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Diving Deep to Understand Effective Employee Retention

Wisetail | 6 min read

In our webinar Uncovering Effective Employee Retention Part I, Putting the Human Back in HR, we talked about all things that pertain to humans and human resources. We were joined by our guest speaker, Dr. Casey Cox, who guided the conversation as we looked at common employee retention mistakes and effective strategies to resolve these issues. Casey is an HR professional experience consultant and has a deep understanding of the psychology of the workplace. 

To kick off our webinar, Casey asked the audience: “What do you think is the biggest factor contributing to employee turnover at your current workplace?”

This poll illustrates a greater need for learning and development solutions in the workplace, and demonstrates the importance of investing in employees’ career journeys. 

This illustrates a greater need for learning and development solutions in the workplace, and demonstrates the importance of investing in employees’ career journeys. 

Casey also wanted to know: “Which retention benefit do you think is the most cost-effective for a company to offer?”

This poll shows most believe that providing flexible work arrangements, and training and development programs are affordable, impactful benefits.

Based on this, most believe that providing flexible work arrangements, and training and development programs are affordable, impactful benefits. This is true, as happier, more capable employees with growth potential are more likely to remain loyal to their company.

A Quick History of Retention Trends

By taking a close look at the evolution of employee retention over the last 60 years, Casey noted that you can see how trends have shifted from lifelong employment to job-hopping. While the term ‘job-hopping’ typically has a negative connotation attached to it, he argues that this trend reveals a growing need for more individualized support and care. 

  • 1960’s. Focus on job security and long term employment. Employees demonstrated lifelong loyalty to a single company. 
  • 1970’s. The knowledge economy emerged, as did an increased emphasis on human capital. This led to the rise of HR departments, employee relations, and talent management.
  • 1980’s. There was a shift to linking pay to individual performance for company success. Employee assistance programs became more popular to address personal issues. 
  • 1990’s. Technology in the workplace led to increased productivity and more flexible work arrangements. Work-life balance and family-friendly policies became more popular.
  • 2000’s. Employee engagement became a focus, and companies invested in training, development, recognition programs, etc.. Efforts to create a positive company culture emerged. 
  • 2010’s. DEI and related initiatives became more popular. Millennials entered the workforce, with a focus on work-life balance, social impact, and personal development. 
  • 2020’s. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a widespread shift to flexible and remote work, and digital collaboration tools. There is an emphasis on well-being, mental health, and resilience. 

Common Retention Myths

To further evaluate common misconceptions about turnover, Casey debunked his three favorite retention myths.

Myth #1: Your mission, vision, and culture keep staff at work. 

Mission, vision, values and culture absolutely matter at work, but Casey believes that “immediate teams are where the magic happens” and have a greater impact on retention. Employees will stay longer if they belong to an inclusive, dynamic team, as opposed to those that have an incredible company culture, but belong to an ill-fitting team. 

Myth #2: Higher turnover is normal and can’t be prevented.

While turnover does happen, mitigating steps can be taken. For example, clear expectations, a supportive environment, and role differentiation are all major factors that ensure success of employees. Such proactive and supportive measures could help minimize retention issues and risks associated with turnover. 

Myth #3: Most of the time, employees leave for more money. 

“While we’re all focused on our cash compensation, one of my favorite phrases is that you cannot take hugs to the bank. Or recognition, for that matter. 

The workforce of today and beyond has a greater focus on one specific question. That question is: ‘Does the company I work for demonstrate, in words and actions, what I care about?’”


Finally, we opened the floor to audience questions. 

Q As a leadership team, we can’t deliver on every single retention strategy. How do we pick and choose the right ones for our team?

A Be introspective and listen. Vulnerability is the first thing to tackle. Coming to your team, saying ‘we want to hear from you, and we want your input.’ This input can provide clarification, understanding, and current state, we need your help with that. So, coming to your team with a we-need-your-help-mindset is extremely important. They’re going to tell you pretty quickly. 

Q How much influence do employees/teams have over employee retention strategy? For example, one aspect/benefit of my role is keeping me at this company but I want more. Do I actually have influence over change?

A Yes! It’s an easy jump to reach the summit called impact, but not wanting to go up that windy road. Going on that journey together, with your immediate manager or supervisor, is one where you can deepen your relationship. Allow them to be an advocate and a champion for you. So I would say first thing if you get something that you love that’s keeping you at your job, or things that are dissatisfying, connect with your manager. They should be the one to support you the best. 

Q I feel our entire retention strategy needs a rehaul. Where do I even start? It feels overwhelming. 

A When we think about vague concepts of employee retention, and we say ‘our employee retention strategy isn’t great’ or ‘it could be better,’ there’s a lot under that umbrella. So, really clearly define the aspects that are going well first, from a strengths based perspective, what’s going well at your organization. Then get really concrete about the things that haven’t gone as well as we’ve hoped, from a leadership or an employee perspective. Once we’ve determined how things have gone, we can start planning a path forward. 

Ready to learn more about the benefits of a solid retention program? Check out the full series – Putting the Human Back in HR. This collection of virtual events aims to bring awareness, inspiration, and action to your people-centric learning and development strategies.

Or dive in, and watch the Part I on demand below.