How to Increase Employee Retention - employees in a meeting sitting around a table smiling

How to Increase Employee Retention

Amelia Wilcox
June 17, 2021
October 9, 2022

The biggest problem managers have with employee retention is not knowing what steps to take to improve it.

It's like being on a sinking ship and not knowing where the leak is to fix it. Managers who are losing employees left and right are stumped. And all you're looking for is an answer to the question: Why are my employees leaving?

In this article, learn how to increase employee retention starting today!  

The Basics of Employee Retention

The problem of employee turnover

4 million Americans quit their jobs in April 2021 looking for better work. In 2019, 42 million American employees quit their jobs. That's 27% of the workforce! 2021 is on track to have even higher rates than that.

Losing employees is a problem. In fact, it's several problems rolled into one.

First, there's the cost of employee turnover. According to Gallup, the cost of replacing one employee ranges from about one-half to two times that employee's annual salary—if not more!

Every company loses a good employee once in a while, but when it's a regular occurrence, employee turnover becomes a significant financial burden.

The financial loss includes direct items like PTO payout, loss of productivity when the employee leaves, the cost of bringing in contractors to fill the gap, and the onboarding of a new employee—who may ask for more money.

There is also the less tangible, indirect effects, like the effect on morale for the remaining employees. No one likes to be the last man standing on that sinking ship. So, when employees who haven't considered quitting see their work friends leaving it makes them think twice about sticking with the company.

Along with mental health concerns, employee retention is a top challenge for HR professionals across the world.

Why is it so hard to retain good employees?

The truth is, if you're paying attention, it's not that hard to keep good employees happy. If it seems like an impossible mystery to solve, it could be you're looking in the wrong direction:

Don't ask, "What is it about these employees that they want to leave my company?"

Instead, try asking, "What is it about my company that it can't keep hold of employees?"

There are so many key metrics about what drives employee engagement. So much feedback from workers about what they want to feel satisfied with their job. And tons of research into employee retention and engagement.

Given that wealth of information, the next step is knowing what to do with it.

The solution to high employee turnover

Here's the good news: most employees who leave for another company don't go out in a blaze of glory (or fury) because of one bad day.

Why is that good news? Because it tells you that employees who quit have thought about it for a while, which means there are indicators to look for and areas of possible intervention that could keep employees sticking around.

Related: 5 Major Signs of Burnout, Prevention and Treatment

The main reasons employees leave include conditions like these:

  • poor management
  • poor company culture
  • lack of engagement
  • no prospects of career advancement
  • dissatisfaction with salary
  • concerns about the financial health of the company
  • trouble with coworkers
  • mental health challenges

All of those items are fixable. Some take more work than others, but there are clear solutions to each issue.

Read on for some employee retention strategies to implement in your workplace today!  

Employee Retention Strategies to Implement

Wondering how to increase employee retention? The first step is to ask employees some questions on work-life balance, leadership performance, workload, and culture. This will help you uncover why employee retention might be low. Then, work to improve retention using these 9 strategies. Start with just one or two, and see where that takes you.

1. Offer an employee wellness program

We're a bit biased, but the data backs this up as well. The Optum Wellness in the Workplace study, released in August 2019, found that more than twice as many employers said workplace wellness and wellbeing programs are important to their employee benefits mix! In 2019, only 33% of employers said that wellness and wellbeing programs were important.

On top of that, "nearly 90 percent of employers say they are planning to address stigma surrounding mental health; a similar number are concerned about the level of access to behavioral health services." according to SHRM.

Since the pandemic, about 41% of adults have a diagnosable mental health condition. And there are no signs of that number dropping anytime soon.

Mental health services like therapy work. 75% of people that attend therapy experience some sort of benefit from it, according to the APA.

Offering therapy and other wellness benefits (yoga, meditation, financial coaching) aren't just cool—they are necessary. And top talent is starting to expect them.  

Related: The New Top Workplace Perk – Workforce Wellness Programs

2. Have one-on-one meetings with direct reports

These do wonder at building manager-employee relationships. Encourage all company managers to meet with their direct reports once a week for half an hour. Talk about current projects, problems to solve, and concerns that have arisen. Provide feedback and take some time to talk about things other than work.

This is especially important for remote teams that may not otherwise get that face-to-face time during a normal workday.

You can take this a step further by encouraging managers to start a conversation about mental health. Ask employees how they are truly doing and how they are coping with work stress and work-life balance.

Related: How to Talk About Mental Health in the Workplace

If you're looking to cut back on meeting time and build company culture at the same time, try out Volley—an asynchronous video service. We use Volley over at Nivati to provide our daily updates. Not only is it a great way to keep in touch efficiently—but it also is a great way to get to know everyone on the team a little bit better.

3. Build your culture—together

Culture is best built as a team! Culture at its best is created by everyone—not just management. Let your employees direct the way the culture will go.

At Nivati, we have a group called the Culture Club. Once a month, about half of our employees meet to discuss the state of our company culture today and what we can do to improve it.

It is very difficult to build a culture through screens. But it is possible with frequent communication.

During those first few weeks, it can be extremely difficult as a remote employee. It is hard to navigate a culture that you can hardly see.

Help new employees out by creating a buddy system. Have a more well-seasoned employee reach out to the newbie to check in and provide encouragement.

4. Include employees in the decision-making process

Give employees ownership. This will help employees feel that they are really a part of the organization and its future—helping to increase employee retention.

Encourage employees to come up with new ideas. Don't be afraid to give employees more responsibility. Give them room to grow and enable them to help grow your company.

This also builds trust between employees and management. Employees want to know what is going on at the top.

5. Support one another

Really encourage employees to be there for one another.

Have managers ask for feedback. Tell the team to reach out to new hires to check in. Have mental health dialogues during your team-wide meetings every once in a while. Talk about what is going on in your personal lives and how you've been taking care of yourselves. Encourage employees to ask for time off when they need it—even if it's for a mental health day.

You can even create a Slack channel just for this purpose. Let employees know that they are free to be human!

6. Know how much criticism to give

High-performing teams provide about 6 positive comments for every 1 negative comment to their coworkers.

Employees love getting that positive feedback, but they also need to know how to improve. Encourage managers to send one message a week to one of their direct reports telling them how much they are appreciated. Encourage managers to provide one piece of positive feedback in every one-on-one meeting they have. It may make someone's day!

Plus, positive feedback is great for morale—especially for remote teams. Encourage peers to provide shout-outs or positive feedback as well.

Also, make sure criticism is constructive. Provide your people the tools they need to improve.

7. Encourage innovation and creativity

Create some employee creativity programs in your workplace! Creativity can improve employee mental health and even reduce anxiety and depression.

You can bolster creativity by encouraging employees to listen to music at work. Upbeat music is great for increasing focus, and calming music does wonder for reducing anxiety and stress.

Having a Culture Club is a great way to increase creativity at work. You can also use tools that will help improve creativity. During brainstorming sessions, use whiteboards and sticky notes to map out new systems and ideas.

Meditating with your team can also increase creativity while reducing stress at the same time.

8. Revaluate company leadership

82% of employees think that the managers and executives they work with are lacking in leadership skills. Yet, most leaders think they are doing a great job leading.

Considering poor management is one of the main reasons people leave their jobs, this is unacceptable!

Try sending out a survey to your employees and ask them about how they think leadership is doing. Ask them directly for their feedback, and truly listen. Act on their requests when you can.

There's a pattern here—improve employees wherever you can, even at the top. And ask for feedback!

Consider training managers more on leadership skills and mental health.

Related: The Nivati Manager Training Handbook

9. Improve work-life balance

About 11% of the American workforce works 50 or more hours every week.

Here are some common barriers to work-life balance, inspired by Small Business Trends. These barriers are caused by the thoughts or attitudes the employee has.

  • Perfectionism
  • Work as an employee's identity
  • Being "on" or available 24/7
  • Thinking about work when not at work
  • Mistaking being busy for being productive

To remove some of these barriers, talk about them! Have an open dialogue with employees are burnout and work-life balance. Have a therapist talk to your team about these topics. Have managers talk about work-life balance with their direct reports. Ask employees how they are coping and how you can help them find a better balance. Make it clear that you care about them and be empathetic—always!

Here are some common barriers to work-life balance that employers cause:

  • Heavy workloads
  • Company culture
  • Pressure from managers

Talk to your company leaders about these problems. Remember the survey we recommended in #8? Include work-life balance in there. See where work-life balance stressors are coming from for your workforce. Revaluate your culture. Talk about culture with your team.

We get it, some of this costs money. And most companies don't have "extra" funds laying around with nothing to do. But creating a culture employees want to stick around for is important.

Related: How to Keep Company Culture Strong When all Employees are Remote

In the long run, excessive employee turnover is already costing you money. So it's worth it to prioritize fixing the problem overpaying for it on the other side.

We are the #un-eap – and you’ll see why! We are the ultimate workforce wellness platform.

We have a quick turnaround – we can get all your employees set up with us in 48 hours. It only takes minutes to set an appointment with a therapist or any Nivati practitioner. Our utilization rates are the highest in the industry.

We make mental health support easy—for employees and employers alike.

See how Nivati can help support your employees and increase retention. Request a demo today!


By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox
Amelia Wilcox is the Founder and CEO of Nivati, a leader in corporate massage and employee mental health support since 2010. Her high-growth B2B company provides employee stress management tools that arm businesses with actionable data and positive employee experiences to improve wellbeing, boost morale, and increase engagement. Amelia has exponentially grown her company from a solo living-room service business to an international technology brand.