5 Ways To Attract & Retain Employees without Ping Pong Tables

Retain Employees

Photo Credit: Aleksandrs Karevs

Are you struggling to retain employees?

There is no question that the market for talent is tough. If you’ve been trying to recruit great people, you know that it’s not showing any sign of letting up. But as we level off from the pandemic chaos, we have reached an inflection point of what that means for CEOs and corporate leaders. The important question to be asking is: What can we do right now that will be most effective to attract and retain the best talent? 

You’ve heard what the tech companies did…game rooms, ping pong tables, and massages…but you also know where it got them. In Q1 of 2023 alone we saw over 121,000 layoffs at Twitter, Meta, Microsoft, Salesforce, Google, and others. The very same “hip” companies that bought the ping pong tables. People there may have been having more fun at work, but clearly, it didn’t translate to profits. 

Creating a great place to work isn’t rocket science, but it does require some real focus. Today’s talent doesn’t put up with lousy working conditions, so if you aren’t intentional about this and your competition is, they will walk. They will leave with institutional knowledge and leave you with higher recruiting and training costs. 

You need to create a place where great people can contribute in a meaningful way. The good news is that you don’t need game rooms and taco Tuesdays. Get real, be intentional, and make meaningful investments in things that pay off in attracting and retaining great talent like:

1. Create Trust

The last three years have seen a rise in working from home and job flexibility. Most employees want more freedom not less. Employers are reacting with stricter guidelines and monitoring software. Don’t be pulled into this. Show your people you trust them by letting teams figure out what works best for them and let them self-direct to the degree it makes sense. Set clear expectations and monitor results, not the hours people work. If you don’t trust your people, find people you do trust. 

2. Develop People

Younger generations are not content to work for a paycheck and go home. They want to grow and develop. They want to make a meaningful contribution and learn more about what they are passionate about. It is perhaps counterintuitive, but if you provide development opportunities to make your people more marketable, they will have no reason to leave.

3. Turn Managers Into Leaders

McKinsey’s “War for Talent” study, first done in the 90’s, indicated that employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. Little has changed in that regard, yet it is surprising how few companies provide effective leadership development. This remains an afterthought in most places and there are still hundreds of programs that don’t drive a penny of ROI or behavior change. Your job is to be judicious in selecting programs and designing opportunities that drive behavior change, deliver ROI, and promote new thinking around leadership, not just in theory but in practice. 

4. Expect Tough Conversations

It is nearly impossible to make a meaningful contribution when it is not safe to have the tough conversations and “real issues” are not discussed and resolved. Creating an environment where dissent is not only welcomed but expected and it is safe to put tough issues on the table goes a long way to making people feel valued. You can’t solve what you’re not talking about. This is not so much about safety as it is about developing real skills in raising issues, inviting dissent, candid dialog, and creating business cases that make sense.

5. Teach Managers To Have Career Conversations

Most managers get there by being great at something before they were a manager and precious few of them, even at director and VP levels, are good at helping direct reports figure out what is next for them, what it will take to get there, and what they need to do to build that. Engagement feedback is full of employees asking for career paths and help from HR to get to their next role. When they can’t figure it out, the next recruiter that calls does. You can mitigate this by teaching managers to help their employees sort out what roles they might be a fit for, what skills they need to build, and what sponsorship and advocacy they need. Making this an expectation instead of an afterthought will give you a leg up on your competition for talent, particularly in large multinationals.

If you’re ready to cut the lip service and want to figure out how to get intentional about doing meaningful things to retain employees, call us. It’s what we do.