How to Retain Employees, Stay Competitive in Today’s Job Market

The tight labor market and high number of employees looking for new jobs has made news recently. For associations that don’t have the ability to offer high salaries to compete, embracing remote work, focusing on core values, and expressing gratitude can boost retention and attract new hires.

If you read any news about the job market, the clear consensus is it’s a tough one. Not only is it hard to find qualified people, but current employees also are willing to leave—one poll suggests 95 percent are considering a job change. Many associations, especially those who just squeaked through the worst of the pandemic financially and are in no position to compete through high salaries, are looking for ways to keep talented employees and be competitive in this market if an employee does leave.

Experts say it’s not all about the money in a market like this. “The post-pandemic employment environment has changed,” said Richard Tarpey, assistant professor of management at Middle Tennessee State University. “Employees have new expectations and new desires.”

Some of those desires relate to what employees have found during the pandemic, said Christine Pearson, professor of global leadership at Arizona State University. “There has been a restructuring for many people of the balance between work and home and self and, possibly, their community as well,” she said.

Remote work has been a big part of this restructuring and something employees are craving. A Zippia poll found 63 percent of employees want remote work. Pearson said organizations need to take this seriously and look into accommodating workers.

“In many cases, organizations have thrived with remote work, and yet some of those same organizations are trying to push people back to the way things were before,” Pearson said. “I think that’s one of the reasons why people are not only wiling to leave, but also looking to leave.”

Organizations who committed to long-term leases before the pandemic or own their buildings are often reluctant to let them go, even if workers have performed well remotely. “In the short term, getting out of the lease is going to cost you, but trying to force people back in the workforce because of that is just the kind of thing that is going to push them away,” Pearson said. “Part of it is looking at how and why you value your employees. Find out what it’s going to cost if employees are leaving. You can put dollar figures to those types of things. Sometimes when you do that, owning a building or having a big lease pale by comparison.”

Core Values, Training, Gratitude Important

In addition to offering employees some of the flexibility that they enjoyed during the pandemic, organizations can help retain workers by focusing on core values, providing opportunities for growth, and showing gratitude.

“For many people, it’s less about the lack of a big bonus or lack of a raise for another six months, if they feel like they’re being treated well in the organization,” Pearson said. “When you don’t have the money to draw people in, look at the genuine core values that the organization has, and ask: Does the organization live according to those core values? A lot of people will come for that.”

Tarpey added that employees also want more opportunities to grow at their organization. “Employee development is a high priority these days,” he said. “Companies need to analyze their employee development programs and ensure that opportunities exist at all levels of employees they seek to retain.”

Additionally, Pearson said it’s important to express gratitude for your employees. “This is a time to be genuinely grateful to your employees,” she said. “It’s great if you can reward them in some material sort of way, but even the fact that you are grateful for what they have done can be very helpful in pulling the organization back together.”

She noted that gratitude can also be shown by inviting employees to help chart the post-pandemic course for your association. “Bring the people to whom you’re grateful into the conversation of shaping your organization to the next normal,” Pearson said.

Because of the fluid job market and the pandemic confidence that many employees gained, organizations are going to lose some people, but Pearson said not to panic. “Some of it you will not be able to stop,” she said. “There may be an offer you couldn’t meet no matter what.”

The important thing is to ask employees why they’re leaving and determine if it is something that can be changed. “If you’re running your organization well, it would make sense to have discussions about why they’re leaving, and hopefully, where you might be able to do an intervention.”

What has your association done to help make it a place where employees want to stay? Share in the comments.

(HAKINMHAN/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Rasheeda Childress

By Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is a former editor at Associations Now. MORE

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