Employee retention

8 Creative Ways to Increase Employee Retention

Kathleen O'Donnell
October 10, 2023
Table of Contents
Free Trial! No credit card required.
Get started with a Free Trial to see how effective & engaging our platform is. You'll get the full Bonusly experience like any paid user would. Invite teammates, & start recognizing & rewarding today!

What drives employee retention? You already know the most standard answers—pay people competitively, offer them as much flexibility as possible, and create a culture where people want to work. These factors are critical, but they’re also not the complete answer to retaining your best workers, especially if you’re in an industry where the search for talent is hyper-competitive. 

That’s where the search for more creative solutions to employee retention comes in. These suggestions build on the foundation you’ve already created—pay, flexibility, and company culture— and add even more reasons for your employees to stick around because they love where they work. 

Pick just one to start, or dive into trying a couple if you’re looking to significantly increase your retention rate right away—and don’t be afraid to experiment on your own to see what works for your unique business. 

8 unique ways to drive employee retention

1. Train your people managers

This solution to low retention rates is too often ignored, but it’s a significant driver of turnover. You’ve probably heard the saying, “People don’t leave companies—they leave bosses.” And the data bears that out: research shows that over 57% of unhappy employees leave their jobs because of their managers. 

It’s a serious but solvable problem—the answer is investing more in manager training and ensuring your managers are truly set up for success. If you’ve noticed this is a widespread issue at your company, you should also look at how you’re promoting employees into management positions. People who are strong individual contributors might not have the skills needed to be great managers, so you may need to rethink how you promote employees into these critical positions. 

Train managers

2. Think differently about career mobility 

Employee retention statistics show that a stunning 86% of professionals would change jobs if they were offered more professional development opportunities. But promotions are not the only way to think about professional development and career mobility. Try approaching it from a new angle. 

For example, instead of simply promoting everyone who reaches a certain level and performs well into a management position they may not thrive in, you can create a management training program and a thoughtful, clear plan for progression into a people manager role only for employees who are interested in, and suited for, that kind of role. 

For those who are not ready for a promotion, or who are experts in their individual contributor roles but won’t be happy as people managers, however, don’t think of career development as a ladder. It’s more like a tree with many branches, including lateral moves, rotational assignments, peer mentoring programs, and leadership development programs, just to name a few. 

Career development that increases employee retention is all about helping employees avoid feeling stuck, stifled, or bored in their current roles, and giving them lots of different ways to learn and grow throughout their careers in addition to regular, fair promotions. 

3. Consider a four-day workweek 

Four-day workweeks are a potential game-changer for employers and employees alike. A six-month study in the UK of almost 3,000 employees across 61 companies found that when switching to a four-day workweek model, 39% of employees reported lower stress levels and 71% noticed less workplace burnout, plus the companies reported improved product quality and better customer service. A stunning 92% of the companies that participated in the trial are sticking with a four-day workweek going forward. 

Implementing a four-day workweek can be logistically complicated at first—there are many potential models to consider, and it is simpler to implement in some industries than others. But the payoff can be better retention as employees can more easily balance work and their personal lives, as well as feel less stressed, anxious, and burnt out. Plus, this work schedule puts more emphasis on productivity and not simply physically being present at work, which is better for employee engagement

4 day workweek

4. Offer a sabbatical 

Giving employees the chance to take an extended leave to encourage them to stay sounds counterintuitive, and potentially disruptive for a business. However sabbaticals are disruptive in a positive way; research from Harvard Business Review shows that these extended leaves allow employees to fill in for more senior roles, taking on additional responsibilities and growing in the process. 

And, of course, they give the employee enjoying the sabbatical the chance to unplug and destress for an extended period. Instead of quitting because they want to travel for a months-long stretch or simply spend time with their family, they can take that break and come back to work with you. Yes, you have to pay them for that time—but how much more will it cost you to hire and train someone new to replace them?

→ Check out our Cost of Employee Turnover Calculator 

Man on vacation

5. Create a true environment of DEI 

An environment of diversity, equity, and inclusion isn’t just some box to check off, especially if you want to encourage employee retention. In fact, a true commitment to inclusion is a major driver of retention—employees want to stay in a place where they feel they belong.  

This means paying attention to more than just who you’re hiring and looking at who you’re promoting into managerial and executive positions alike. It means encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work and creating an environment where it’s safe to do so. It also means not tolerating people who behave like jerks even if they’re top performers, because they might be driving other great employees away. 

Belonging at work

6. Conduct exit and stay interviews 

Exit interviews are an extremely valuable source of employee feedback. If you make it safe and easy for employees to tell the truth, they may uncover reasons why they felt like they had to leave and make changes to the employee experience accordingly. But exit interviews have one big flaw: they happen when it’s too late to change anything to make that employee stay. 

Consider conducting stay interviews as well—they can help you identify what’s important to your top performers, and what would make them think about leaving your company while you can still fix it. Including both kinds of interviews gives you a well-rounded picture of what matters to your employees when it comes to retention, both when they’re merely considering leaving and when they’ve made their decision to depart.

→ Check out our Stay Interview Template

7. Share profits and equity 

Offering some kind of profit-sharing and/or equity in your business isn’t simply about giving employees a financial incentive to stay with your company—it makes them a partner, not just a worker, and gives them a stake in your success. 

This is especially meaningful in a time of increasing income inequality and the massive disparity between what CEOs and employees make. Sharing the rewards of good times in a meaningful way with workers (not just with a one-off bonus) makes them invested in the long-term health and growth of your company, and rewards them for their loyalty too. 

Profit-sharing can take many forms. Fidelity Investments, for example, deposits a 10% profit-sharing contribution into employees’ retirement accounts every year. You can find a way to get employees invested and rewarded that works for your business. 

stock options

8. Build stronger, connected teams 

There’s nothing more exciting than working on a team full of bright, engaged, collaborative people who you enjoy spending time with. It makes even tough projects feel like a fun, fresh challenge instead of a slog. Purposefully building teams like that, and encouraging building those bonds in the workplace, can encourage your employees to stay around. 

Employee recognition, especially peer-to-peer recognition, is an important piece to building strong and connected teams. Teammates want to know that their work is valued while gaining the respect of their colleagues. Working environments that encourages appreciation and recognition create the conditions needed to enable great work.

This is especially true for high performers: they want to work with smart, talented people like themselves—and they want to understand how their work impacts the greater good. Intentionally building those bonds is essential for remote teams.

Creating a company culture where those teams are the norm, and flourish in every department, builds a work environment where people actually want to stay and contribute their best work. 


Getting creative about employee retention 

These ideas are here to spark your own sense of inspiration about retention—there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to building a company where people want to spend decades of their careers. But focusing on what employees value and deserve, like more time to recharge, better managers, a sense of belonging, and the feeling of being part of a high-achieving team, can help you arrive at the mix of solutions that works for your business.

It's no secret we understand how building a culture of recognition on your team is a surefire way to improve retention. We invite you to start a free trial or join us for a demo to learn more about how you can start building a recognition-rich, high-retention organizational culture.

Share this article