Finding Creative Ways to Retain Employees Is Perplexing for Businesses

BY Tim Londergan
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More than ever, with two job openings for every person who is unemployed, organizations are scuffling to find creative ways to retain employees. Furthermore, it seems that companies are struggling to engage members of the "participation trophy generation." Undoubtedly, trying to retain unmotivated, entitled and self-​obsessed employees is baffling. Increasingly, the challenges of finding creative ways to retain employees requires managers to praise efforts rather than achievements. In part, what was intended to promote healthy socialization, boost confidence and engage youth in physical activity decades ago, has now become troublesome for employers.

Remarkably, just over one-​third (34%) of employees were engaged at work in 2021, according to Gallup’s U.S. Employee Engagement Study. Further, 16% were actively disengaged in their work and workplace. This compares with 36% engagement and 14% active disengagement in 2020. It’s no wonder hiring managers are exasperated.

The most creative ways to retain employees involve purpose

According to Gallup, keeping and motivating employees in the third year of the pandemic requires a focus on the fundamentals. Perhaps it’s payback for raising a generation that merely had to show up to be rewarded. Or perhaps worker attitudes are simply blowback from raising kids to whom everything was a competition — such as the race for placement in an elite school requiring A‑grades in addition to community service. What’s more, social media has found a way to objectively measure online interactions and even foster competition for pictures of food! Consequently, employers are now responsible for every human aspect of employer-​employee relationships.

Two stories about work

In the New York Times Magazine article, "The Age of Anti-​Ambition," author Noreen Malone, submits there are two stories being told about work right now. First, is the labor-​market story about 11.6 million job openings, resulting in two available jobs for each unemployed worker. The second is about “the emotional relationship of American workers to their jobs and their employers.” Apparently, if the stories are to have a happy ending, companies must resolve how to inject purpose and meaning into the work life of employees.

The purpose of work

For many workers there’s a blurring of the lines between their work world and their personal lives. What’s more, according to Gartner HR research, employees want to feel invested in their organization’s purpose. Roughly half, (53%) want their leaders to take a stand on societal issues they feel strongly about. 70% say it makes them feel included. Consequently, purpose makes employees think of their job as a career rather than just hustling for a paycheck. Organizations should consider broader societal duties when devising creative ways to retain employees.

Goals, progress and recognition

The Great Motivation Reset, from salesandmarketing​.com, outlines creative solutions for employers who are attempting to motivate their teams. For example, psychologist Ayelet Fishbach suggests setting mutually agreed-​upon aspirational goals rather than chores. Fishbach stresses emphasizing the benefits of the achievement over the actions themselves.

Another insight feeds on the power of incremental progress toward a goal. “Each action that leads one closer to a finish line is a powerful motivator to continue making progress. Even an illusion of progress can have a positive impact,” according to Fishbach.

Finally, recognition still matters when it comes to motivating employees. Yes, the participation trophy endures! Intriguingly, the author cites a 34% increase in overall incentive budgets for 2022, according to the Incentive Research Foundation’s 2022 Trends Report. This increase translates to a per-​person spending of $806, up from $764 in the prior year.

Unselfishly, as employers devise creative ways to retain employees, they must focus on what work means and how they can inject purpose, community and improve work-​life balance for their people.

Photo by Ezequiel Garrido on Unsplash