Increase Your Employee Retention


Anissa Starnes, IOM, YGM Chief Impact Officer

The pandemic has changed our world in so many ways, and it has forever changed our workplaces. It is now an employee market. We are experiencing the “great re-evaluation” where employees are jumping to new jobs. People are re-evaluating their priorities and purpose. Chambers of Commerce are not immune to this, and it’s vital that we look at how to increase our employee retention.

it is more important than ever to remember the human beings working in your chamber. People truly are any organization’s best asset, and higher employee satisfaction is crucial for better engagement and employee retention. Just like we focus on retaining our members, we need to focus on retaining our employees.

People don’t leave jobs only to make more money. Sometimes they leave due to lack of work-life balance, poor management, poor workplace culture, or no clear direction of career path.

I offer some simple tips for cultivating a positive culture within your chamber.

1. Listen

When is the last time you sat down for a one-on-one with your team members?

Communication is crucial when it comes to a positive workplace environment. Ask your employees what their “why” is for working at the chamber. Ask them about their own dreams for their career path. You may find that they have an interest in working in another area in the organization and if you are able to provide professional development or cross-functional training, that may just keep them motivated and engaged.

Schedule a casual lunch or coffee with them and get to know them. Once you know them and understand them, you can better relate to them and help align their goals with the goals of the chamber.

2. Celebrate

Your team works hard. You know that. And now that our events “are back” and programming is busier than ever, we are likely moving at a rapid pace from program to program. Once you’ve wrapped up one successful event, make sure you take the time to celebrate the win. Too often, we jump straight to the next thing. Stop and savor the moment when your team has accomplished something.

As soon as the event is over and the last banner is coming down, do not, I repeat, do NOT immediately offer your thoughts on what went wrong and how it can be improved next year.

Save it. I know it is tempting while it is fresh on your mind but make a note and bring it up in a debrief meeting after the celebration. It’s a huge downer to get constructive feedback while you are still at the event.

3. Appreciate

A little goes a long way. People want to know that they are making a difference on the team. Give credit where credit is due.

  • Write a handwritten note card to thank them for their efforts.
  • Offer a shout-out at the next staff or board meeting when they are present.
  • Give them a gift card to the local coffee shop (a chamber member, of course!)

Make sure that all team members are recognized on a regular basis for the great jobs they are doing. Recognize them for the small efforts and not just the big things. It’s the day-to-day grind that needs to be acknowledged, too, in the employee retention efforts.

4. Empathize

Some leaders are naturally more empathetic than others, but I believe that empathetic leadership can also be learned. Real connections and friendships at work DO matter, and empathetic leadership means a lot to your employees. Cultivate compassion among your team. Research shows that understanding, caring, and developing others, as a manager, is very important in employee retention.

Everyone we know is struggling with something, and there are days that the struggle may affect performance. Lead with authentic empathy and your employees will notice and appreciate it.

5. Be Flexible

Flexible working has overtaken salary as the top workplace benefit.

Research shows that 65% of employees in the US view flexible working as the most important factor when deciding to accept a new job offer. Flexibility can mean a lot of different things. This could mean flexible work hours, work from home options or condensed workweeks (4-day option) that would allow your employees different options as to when, where, and how they can complete their jobs.

Our industry has historically had a very traditional office culture, but the Covid shutdown showed us that we could work differently and still be very successful. For many, it’s hard to go back to the way it was before now. And it is not a one-size fits all. Some prefer the more traditional way of working so you must find out from each individual what works best for them and be open to creating a more fluid office.

Employees need to feel seen, heard, and appreciated. Those who feel a connection to the mission and are valued will have a higher sense of loyalty to the organization. Chambers are in the business of making a positive difference in communities. You need great people on the team to be able to do that. I hope these tips will help you with your employee retention.

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