Written by Lisa Collinson – Chief People Officer and UK Country Manager, TheNextWe

Employee retention and engagement have become pivotal in recent years. As the global talent shortage continues and the quiet quitting phenomenon looms large, businesses are no longer merely worried about the cost of recruitment in the event of employee churn. But the very real threat of being unable to replace lost staff. The emphasis has shifted from attracting new talent to keeping existing team members working and engaged. But it’s a difficult process to manage.

How can you improve employee engagement? How can you build that sense of loyalty that will lead to lasting retention and resilience within your business? And how can you detect potential employee engagement problems before they become a serious issue?

How to identify the priorities and pitfalls of employee retention and engagement

There is no simple one-hit solution for improving employee engagement, and consequently retention. But there are a number of approaches that can help you to build resilience into your business.

Understanding employee behaviour

When you work with children or have children of your own, you quickly learn that the easiest way to tackle behavioural issues is to learn about the principles of antecedents and consequences. But for some reason, we rarely apply the same thinking to adults. If you want your employees to stay with you and to become actively engaged in your business, you have to find out what drives their behaviour and what consequences they receive in the workplace. Why are some team members  disengaged while others appear to be incentivised? How do they feel about your company? What happens to them when they perform well or when they don’t? What can you do to change their mindset. What impact is  company culture having?. It’s only once you really understand these issues that you can seek to address them.

Understanding the power of mindset – from the top-down

Mindset can seem like it’s beyond an employer’s remit. It’s a private thing that it can be difficult to determine, let alone change. But if you can find a way to change self-limiting mindsets, on an individual and team level, you will engender a collective increase in employee engagement. But it’s really important that this is a top-down exercise. Leadership teams are as prone to barrier creation as junior front-line staff. So, finding strategies to help individuals and teams across the board to identify their sticking points and move beyond them, can be truly empowering for all.

The role of company culture

In 2022, we saw a slew of headlines crying out that company culture was more important to employees than pay scale. A Glassdoor survey reported that 77% of respondents consider a company’s culture before applying for a job. While 56% claimed that company culture was more important than salary. While these figures were dismissed by some as reflecting woke millennial values, there is evidence to suggest that having a strong company culture is the best way to prevent employee churn. Making the ability to identify and address business culture problems an imperative in the current business environment.

Addressing performance issues with positivity

Employee performance issues can take many forms and be due to a wide variety of reasons. Which makes handling them with sensitivity and positivity hugely important. Being told that you’re underperforming can be a significant blow to your self-esteem. It can make you feel resentful and undervalued – impacting mindset. If handled badly enough, it can prompt a career change. Finding ways to address performance issues with positivity – offering additional training, suggesting a move to a different department, and an open and compassionate conversation to help you understand what’s causing the problem – can build employee engagement, resilience, and loyalty.

HR Strategy development, implementation, and measurement

And all of these points have to be brought together in a cohesive HR strategy that not only fosters employee development, but helps to implement change, and measure progress. Helping to ensure that any ‘commitment’ to enhancing employee wellbeing and engagement doesn’t just slide away and become a strategic wish list.

Employee engagement and retention are inescapably linked. If your employees are disengaged – whether from their work, their colleagues, or the business as a whole – you will never win their loyalty. They will never perform to their best ability. And you will never get the best from your business.

About the author

Lisa Collinson is Chief People Officer and UK Country Manager, TheNextWe

With a background in HR Strategy development, implementation, and measurement, Lisa Collinson has more than 22 years’ experience in people leadership. An accredited coach and popular speaker and presenter, she has worked across sectors throughout the UK, Europe, and internationally. Supporting businesses with change management, restructuring, and performance management – with an emphasis on behaviourism and why people act the way they do.

Lisa is FCIPD (Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), a Member of the Institute of Training & Occupational Learning (MInstTOL), Applied Behaviour Analysis trained and an APMG Change Management Practitioner, and Member of the Institute of Leadership & Management (MInstLM).