Even in a tough job market, employers are struggling to keep their key talent. In many cases, these key employees are lacking some of the benefits they have come to expect, such as merit increases, bonuses and work-life benefits, which is causing them to look for employment elsewhere, says Rose Stanley, work-life practice leader at WorldatWork, a nonprofit human resources association focused on compensation, benefits and work-life.
However, by creating an engaged workforce, employers can prevent voluntary turnover, and a large part of doing so is offering a flexible work environment.
“There are jobs out there even in this tight market, and those who are getting those jobs are the good employees,” Stanley says. “The key-talent employees know they have more options than those who are less engaged.”
In fact, according to a WorldatWork survey on workplace flexibility, there is a direct correlation between voluntary turnover and flexible work arrangements. On the left are the employers that offer no flexibility, Stanley says, while employers on the right offer an entirely flexible work culture. Most employers fall somewhere in between.
Of the employers that offer flexible work arrangements, those that train managers as well as employees tend to have the most success, Stanley says. Employees often work different hours in remote locations as part of flexible work arrangements, and managers must be prepared to oversee these situations, just as employees need to know how to handle themselves if they are to be successful. When both sides understand how to manage a flexible work environment effectively, they can improve their trust and working relationship with each other, creating a more engaged work force.
“When managers are trained, it develops a trust relationship between the manager and the employee, and those employers have better success at keeping employees,” Stanley says. “If an employee were to leave, an employer can always throw money at them, but that has diminishing return. You can still move to another organization, get a raise and even get a flexible culture, but the monetary amount usually stays the same at least until another year, but a flexible work environment is all the time and fits within their schedule.”
These successful employers also brand their flexible work environments by highlighting them during the recruitment process and promoting them internally, Stanley says. For a flexible working environment to be truly engrained in corporate culture, employees must feel comfortable talking to managers about creating this type of arrangement and see leadership embrace it.
Along with a flexible work environment, employers should offer career development paths to encourage engagement, Stanley says. Engaged employees are always looking to better their careers, but if the opportunities are not available, they are likely to turn to another employer. A career development path doesn’t necessarily have to lead to higher positions; lateral positions also allow employees to improve upon other skills while still finding success.
“Especially in this economy when you have compensation issues and benefit issues, employees want to know they have movement capability,” Stanley says. “They do not want to be stagnant; they want to be engaged with their work and feel challenged.”
While wellness programs have been a popular method for improving engagement over the past few years, more employers are transitioning to well-being programs, which not only incorporate physical health but mental and financial health, as well, Stanley says. Stress is one of the top problems employees face; thus, employers are offering ways to cope, such as yoga classes and on-site massages. To manage employees’ financial health, more employers are going beyond the traditional retirement financial class and providing seminars on how to get out of debt and how to make a budget.
Employers should also take the time to conduct surveys on the corporate culture and engagement, but it doesn’t stop there, Stanley says. Once an employer finds out what its employees want, it should make an effort to provide some of those elements into the corporate culture.
“Employers need to show they will act on what they find out if they can,” Stanley says. “You can’t please everyone, but you want to make the best match possible to keep that critical talent.”