A comprehensive guide to employee retention

5 Strategies for Boosting Employee Retention

It’s no secret. Turnover is one of the most critical issues plaguing public safety, healthcare, and emergency service organizations nationwide. Retention and recruiting rates are at an all-time low. Staff shortages are higher than ever. And every day millions of organizations courageously struggle to stay afloat while providing service to their communities.

What’s driving the spike? More importantly, how can we stop it? Find out the answers to these questions and more in our free white paper, Deconstructing Turnover: Why it Happens, What it Costs, and What You Can Do to Protect Your Organization.

Here’s an excerpt from the Deconstructing Turnover report; 5 Strategies for Boosting Employee Retention.

#1: Bolster Leadership

Too often organizations rely solely on seniority to fill supervisory roles. In turn, those new leaders never receive the training and development coaching needed to succeed in their position. As a result, they employ the same habits and practices as their predecessors without reflecting on ways to improve.

Leadership is more than the sum of your accomplishments. It’s not about the color of your shirt, the stripes on your uniform, or how many letters appear after your name. It’s about showing up with a purpose and inspiring others to stand alongside you rather than behind you.

Leadership fuels your people. It guides them with a firm hand and a gentle push. Good leaders tell people what to do, but great leaders show them how to do it. If leaders don’t recognize excellence, reward creativity and offer constructive feedback, people have no way to gauge their performance and little incentive to give their all.

Supervisors set a precedent and tone for the entire staff. Make sure your leaders recognize more than they criticize, practice what they preach, and listen as much as they talk.

#2: Empower Communication

Articulation and understanding are important in any work environment, but when you’re in the business of saving lives, communication is essential.

That said, how effectively we communicate and how often we choose to do it rarely align with our goals. The intention is there, but for some reason, we seem to fall short on delivery and response.

Is it a transparency issue? Maybe. Or it could be lack of time. Perhaps we’re intimidated by our supervisors or peers. Or we’re hesitant to say what everyone needs to hear.

The truth is: no one is 100% perfect. Feedback is a vital part of how we learn and grow.[*]  We must be able to tell others what we expect of them and understand what’s expected in return. However, that’s not all. People also need to know what they’re doing right and how they can improve; they need to know what they do makes a difference; they need to know they’re not alone in their triumphs or their struggles.

When performance is kept a secret or policies appear fuzzy, it’s impossible to keep moving forward. And in a culture of “ if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen,” transparent communication is beyond mission-critical; it’s vital for survival.

#3: Demand Consistency

Every organization must consistently strive to avoid sending mixed messages to their employees. Instead, values-driven policies should be implemented to ensure success.  Leaders at all levels of the organization must reinforce organizational values and policies at every opportunity. This includes leading by example, so the appropriate course of action is clear. A leader’s conduct and every decision should be a primary illustration of the organization’s values and policy in action.[*]

Have you ever worked in an organization where the rules changed depending on which supervisor was in charge? It’s frustrating, to say the least. After a while, you may find yourself scheduling your off-days to coincide with the names on the duty chart, rather than deal with the aggravation and stress.

It’s not that certain supervisors are better than others, but they may have a way of doing things that doesn’t line up with the way you were taught—or clashes with what you believe. It’s a classic case of inconsistency. This type of conflict and disparity runs rampant in public service organizations. It degrades productivity and incites discord among personnel, supervisors and entire divisions.

What can you do about it? Encourage your organization to develop standard guidelines. Of course, there will be times when the situation dictates a bit of deviation from the norm, but those days should be the exception, not the rule. No matter the circumstance, employees should feel confident that their actions are governed by their organization’s standard operating procedures, not their supervisor’s personal preferences.

#4. Reinforce Accountability

There’s a popular myth in the workplace that asserts the belief that accountability is the same as micromanagement. It’s not. They are two very different words.

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” In contrast, the definition of micromanagement is: “to manage especially with excessive control or attention to details.”

Holding people responsible for their actions isn’t just common sense, it’s a cornerstone of modern society. When supervisors and senior leaders ignore bad habits, poor performance, disrespect or lack of integrity, it’s the same as condoning it. Not only do these behaviors cause negativity and stress in the workplace, but they also drive down productivity.

According to a 2016 survey conducted by research firm, Gallup Inc., unengaged employees, cost companies anywhere between $480-$600 billion dollars a year.[*]

If there are no repercussions or rewards, where is the incentive to do more than just show up? Yes, your best people will take on neglected duties, but for how long? Everyone has a breaking point. Sooner or later even the eternal optimists will lose hope, stop fighting and succumb to an unhealthy organizational culture.

If you want to keep your top performers invested and engaged—it’s time to hold everyone responsible from the top-down.

#5: Affirm Good Performance and Advocate Support

Acknowledging and affirming an employee’s good performance in the workplace is a powerful way to maximize job performance and satisfaction. This can only be accomplished with effective and frequent positive reinforcement.[*]

Creating a culture of continuous feedback utilizing positive reinforcement allows employees to develop, grow and take pride in their work. Environments in which leaders encourage conversations as opposed to lectures have higher retention rates and more positive interactions between supervisory staff and their subordinates.

Productive communication is key. Regardless of ranking, organizations must recognize all staff members as people.

Unlike traditional work relationships, law enforcement, emergency service, and healthcare professionals operate as extended families. They spend holidays together, form bonds through shared experiences, and act as each other’s support system.

As the head of their team, leaders must make it their mission to understand what their employees are going through both on and off the job. When difficult moments arrive, leaders can become a strong source of support for their entire team. Whether they choose to impart wisdom or just listen, empathy and reassurance create opportunities for leaders to earn their employees trust and reinforce organizational support.

Support is critical because organizations do not accomplish goals and objectives by themselves. Organizational accomplishments are achieved through people. Therefore, in order to accomplish organizational goals and objectives in a productive and healthy environment, leaders need to have the courage to embrace excellence, fight mediocrity, say no to the status quo, and strive for a culture where excellence is recognized, rewarded, and becomes the norm.

Conversely, if staff members don’t receive feedback or support from their organization, they withdraw and become stressed. Those involved in law enforcement, emergency services, and healthcare are especially susceptible to burnout and compassion fatigue. Daily exposure to trauma, life-altering events, and split-second decisions that are scrutinized by the media can penetrate even the toughest exterior. Coupled with a toxic work environment, stress can lead to excessive absenteeism and voluntary separation. When that happens, it’s detrimental for both the employee and the organization.

Showing solidarity with those on the front line is paramount for the health of your staff and your organization. If your organization is looking to boost retention, examining your employee recognition and support system is an excellent place to start.


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In this comprehensive 20-page report, we’ll uncover the real cost of losing an employee, examine retention strategies, and discuss how performance management tools are bridging the gap between employment and empowerment.