Experts: To Reduce Employee Turnover, Start a Wellness Conversation

A recent ASAE/Avenue M Group text poll found that organizations with lower turnover rates are looking beyond compensation and discussing professional development and health benefits with workers.

Employee retention is still a challenge at associations, and experts recommend that supervisors hold deeper conversations with workers to better understand what will keep them from leaving.

A March text poll of association executives and HR professionals, conducted by ASAE and Avenue M Group, found that the Great Resignation was still an issue in 2022, with a majority of associations reporting double-digit turnover rates. The plurality of respondents—35 percent—reported that their turnover rates were between 11 and 20 percent last year. Forty-seven percent reported lower turnover rates; 18 percent reported higher rates.

To understand the factors that are prompting employees to leave, said Amanda Haddaway, managing director of HR Answerbox, employers should use at least two methods to surface potential concerns. One is engagement surveys, which ask questions about the organization’s culture, compensation, benefits, rewards and recognition, and more. Such surveys should be brief and consistent.

Employers are increasingly managing the whole person.

Amanda Haddaway, HR Answerbox

“It’s not something you do one time a year, or one time every couple of years,” she said. “You’re checking on the organization and its culture to address issues before they become catastrophic.”

Paired with that general measurement of employee engagement, Haddaway said, supervisors should also conduct “stay” interviews with key workers. In contrast to an exit interview, conducted after an employee has announced their departure, stay interviews are designed to surface concerns and encourage them to stay on the job. 

“You’ll ask them things like, ‘What’s going well for you? What challenges are you experiencing that I can help you with as your manager?’” she said. “If you’re feeling really brave, you can ask, ‘What would prompt you to leave the association?’”

Stay interviews don’t have to be formally announced and scheduled as such, Haddaway noted; the core questions are ones managers might ask in the course of routine check-ins. “I encourage managers that I work with to have at least monthly one-on-one meetings to talk uninterrupted about those top-of-mind issues,” she said. “The really astute supervisors are the ones who can sneak in those stay interview questions as a part of that one-on-one conversation.”

Those conversations are likely to show that a sense of appreciation and attention to wellness are key to retention. According to the ASAE and Avenue M poll, one organization that experienced a turnover rate above 30 percent has year has adjusted by offering “manager effectiveness training and health and wellness programs, [and] also adjusted salaries, conducted retention interviews, and balanced workloads.” Another, with a low turnover rate, reported that they have “an increased focus on mental health, allow 100 percent remote work, and flexible work schedules.”

“Employers are increasingly managing the whole person,” Haddaway said. “They’re concerned about an employee’s mental health and well-being and their psychological safety. They’re finally realizing that employees have whole other lives outside the workplace. We are whole humans, and need to be managed as such.”

[mohd izzuan/iStock]

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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