Focusing on the connection between engagement and employee retention, UI HR professionals proposed specific measures to boost overall engagement and help keep UI talent.
1. Establish flexibility
“In my experience as a manager and program director, maximum flexibility helped retain the best employees. But flexibility varies from department to department—it’s the exception, not the rule.”
- Permit alternative work arrangements: Develop and approve proposals for flexible hours or off-site work.
- Emphasize tangible results over “desk time”: Focus on project deliverables and outcomes over 8-5 routines, giving individuals more control of their time.
2. Listen and learn
“An appreciated and valued employee is definitely a more engaged employee.”
- Understand and support individual goals: Make every employee-manager conversation a chance to grow.
- Establish regular skip-level conversations: Indirect supervisors can become valuable points of connection.
- Reach out as HR reps: HR professionals should be visible, available, and ready to help.
3. Envision futures
“If we are working to develop our next group of leaders by helping them continue to grow, they are likely to feel more committed and engaged.”
- Start from day one: Develop holistic approaches to career development that begin with onboarding.
- Match individual strengths with organizational goals: Encourage employees to develop in areas where the unit most needs them.
- Identify “stretch” projects: Create opportunities for individuals to reach beyond current roles.
- Open succession planning: Involve team members when establishing the unit’s future.
4. Build better leaders
“We must bolster leadership talent so leaders are better equipped to engage, motivate, and retain employees.”
- Establish accountability: Provide mandatory training for new managers and hold them to expectations
- Solicit 360-degree feedback: Let team members help their managers grow.
5. Benchmark competition
“Where is our top talent going, and what do they offer that we don’t?”
- Make recognition a reflex: Take every chance to say thanks—formally and informally.
- Don’t skimp on tangible rewards: Complement recognition with special compensation and other incentives.
- Create service-learning opportunities: Community engagement can be especially rewarding for younger employees.
- Highlight the whole package: Emphasize cumulative value of compensation, culture, and community.
6. Treat people fairly
“I’d recommend de-emphasizing distinctions between the ‘best’ and the ‘rest.’ It can be demoralizing to those who are doing amazing work, but maybe haven’t been singled out.”
- Keep pay equitable: Adjust compensation to address changes in responsibilities, market conditions, and other factors.
- Respect experience: Don’t neglect longtime employees—value and leverage their experience.
- Invest in the whole team: Offer individualized attention and growth opportunities to everyone.
7. Remember that money matters
“People work to get paid—the harder they work, the more they expect to be paid. We are all doing more with less. It’s time to start rewarding people financially.”
- Permit flexibility with raises: Allow exceptions to career-promotion caps.
- Reward merit: Recognize strong performance with pay increases.
- Break the “no-funds-this-year” cycle: Recognize that good people will leave for a chance to earn more.