Understanding employees can make or break your organization  

Even in the last two years, so much has changed and continues to evolve with workforce issues in the Corridor. A short list includes unfilled positions, shifting expectations for work flexibility, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, generational differences and more.

When 95% of workers are considering quitting their job (Monster Worldwide poll, July 2021), retaining your current employees is more important than ever. And while a pay increase is always appreciated, retention starts by genuinely trying to deeply understand your employees’ needs.

What encourages employees to stay?

In April of 2021, our firm polled the Iowa Opinion Panel to learn what would motivate them to stay in their current job and what would be important when looking into new jobs. The results revealed differences in priorities depending on which scenario was considered. For example, when seeking a new job, the ability to work from home was less important than when considering what would make a person stay in their current job. We saw differences from a survey we conducted in 2015, and differences for demographics such as age, household income and educational level.

Following are results for the question asking participants to rate the importance of various factors when considering whether to stay in a current job.

Checking in with your employees

If you don’t talk to your employees on a regular basis, now is a good time to obtain feedback from them. The best way to gain feedback will vary depending on the size of your staff, challenges in your industry, your organizational structure and other factors. Many companies use employee surveys, which provide several advantages, including:

  • Easily analyzed data
  • Results that can be trended over time
  • A private way for employees to share feedback
  • Quick and efficient administration

Sometimes, however, small group discussions or individual interviews can reveal more helpful — and sometimes surprising — insights. This type of qualitative approach offers benefits such as:

  • Allowing for the discussion of fine-grain topics it would be hard to explore in a survey
  • Giving those in management or sensitive positions an opportunity to share their viewpoints in a private manner (interviews)
  • Giving employees opportunities to react to colleagues’ remarks (in focus groups)
  • Providing the opportunity to probe answers to understand what is behind perceptions or needs

A robust, mixed-methods approach can provide both key data and rich insights. This approach may be suitable if it has been a long time since you conducted employee research.

Ensuring research success

People can get survey fatigue or may hesitate to participate in an employee focus group. There are several ways, however, to increase thoughtful participation by your employees. These include:

  • Communicate the value of the research to the whole organization, noting that honest employee feedback is key to growth and success for all
  • Share top-line results after the research is completed with all employees — this is critical
  • Have a plan ready for how management and representative groups of employees will dive into the results and develop action plans based on it
  • Communicate progress or changes made based on the research
  • Provide time during the workday for employees to participate in the research
  • Consider holding a drawing for participants — an extra day of PTO is always popular and effective
  • Consider having a third party administer your research — this increases participation because employees feel more confident that their personal responses are not known to their employer

The time since 2019 has altered work and life as we knew it. This is the moment to check in with your employees in a fresh and earnest way. Take time to consider what methods are best for your organization and customize a program that will be embraced by employees and deliver actionable findings.

Linda Kuster is president at Vernon Research Group, based in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at (319) 364-7278, ext. 7104 or lkuster@vernonresearch.com.