Due to the sky-high cost of employee turnover, most companies are actively seeking strategies to retain their best employees. The problem is, most of the literature available on this subject is lamentably basic. So-called experts prescribe business-improving ideas that don’t hold a candle to the challenge of retaining talent in a competitive market.
“Provide fair compensation!” “Hire the right people!” “Create opportunities for career growth!”
Newsflash: Enterprise CEOs are already doing these things. These ideas are foundational to running a good business in the twenty-first century. They’re not innovative employee retention strategies by any stretch of the imagination.
To uncover the best, most cutting-edge retention techniques, we have to look at real-life corporate examples—companies that are ahead of the game with their employee management tactics, and who are offering new and exciting incentives to influence retention. When it’s socially acceptable (and even expected) for employees to move jobs every two years, employers have to get creative to improve their retention rates. These four companies are doing just that.
4 Innovative Employee Retention Strategies
The following examples were selected due to their effectiveness, boldness, and novelty. These strategies are harbingers of change in the corporate HR world. They should encourage you to think outside the box, take measured risks, and make changes that will ultimately benefit your employees and your bottom line.
A necessary caveat: These specific ideas won’t work for every company, but they do show us what’s possible. Use what you can and take inspiration from the rest.
Patty McCord was famous as the chief talent officer at Netflix from 1998 to 2012. According to the Harvard Business Review, her “keeper test” for making employee retention decisions reinvented the HR industry. The test was simple but effective: if a manager couldn’t affirm that they would fight to keep a particular employee around, they terminated the employee outright. This radical strategy was eventually applied to Patty herself, costing her the position. However, the keeper test effectively helped Netflix achieve remarkably low voluntary exit rates.
Netflix’ current employee retention strategy is just as revolutionary. They now use a tool called “360” and invite anyone at the company to review anyone else. This feedback, both from regular reviews and termination decisions, is freely open for anyone in the company to see. This is one way Netflix lives out their famous cultural manifesto—which is the big takeaway for CEOs nationwide. How do your hiring and retention strategies reflect your unique cultural values? If they’re not aligned, it might be a highly effective change to make.
Now, considering enhancing these results with a company store where employees can receive rewards corresponding with a good 360 review. Combining employee feedback with exciting employee incentives is a surefire way to motivate and retain your workforce.
Apple is well-known for offering one of the best benefits packages in the tech industry—but the retail sector is even more inspiring from an employee retention perspective. With help from Angela Ahrendts, former CEO of Burberry and Senior Vice President of Retail at Apple, the company managed to achieve Apple Store employee retention rates that most retailers only dream of. Ahrendts had a vision for workforce management that changed everything for millions of storefronts: she saw retail workers as executives and treated them as such.
According to one particularly interesting Fortune interview, Ahrendts believed Apple’s success as a company rested on the motivation and inspiration of their retail division employees—who made up roughly 60% of the Apple workforce. She’s quoted as saying, “If you’re going to employ people anyway, why not make them the differentiator? They’re not a commodity.” This attitude permeated all decisions made during her tenure as VP of retail.
Ahrendts gave employees a choice in their uniforms. She involved them in regular pep talk video calls, where she outlined her key strategy points for each week. She launched her own feedback app where employees could voice concerns and provide honest feedback—and she read every comment personally. Going even further, she shockingly removed Black Friday sales from storefronts to relieve employee stress. All of these actions combined to create an employee-first culture that inevitably bolstered retention rates. If you’re looking for an example of a successful holistic retention program, follow the trail of Angela Ahrendts. Or, go a step further and establish a custom uniform program that offers bragging rights to your most valuable employees, helping them stand out among their peers and customers alike.
While Apple found success with a humanized approach to employee management, Google moved in a different direction: examining employee retention from a heavily scientific perspective. Google is known to have hired social scientists to evaluate company culture from the inside, gathering absurd amounts of employee feedback and applying thousands of data points to form comprehensive solutions. They treat retention like an engineering problem—and one that has a clear solution ready to be discovered.
Each of Google’s lavish fringe benefits has been carefully calculated to produce the highest ROI in terms of turnover costs. Google optimized the cafeteria wait time to an ideal 3-4 minute maximum, which proved to increase the feeling of community while minimizing wasted time on all accounts. Todd Carlisle, Google’s director of staffing, established a hard limit of 4 interviews for new hires based on data that showed further applicant touchpoints brought diminishing returns. And after too many new mothers exited the company, they increased maternity leave to an unheard-of five months—a policy which head of HR Laszlo Bock affirms cost the company nothing due to decreased hiring and training costs. Imagine what your company could accomplish with savings like that; if you don’t think you have the budget to offer exciting perks to your employees, think again.
Not everyone has the data available to make decisions like these. But it might be worth investing more energy into employee data collection given what’s possible. Google’s scientific method shows that employee retention is, in fact, a complex problem with a finite solution.
Finally, Comcast took yet another approach to improving employee retention: offering high-value incentives through a comprehensive customized rewards program. Joshua Simes, Area Vice President, was part of the committee that hired Inproma to build the wildly-successful Pyramid of Excellence program back in 2010. Today, the program continues to improve employee motivation, productivity, and retention after nine years in operation. According to Simes, “The POX program is an elite program. This is something that we want people to wear with pride.”
The majority of Comcast’s custom reward items fall under the branded apparel category—a simple yet powerful incentive that’s worth more even in bragging rights than in monetary value. Comcast technicians earn this custom gear by meeting individual goals and customer experience metrics. Employees consider these items to be a badge of honor. As one technician stated,
“I’ve won about 19 POX rewards. POX pushes me to make sure my numbers are good and always strive to be the best I can. When I wear the products, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished.”
High-value employee rewards programs are time-intensive to implement and maintain in-house, especially over a longer period of time. However, they’re highly effective catalysts for cultural change in the corporate environment. The right employee incentive program could jumpstart a fresh culture of appreciation in your firm that gets on-the-fence employees excited to stay. Stop using traditional methods that don’t inspire your employees; establish an engaging rewards program that motivates employees at all levels of your company.
These innovative employee retention strategies all have one thing in common: they’re customized to the particular needs and culture of the companies that use them.
Imposing a cookie-cutter retention program on your firm isn’t going to produce the same results as a strategy that organically fits your needs and reflects your unique culture. Whether you choose to pursue retention improvements through increased transparency, employee-first mindset, scientific problem-solving, or high-powered incentives, make sure that your strategies feel authentic enough to be maintained long-term. Only then can you achieve the long-term results of decreased turnover and increased employee satisfaction.
At Inproma, we understand that every company requires its own creative solution. That’s why our industry-leading employee incentive programs are designed to be fully custom to your team’s individual needs. Ready to innovate with the latest in employee incentive strategy? Let’s talk.