A new year is upon us and you know what that means—employee evaluations.

Blog by Rachel Janczak, research analyst at the Alliance
Assessing past performance helps employees and managers set targets for future success, certainly, but good organizations understand this time of year also offers the opportunity to further strengthen their retention strategies. Even though retaining quality talent is more cost effective than recruiting from perpetual turnover, only 32% of organizations that participated in the 2019 U.S. Human Services Workforce Trends and Compensation Study reported having a formal retention strategy in place. Of those organizations, 21% reported having an annual budget of $0 to execute their plans. While important, a retention strategy does not need to be a costly plan for an organization, especially for those that have a tight yearly budget.

It’s critical that retention efforts promote equity and inclusion at all levels of the organization, particularly as the workforce continues to change and become more competitive. If employees feel they are at a disadvantage compared to other employees, they may leave for employers who demonstrate more commitment to equitable policies and an inclusive culture. An authentic retention strategy steers clear of bias and isn’t specific to a particular group of employees. Rather, the goal is to establish a sense of belonging for everyone.

Here are four low-cost retention strategies that promote equity and inclusion to consider this year: 

  • Relaxed Dress Code. Gone are the days where employees dress in suits and dresses every day. Organizations can create a policy that encourages employees to dress casually, depending on their job description and plans for the day. Allowing staff to deviate from the gender norms of dress codes and more expensive, specialized clothes lets staff feel empowered and lets staff remain relatively comfortable in the workplace. 
  • Workday Flexibility. Allowing staff to control their work schedule is a great motivator. Encouraging staff to occasionally work from home allows them to get things done without as many interruptions as in office. In addition, organizations are moving away from a rigid 9-5 workday schedule and allowing staff to decide on the times they arrive at and leave work if they get their work done on time. Encouraging flexibility allows employees to stay home with sick family members or work remotely if their transportation isn’t reliable some days. 

  • Coaching and Mentoring. Giving new employees access to a coach/mentor whom has been at the organization for longer can be beneficial when it comes to retention. According to a study by Cornell University, retention rates of minority men and women increase almost 30% if they have a good mentorship. In addition, a study conducted by Deloitte in 2016 noted millennials planning to stay with their employer for more than five years were twice as likely to have a mentor (68%) than not.  
  • Training and Professional Development. Providing professional development opportunities to staff will allow them to grow within instead of seeking external training and development opportunities that may lead them to other jobs outside of your organization. Arranging for staff to produce training programs and/or presentations on areas of expertise will allow them to feel a sense of ownership and loyalty. Those receiving the training will look toward the presenters as subject matter experts and possible mentors. Not all trainings need to be led by executives. A lived experience training by lower level or direct service staff can have just as major of an impact as a researched training by an executive.

While these strategies may not provide a solution to overall retention, they can provide a sense of equity and inclusion to your organizational culture that employees may not feel elsewhere. Not all strategies will work for your organization, but they could be a stepping stone for retention plans that are created specifically to the culture of your organization.  

Opportunities to Learn More

Learn about ways to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in your organization at the 2020 Senior Leadership Conference, Feb. 22-25 in Savannah. Workshop B2: A Frank Productive Conversation about Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion will discuss strategies for creating a positive workforce culture. View all workshops in the Advancing Equity and Human Services Workforce Trends tracks.

To learn more about workforce trends and review data to help benchmark your organization’s retention efforts, get the 2019 U.S. Human Services Workforce Trends and Compensation Study.