Effective Employee Retention Strategies from HR Leaders in Chicago

This week, Holistic co-hosted a discussion around Employee Retention with Katie Grinberg of Narrative Science. Some of Chicago’s top HR leaders came together to discuss different ways to foster employee retention. Throughout the conversation, the HR leaders were able to openly share and discuss specific measures that their organizations are taking in approach to create an impactful and meaningful employee engagement experience. Interested in taking action in your own organization to foster employee retention and engagement? Check out these specific tips and ideas that you can implement and adopt into your own workplace culture.


Stay Interviews


Active Campaign is starting to implement interviews with random employees from around the company to best understand why employees stay. While there are many reasons an employee chooses to stay at a company, Active Campaign wants to be more proactive around getting in front of any at-risk employees. These interviews have also helped to highlight the company’s great features, benefits, and assets for employees. Doing something like this opens a door to find out more about employees and their aspirations. By implementing interviews with current employers, not only at the moment of entry or leave from a company, communication is built upon employees feeling valued and appreciated.


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.



Community Outreach Events / City Santa


The holidays are a wonderful time to foster good feeling at your company. Giving back to the community is a great way to engage your employees and help them make a difference.  City Santa is a great program that allows companies to sponsor an individual class of students at a local CPS school.  Hirewell has done this for over 10 years and has facilitated hundreds of gifts to children in the Chicago public schools. This is an easy way for employees to give back to the community -- plus, the purchasing of the gifts, the wrapping, and the delivering of presents provides for increased collaboration between teammates.


Feedback Fridays


Career Builder implements ‘Feedback Fridays’ as part of their employee engagement efforts. In their feedback, employees share who helped them that week, what went well, what didn't, and then sharing those stories so that you can have more of an event around it. This allows employees to ask questions that they may have and/or make suggestions based off something they feel is important. Receiving feedback from employees is valuable because this gives organizations a sense of issues or challenges going on through a different point-of-view. The information received as feedback can they be used to make better decisions or improve future actions made within the organization. Being open to feedback allows the person providing that feedback to feel understood and valued. Feedback can also motivate employees to continue suggesting ideas that will benefit them and the organization as a whole.


Utilize Employee Recognition Software


There are several tools that companies can use to increase employee recognition.  Highground is a Chicago-based software company that is used by several organizations.  Motivosity is another way to foster employee engagement through recognition. This software allows employees to give each other small monetary bonuses for doing great things. Appreciation and recognition are fundamental human needs. When employees are recognized, their satisfaction and productivity in the organization increases. Feeling valued makes employees stay motivated and energized to continue working hard. Employee recognition isn’t rocket science. Receiving peer-to-peer recognition can also increase teamwork amongst employees. By working together, employees are less likely to feel stress in the workplace which can lead to more issues.


Help them pay off their student debt


Vacation and 401k plans are great, but a lot of employees, especially those that are recent graduates, are really interested in getting rid of their student loans. ThoughtWorks and Morningstar offer a student loan program for their employees. This is a great way to foster employee retention by helping employees worry about one less thing. Helping employees pay off their student loans is not only relieving but also creates an atmosphere where employees feel valued, supported, and empowered by the organization’s efforts to help them. In terms of diversity and inclusion, offering a student loan repayment program allows organizations to be inclusive of individuals facing this obstacle. In a recent study conducted by FC Consulting, it was found that individuals in need of student loan repayment are more likely to be female and minority ethnicities. The study also found that offering student loan repayment programs makes employees more willing to stay longer at a job. To learn more about how you can offer student loan repayment programs, visit Peanut Butter, one of our partners at Holistic.




Create Purpose-Driven Leaders


We now live and work in a purpose-driven economy. Ignite believes that the companies that will succeed in this new economy will be the ones that provide a shared vision for impact and a commitment to be an inclusive, people-first culture. Ignite fosters this by developing purpose-driven leaders who exemplify these traits. Employees, specifically millennials and younger employees, are looking for the opportunity to have purpose, meaning, and growth in their jobs.


Culture Cash


The Center for Financial Services Innovation gives each of its employees a $150 gift card at the beginning of the year and refers to it as “Culture Cash”. The idea behind this is for employees to utilize their gift card funds on their colleagues. Some employees treat each other to coffee, mani/pedis, or team outings. This effort allows employees to feel engaged, satisfied, and happy in their organization. Having happy, loyal, and satisfied employees will feel more energized and determined to do great at their role. This is a great way of investing in the happiness and satisfaction of your employees even if not directly through a detailed and specific perk or benefit. Allowing team members to spend money on each other also creates a culture of community and collaboration. Team members are able to feel grateful for gestures committed for each other and therefore, this can also help them work better as a team. As Michael Jordan once said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”


Encourage Employees to get to know People outside of their Department


Narrative Science has adopted the Slack add-on Donut to encourage team members to get to know each other outside of the work environment. Through this add-on, employees are paired with other team members from different teams and levels of the organization to meet-up and get coffee and donuts together. In these “donut dates” employees are able to chat about their personal lives and many times find out that they have various things in common with other team members and colleagues. Having a personal touch to their conversations allows people to be open about who they are outside of work. This makes employees feel more valued and respected rather than only being seen by the title on their desk plate. By doing this, the organization has been able to notice a change in their environment. Trust is being built amongst different levels of the organization since the entire leadership team part takes in this activity. It is important to encourage leadership to lead by example in order to lead by example.



While some of these ideas to foster employee retention are costly, they don’t always have to be. Please check out more details about the discussion held with Holistic and Narrative Science here.


Have an employee retention strategy that has worked for your organization? We’d love to hear more about it. Reach out to us at communications@holisticindex.com to share your personal experience and suggestions to create impactful solutions to employee retention.


Elda Baez