Around a year ago, the unemployment rate soared to nearly 15%. For the past few months, that number has hovered right around 6%, and the economy appears to be recovering much faster than expected. But that doesn’t mean your top talent will stick around. In fact, 70% of the global workforce includes passive job seekers — they’re employed, yet open to new opportunities.

Our company understands this phenomenon. We invest a great deal of time, attention, and money into training and developing employees, which makes them attractive prospects to other businesses. Whether it’s done by our customers or competitors, the wooing happens with some regularity. In a way, the attention is flattering, but it also serves as a reminder of how important development can be to a company’s retention efforts. One survey found that 94% of employees would stay with an employer if it provided learning opportunities.

Does this mean we’re able to retain every employee? Of course not. When companies recognize talent, most will come after those people with a vengeance. But this doesn’t take away from the fact that organizations must continue to find innovative and inspirational ways to appeal to their greatest asset: their people.

Leaving a Lasting Impression

When you’re able to build a team with great employees, the desire for personal and professional growth just comes with the territory. So it only stands to reason why your brightest stars would consider other job opportunities should they come along. It’s why you hired them in the first place — and they owe it to themselves to at least explore the world outside your four walls.

But that’s where culture becomes an important factor. Although new opportunities might be great, culture is almost always what people will remember and miss. Our culture encourages professional growth, and sometimes, part of that growth involves venturing on. Even when this happens, the return still warrants the investment. A McKinsey study found that organizations with cultures in the top quartile post 60% higher returns to shareholders than those in the median and 200% higher returns than those in the bottom quartile.

In our industry (oil and gas), we see people moving around due in large part to a somewhat smaller talent pool. Although we hate to see great talent leave, we always wish them well and encourage them to explore that opportunity fully. What’s been most surprising is how many past employees have hopes of returning to our company. We call them “boomerangers“ — people who want to see what’s out there, test their skill set, and then come back.

We attribute that to our culture and our open-minded work environment, always keeping good relationships with those who venture out only to return. True growth-aspiring individuals shouldn’t be frowned at when leaving, but instead teased a little when they do come back and ultimately treated as a source for learning. We have great conversations about what we can do differently as an organization and where we might find new avenues to not just attract, but also retain top talent.

Making Greater Strides Toward Retention

Culture is key to employee satisfaction, which makes it critical to employee retention in turn. In nearly every industry, it’s now seen as the differentiator for success. Although culture does grow organically, there are steps you can take to strengthen the good and get rid of the bad. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Embrace flexibility.

Almost any company in the oil and gas industry perfectly embodies a traditional, more formal culture. Button-up shirts, suits and ties, and the dreaded pantyhose all make up the preferred uniform. Thankfully, that’s starting to change.

As the industry evolves and more Millennials enter the sector, the work environment is becoming casual and fun-loving. If you want to appeal to the younger demographic (no matter your industry), it’s time to be flexible with employees.

Move away from those stringent schedules and encourage people to bring their authentic selves to the workplace. Keep the guardrails on, of course, but don’t squelch their passions. You’ll enjoy gains in quality, productivity, and satisfaction.

2. Encourage development.

With today’s work-from-home environments, we’ve been encouraging our team to take online (or offline) courses — whether for physical, mental, professional, or personal development. The decision is providing amazing results.

Exposing team members to new ideas and programs helps keep them refreshed and open to new discoveries. They often bring that energy back and share it, and that excitement is truly contagious.

If your office is experiencing a slump, a motivational afternoon can be a game-changer. Fair warning, though: You might have a few disgruntled folks who feel that they’re “too busy.” But that’s just the discomfort of getting out of a routine, which is part of the exercise. You want to challenge them and break up the monotony.

3. Provide outside-the-box opportunities.

Although our company makes software, we challenge employees to set up philanthropic initiatives for the entire team. We also incentivize them to come up with new ways to engage customers and connect with the team.

When employees feel like they’re part of the organization’s growth, they gain a sense of ownership. People want to be part of your success — so encourage them to do so.

You’ll find boomerangers in almost every organization, especially when working in a smaller industry. The pool for talent can be shallow, which makes holding on to employees difficult to do over the long run. But getting your culture in order can help with your retention efforts — and should someone leave, you might just find that person returning to your door.

Interested in learning more about how a culture of innovation allows you to both keep employees on board and bring in new customers? Download the Enertia whitepaper, “How Enertia Implements Upstream Software Virtually In The Age Of Social Distancing.”

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