees in an organization. It gives insight into the psychological aspects of employees’ work experiences and their emotional connection to the organization. 

It’s about creating an environment where employees feel they are a valuable part of the organization and their contributions are recognized and appreciated.

Employee retention is a reflection of an organization’s ability to create a work environment that not only fulfills the professional needs of its employees, such as career growth opportunities and fair compensation, but also caters to their personal needs and aspirations. 

This could include work-life balance, a positive workplace culture, and opportunities for personal development.

Employee retention involves fostering a sense of belonging and loyalty among employees. 

This means creating a workplace where employees feel valued and respected, their contributions are recognized and rewarded, and they can see a clear path for career growth and development. 

It’s about ensuring that employees are emotionally and psychologically invested in the organization, which can lead to increased job satisfaction, higher productivity, and ultimately, better retention rates.

Effective employee retention is about understanding and addressing the diverse needs of employees, creating a positive and supportive work environment, and building solid and lasting relationships between the organization and its employees. 

It’s a continuous process that requires ongoing effort and commitment from the organization. But the benefits—a loyal, motivated, and productive workforce—are well worth the investment. 

Impact of Employee Retention on an Organization’s Performance and Culture

Employee retention practices significantly influence an organization’s performance and culture. When an organization successfully retains its employees, it reaps the benefits of their accumulated experience and knowledge. 

Long-term employees have a deep understanding of the organization’s processes, systems, and culture, which enables them to perform their roles more efficiently and effectively.

High employee retention rates contribute to a robust and cohesive company culture. Employees who have been with an organization for a significant amount of time tend to be more committed to the organization’s values and goals. 

This commitment can foster a sense of community and belonging, which can further enhance employee satisfaction and retention.

High turnover rates can disrupt the organization’s operations and negatively impact its culture. The constant need to recruit and train new employees can strain the organization’s resources, leading to inconsistencies in service delivery and potential gaps in skills and knowledge. 

High turnover rates can also create a sense of instability within the organization, which can affect employee morale and productivity, and potentially lead to a cycle of high turnover.

High turnover rates can have external impacts as well. They can affect the organization’s reputation in the job market, making it more challenging to attract top talent. They can also impact relationships with clients or customers, especially if they frequently interact with employees who leave.

Employee retention plays a pivotal role in an organization’s success. It’s not just about preventing employees from leaving the organization physically; it’s about creating a supportive and engaging work environment that motivates them to stay and perform at their best. 

How Do You Measure Employee Retention?

Measuring employee retention involves several key metrics that provide insight into the effectiveness of an organization’s retention strategies. Here are some of the most commonly used metrics:

Retention Rate

Employee retention rate is the percentage of employees that remain with the organization over a given period. It is calculated by dividing the number of employees who stayed throughout the period by the number of employees at the start of the period, then multiplying by 100. 

A good retention rate is 90% or higher and indicates successful retention strategies and low turnover. Organizations can also consider “retention rate per category” and break the numbers down by department, role, demographic, etc. 

Turnover Rate

This is the opposite of the retention rate. It measures the percentage of employees who leave the organization over a given period. 

The turnover rate is calculated by dividing the number of employees who left during the period by the average number of employees during that period, then multiplying by 100. A high turnover rate suggests issues with employee retention.

Voluntary Turnover Rate

This metric specifically measures the rate at which employees voluntarily leave the organization. It excludes those who leave due to retirement, layoffs, or other involuntary reasons. 

It is calculated in the same way as the turnover rate but only considers voluntary departures.

Tenure Length

This measures the average length of time employees stay with the organization before leaving. It can help identify if there are issues with retaining new hires versus more tenured employees.

What Are the Problems in Retention?

Employee retention is a complex issue with many contributing factors. Here are some of the most common challenges organizations face in retaining employees:

Lack of Career Advancement Opportunities

It is crucial for organizations to offer clear career advancement opportunities for their employees. 

When employees feel that they have reached a dead-end in their careers and there is no scope for growth and development, it can lead to a sense of dissatisfaction and a lack of motivation. This may eventually result in employees looking for better opportunities outside the organization. 

Organizations need to have a well-defined career growth plan and provide regular training and development opportunities to help their employees reach their full potential and achieve their career goals.

Inadequate Compensation

Compensation isn’t the key to retaining or engaging employees, but it will continue to play a pivotal role in determining job satisfaction among employees. 

When workers feel that they are not being adequately compensated for their efforts, they may become more inclined to consider leaving the organization. Employees won’t be engaged or loyal to an organization if they can’t meet their financial needs. 

Ensuring fair and appropriate compensation can be an effective way to retain valuable talent and maintain a positive work environment, but it’s only one piece of the retention puzzle. 

Poor Work-Life Balance

In our rapidly evolving world, it has become increasingly crucial to maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life. People who find it challenging to balance their work and life may face negative consequences such as burnout and dissatisfaction. 

As workers’ needs and priorities shift, work-life balance has grown more important to them. When they can prioritize and manage their time effectively to achieve a well-rounded and fulfilling life, they will be happier in their jobs and less inclined to leave.

Lack of Recognition

It is important for employers to acknowledge their employees’ contributions and hard work. 

When employees feel that their efforts are not recognized or appreciated, it can lead to a decrease in motivation and engagement. To ensure that employees stay motivated and engaged, employers should take steps to recognize and reward their employees’ achievements

This can include offering verbal praise, providing tangible rewards, or creating opportunities for professional growth and development. By recognizing and valuing their employees, employers can foster a positive and productive work environment.

Toxic Work Environments

A work environment that is negative or toxic in nature can have a major influence on employee satisfaction and lead to a high rate of turnover. Factors such as poor leadership, inadequate communication, or a culture that is not inclusive can contribute to creating such an environment. 

It is important to address these issues to ensure a work environment that is conducive to productivity and employee well-being.

Ineffective Leadership

According to Gallup’s “State of the American Manager Report,” one in two employees has quit their job because of a bad boss at some point in their career. In addition, 70% are thinking about and/or actively looking for a new job due to a lack of support and recognition. 

Poor leadership behavior can lead to decreased productivity and reduced employee commitment, and it can negatively affect a company’s reputation. Leaders who lack emotional intelligence, show bias, disrespect, or intimidate their employees can create a toxic work environment. 

This can lead to low morale among employees, which in turn can lead to low productivity, increased absenteeism, and more turnover. 

Addressing these issues is crucial for improving employee retention. By understanding and tackling these challenges, organizations can create a more supportive and engaging work environment, leading to higher employee satisfaction and retention.

Effective Employee Retention Strategies

Implementing effective employee retention strategies is crucial for any organization aiming to maintain a stable and engaged workforce. Here are some strategies that can improve employee retention:

Offering Competitive Benefits

In addition to providing fair and competitive compensation, organizations can offer a range of benefits to make employees feel valued and cared for. 

These benefits could include health insurance, which provides a safety net for employees and their families; retirement plans, which help employees secure their future; and paid time off, which allows employees to rest and recharge. 

Other benefits could include wellness programs, tuition reimbursement, volunteer time, and employee assistance programs. These benefits not only enhance the overall compensation package but also show the organization’s commitment to the well-being of its employees.

Providing Opportunities for Professional Development

Organizations can invest in the professional growth of their employees by offering regular training programs, workshops, and seminars. These opportunities allow employees to enhance their skills, stay updated with industry trends, and feel more competent in their roles. 

Professional development opportunities can also include mentorship programs, job rotation, and opportunities for lateral or vertical movement within the organization.

By investing in their employees’ growth, organizations can boost employee satisfaction, performance, and retention.

Fostering a Positive Work Environment

The work environment plays a significant role in employee retention. Organizations can foster a positive work environment by promoting teamwork, inclusivity, and open communication. 

This could involve team-building activities, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and platforms for open dialogue. 

A positive work environment where employees feel comfortable, respected, and heard can enhance employee engagement and loyalty.

Recognizing and Rewarding Employees

Recognition and rewards are powerful tools for boosting employee morale and motivation. Regularly acknowledging employees for their hard work, achievements, and contributions shows that the organization values their efforts. 

Recognition can be as simple as a word of praise during a team meeting, a thank-you note, or an employee of the month award. Rewards could include bonuses, raises, or other perks. 

Recognition and rewards not only make employees feel appreciated but also encourage them to continue performing at their best.

Implementing Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexibility in work arrangements is increasingly important in today’s work environment. 

Allowing flexible work hours or remote work options can help employees achieve a better work-life balance. It shows that the organization respects its employees’ personal lives and understands that everyone has unique circumstances and needs. 

Flexible work arrangements can lead to increased job satisfaction, reduced stress, and higher retention rates.

Leadership Development

To avoid the turnover that can result from ineffective leadership, ensure you are providing leaders with the tools they need to lead well by offering leadership development opportunities. 

Leadership development plays a crucial role in enhancing employee retention. Engaging leadership programs can make employees feel more connected to their work and the organization, leading to increased job satisfaction and reduced turnover. 

Leadership development programs also help employees unlock their full potential and gain a better understanding of their role within the organization. By providing opportunities for growth and learning, leadership development can help employees feel valued and invested in the company.

Leadership development focuses on leveraging employees’ strengths rather than fixing their weaknesses, which can make employees more engaged and productive. Implementing a scalable leadership development initiative across an organization can help build a stronger talent pipeline that supports both engagement and retention.

Matt Tenney has been working to help organizations develop leaders who improve employee engagement and performance since 2012. He is the author of three leadership books, including the groundbreaking, highly acclaimed book Inspire Greatness: How to Motivate Employees with a Simple, Repeatable, Scalable Process.

Matt’s ideas have been featured in major media outlets and his clients include numerous national associations and Fortune 500 companies.

He is often invited to deliver keynote speeches at conferences and leadership meetings, and is known for delivering valuable, actionable insights in a way that is memorable and deeply inspiring.

Others Recent Articles and Podcast Episodes

Struggling to retain good employees?

Get a free video training that will help you cut turnover in half in just a few months.