6 Ways Top Chicago Employers are Improving Employee Retention without Spending a Dime!

All organizations, worry about keeping their employees engaged, excited, and eager to contribute. Holistic along with Narrative Science recently brought together some of the great HR minds in Chicago for a lunch conversation focused on fostering employee retention. While there are many options available that cost a lot of money, we don’t always have that kind of money available. So, here are some suggestions that are free or next to free, that help HR leaders and companies keep their employees happy, satisfied, and growing.


Clearly Define Roles and Outline Resources

Liana Bran, Program Director at the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, encourages remembering two key concepts, both of which are fundamentals that companies should never forget -- making sure employees understand their roles, and that they have the resources to perform their jobs.  It sounds simple, but many of us have been in positions where we wonder what exactly we are supposed to be doing. Do we have goals? Do we measure progress in some manner? Do we have defined projects or outcomes that we are responsible for in the short or long-term?  Resource-wise, outside of a computer and phone, what does the employee have? Does she have someone to bounce ideas off of? Do they have regular meetings with their manager? Are they able to access the data, and knowledge that they need to do their job? All of these things and more can help an employee feel that they understand their contribution and are able to do it well.


Did you know that donuts are not just for eating? Narrative Science recently launched the pairing tool Donut to match employees who typically would not have a lot of interaction. Donut is a slack extension that allows organizations to connect people together for real-life meetings. After opting in, employees are matched, sent reminders to meet up, and then encouraged to share photos and notes about their meetups. Although it is still relatively new, Parrots, as Narrative Science’s employees refer to themselves, really enjoy the newfound ability to connect across the organization. Find out more about Narrative Science’s approach to employee retention through donuts here.

Data Sharing

Morningstar has developed an advanced 9-box performance evaluation process; they use the data to help employees learn and grow.  Sarah Larkin, HR Business Partner, and Bevin Desmond, Head of Human Resources and Global Markets, described how they share the data with leadership to put high performers on the radar for new roles, projects, or challenges. The company proactively reviews this data on a quarterly basis, to be out in front of challenges and to be proactive in caring for their employees.

Exploring Growth Opportunities

Staci Larock, Head of People, North America for Thoughtworks encourages her team to market themselves for other positions. You heard that right, she encourages them to be transparent about their career plans and to occasionally go out, see how much they are worth on the job market, and what opportunities are out there.  The expectation is that employees then come back with what they learned. Larock then has new ideas, data on what is going on in the market, and does her best to carve out rewarding opportunities that meet the interests of her team. Plus, this process brings a ton of transparency to the organization.

Giving Back

More and more employees want to give back to others.  Denise Bindelglass and the team at Active Campaign allow employees to spend 1% of their time volunteering. One day a year it’s everyone picking something they care about; one day of the year it’s their team working together, and one day a year it’s the whole company. This allows everyone in the company to remember the organizational values and the commitment to improving opportunity for everyone. In a workforce with 88 percent millennials, this makes a lot of sense.  

Map Retention Programs to the Employee Lifecycle

According to Emily Barron of Centro, they create a strategic HR plan by mapping programs against the employee lifecycle and each stage within it (ex: the onboarding stage contains many new hire orientation initiatives). Their focus this year is gearing up some more programs and touch points for employees who are 2-4 years into their tenure and potentially hitting the end of that lifecycle of a particular role or challenge. Efforts include creating an employee advisory board made of those team members that can provide feedback on how to engage, creating avenues for tenured Centrons to share their stories with that population so they understand the potential is unlimited if they take charge of their development, and further promotion of their internal job board so team members understand they can also start that new lifecycle with Centro if they are trying to pivot their career path.

Give Your Employees the Opportunity to Learn

Elisabeth Duncan and Evive have implemented a learning and development program at the rapidly growing HR tech company. To address a talent shortage they’ve implemented an LMS program that is specifically tied to industry certifications. This allows them to train their employees on relevant topics and helps them attract high potential employees with a desire to learn new things.

Do you or your organization have creative ideas or methods for ensuring employees are happy?  Share them with us!