Business Leadership Today

The Art of Retention: Key Strategies for Keeping Your Best Employees


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

Employee retention, a critical aspect of human resource management, refers to an organization’s ability to retain its employees. 

In today’s competitive job market, where we’ve weathered a global pandemic, the ‘Great Resignation, and ‘Quiet Quitting’ and seen a significant shift in workforce dynamics, the importance of employee retention cannot be overstated. 

It is not just about keeping employees within the organization but also about fostering an environment that motivates them to stay—and do great work. 

The key to employee retention is understanding and addressing employees’ diverse needs and aspirations. This involves a combination of competitive compensation, work-life balance, opportunities for career advancement, a positive work environment, recognition of contributions, and a culture of solidarity. 

By focusing on these areas, organizations can retain their employees and enhance their productivity and commitment, thereby gaining a competitive edge in the market.

Understanding the Current Job Market

The current job market is still experiencing the ripple effects of the “Great Resignation.” This term, coined by Anthony Klotz, a professor of business administration at Texas A&M University, describes the elevated rate at which U.S. workers resigned from their jobs starting in the spring of 2021. 

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that 3% of the workforce exited their jobs from April 2020 through March 2022. This trend led to intense competition for workers, reflected in a high number of job vacancies and a lower unemployment rate.

Several factors contributed to the Great Resignation. A significant reason is the pent-up demand from workers who deferred decisions to quit early in the pandemic. As COVID-19 vaccines became widely available and the economy rebounded, hiring picked up, and those workers who had delayed quitting finally felt comfortable about proceeding.

A Pew Research Center survey found that low pay, a lack of opportunities for advancement, and feeling disrespected at work were the top reasons Americans quit their jobs in 2021. The pandemic also led some workers to reevaluate life priorities, reduce working hours, or leave the labor force entirely. 

Other reasons related to the COVID-19 pandemic that led to employees quitting their jobs include the insistence of employers on returning to office work after a period of remote work in 2020, experiences of ill-treatment from employers and customers during the pandemic, and challenges in securing childcare as schools transitioned to remote learning.

These trends will continue to impact retention as they reshape the workforce. Understanding these trends, the reasons behind them, and how they have affected (and will continue to influence) worker priorities is crucial for organizations to strategize their employee retention efforts effectively. 

Key Strategies for Employee Retention

In the quest to retain top talent, organizations must implement effective strategies that address their employees’ diverse needs and aspirations. These strategies range from offering competitive compensation to fostering a positive work environment. 

This section delves into the key strategies for employee retention, namely competitive compensation, work-life balance, career advancement, a positive work environment, and recognition. 

Each of these strategies plays a crucial role in making an organization an attractive place to work, thereby enhancing employee retention.

Competitive Compensation

Offering competitive salaries and wages is a fundamental strategy for employee retention. Compensation is a primary driver of job satisfaction and a key reason employees change jobs. 

Compensation has always been one of the main reasons employees change jobs. While other factors certainly contribute to an increase in turnover these days, compensation, including salaries and benefits, still significantly influences turnover.

The competitiveness of the job market has given workers more leverage when it comes to pay and benefits. Competitive compensation packages help organizations attract and retain top talent. By offering competitive compensation, organizations can minimize recruitment and training expenses

Additionally, when employees feel valued and fairly compensated, they are more likely to stay, leading to better knowledge and skill retention, improved team synergy, and increased productivity.

While offering higher salaries is important, it may not be sufficient to retain employees if it’s not accompanied by benefits that enhance their quality of life. Designing a compensation package that promotes employee retention requires incorporating competitive pay and significant employee benefits.

Competitive compensation goes beyond just providing high salaries. It also involves crafting a comprehensive compensation package that includes appealing benefits and bonuses that meet employees’ needs. This strategy enhances employee satisfaction and increases the likelihood of employees remaining with the organization.

Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance refers to successfully blending personal and professional responsibilities, enabling employees to lead a healthy lifestyle and prevent burnout. 

Work-life balance isn’t merely about evenly splitting time between work and personal life. Instead, it’s about having the flexibility to integrate work demands with personal life in a manner that is most advantageous to the employee. Attaining this balance can lead to improved job satisfaction, enhanced mental health, and heightened engagement. 

Employees who maintain a good work-life balance are less prone to burnout and more likely to find satisfaction in their jobs. This satisfaction can boost productivity and loyalty to the organization, reducing the likelihood of employees leaving.

Organizations with robust work-life balance policies see a 25% increase in employee retention because employees are more likely to remain with a company that respects their personal lives.

Flexible work arrangements, such as the option to work remotely, flexible working hours, and compressed workweeks, can help achieve a better work-life balance. These arrangements offer employees a degree of control over their work schedules and environments, making it easier for them to manage responsibilities outside of work and maintain work-life balance. 

When employees can easily manage personal responsibilities, they are likely to be more productive at work and less likely to leave the organization for a slightly higher salary offered by competitors.

Career Advancement

Career progression is an essential element of a strategy to retain employees. It pertains to the upward movement of an employee’s career trajectory within an organization. Employees are more inclined to remain with a company that provides clear avenues for career development and growth.

Providing training and opportunities for advancement is a concrete indication of a company’s dedication to developing its employees. Career development can boost retention rates by up to 34%. This is because employees often interpret opportunities for career advancement as an indication of the company’s investment in their future. 

When employees perceive a clear career pathway within the organization and that their employer is invested in their professional growth, they feel appreciated. They are more likely to remain with the company.

Furthermore, organizations that invest in programs aimed at building career-related skills are more likely to experience internal mobility, stronger employee retention, and increased organizational agility. An analysis of 32 million LinkedIn profiles revealed a significant correlation between internal mobility and organizational longevity.

However, career progression is not solely about promotions. It also encompasses lateral movements, cross-functional projects, and opportunities to acquire new skills. These experiences can assist employees in expanding their skill sets, enhancing their engagement, and preparing them for future leadership roles.

By offering opportunities for career growth and demonstrating a commitment to employee development, companies can improve job satisfaction, increase engagement, and, ultimately, retain more employees.

Positive Work Environment

Establishing a positive work environment is a crucial tactic for retaining employees because it discourages toxic behaviors that can hurt morale and drive employees to seek out other opportunities. 

A positive work environment cultivates a sense of fellowship, mutual respect, and transparent communication. Such an environment can significantly boost morale, motivation, and job performance.

A positive work environment also fosters a sense of belonging and worth. When employees feel that they are part of a team and that their input is valued, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to the organization.

Additionally, a positive work environment can enhance productivity and attract top-tier employees. Research shows that companies with highly engaged employees can witness a 21% increase in profitability.

However, creating a positive work environment demands effort and dedication from all levels of the organization. It involves promoting open communication, encouraging teamwork, providing opportunities for growth and development, and recognizing and rewarding employees’ efforts.


The practice of recognizing employees is fundamental to their engagement and retention. 

Recognition can be expressed in various ways, from spoken words of praise to structured recognition programs. The goal is ensuring employees feel their efforts are seen and valued.

Recognition can significantly boost morale, motivation, and performance at work. When employees feel recognized and appreciated, they are more likely to find satisfaction in their jobs and less likely to leave the organization.

In addition, recognition contributes to a positive work environment. It cultivates a sense of belonging and worth among employees. When employees feel that they are part of a team and their contributions are valued, they are more likely to be engaged in their work and committed to the organization.

Studies show that companies with robust recognition practices are three times more likely to see an increase in employee retention. Moreover, organizations that invest in recognition programs are more likely to experience internal mobility and increased organizational agility.

However, recognition should not be confined to recognizing positive outcomes or performance. They should also involve recognizing the inherent value of employees. This involves acknowledging the unique skills, perspectives, and contributions that each employee brings to the team.

Building a Culture of Solidarity

Building a culture of solidarity is a crucial strategy for employee retention. A culture of solidarity refers to an environment where employees feel a sense of unity and mutual support. 

It fosters a sense of belonging, enhances collaboration, and promotes shared values and goals. Maintaining a high retention rate contributes to a robust and stable culture, which can, in turn, enhance employee engagement

When team members work together over an extended period, solving problems and tackling challenges, they develop deeper connections. Teams that share such close bonds are more likely to be engaged and committed to achieving common goals.

Another important aspect of fostering a culture of solidarity is to involve employees in shaping their own workplace experience. This concept, known as co-creation, encourages employees to participate in defining their work environment, processes, and culture. 

This strategy not only empowers employees by giving them a sense of ownership and control over their work experience but also promotes innovation and adaptability, as employees are actively involved in devising solutions and improvements.

Building a culture of solidarity and allowing employees to co-create the workplace experience are powerful strategies for employee retention. They foster a positive work environment, enhance employee engagement, and, ultimately, contribute to organizational success.

The Role of Managers in Employee Retention

Managers play a pivotal role in employee retention. The actions and behaviors of managers can greatly impact whether an employee chooses to remain with or depart from an organization. 

A crucial method by which managers can aid in retaining employees is by demonstrating authentic concern and care for their team members.

Authentic care from managers involves being accessible to employees, listening with empathy, and demonstrating respect. When managers are present and attentive to their team members, they can engage in meaningful interactions without distractions. 

Empathetic listening requires understanding both the content and emotions conveyed by employees. Respect is shown by acknowledging the unique value each employee contributes to the team.

Managers can also exhibit care by getting to know their employees on a deeper level and engaging in candid conversations with them. 

This includes understanding their goals, strengths, and areas that need improvement. Open and honest dialogues can address any issues or concerns, fostering a sense of trust and transparency.

However, this authentic care should extend beyond the manager’s immediate team. Managers should strive to create a work environment that is conducive to the retention of employees across the entire organization. 

This involves identifying the potential in employees and providing opportunities for them to grow and contribute in various areas within the organization. By doing so, managers can help cultivate a culture of learning and development, which can further boost employee 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.

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