How to retain and develop your employees

Last updated:
March 16, 2021
May 20, 2022
min read
Jori Hamilton
Table of contents

What is your organization doing to retain and develop employees? If you haven’t thought about development, or it isn’t a part of your current program, then you need to make it a priority now.

The fact is that if you are not taking an active role in the evolution of your employees, you are doing more harm than good. Studies show that 45% of employees experience burnout while at work. This could be for many reasons, including general exhaustion, a boring or unchallenging position, or in many cases, it is the inability to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

When you actively work to promote your employees and give them a road map to success, you are not only helping them to feel more engaged at work, but you are bettering your bottom line by putting dependable employees in the roles that will help your company thrive.

Plus, you save a lot of money by training current employees versus losing them and needing to find someone new. In order to improve your retention, you need to create a process for advancement within your organization. Here are some tips.

Start on day one

It may seem like only a few employees have the urge to grow and succeed within your company. However, a recent study showed that 93% of employees considered having a purpose to be a “must-have” at their job. This means that they do not want to feel like only cogs in the machine, but instead, they strive for a position where they feel like their work is helping the company move forward. This sense of purpose has to start on day one at employee orientation.

In addition to training employees on the job they were hired to do, spend at least a day explaining what every department in the business does and how each team works together to help the company succeed. Explain the duties of that area and the job skills needed to join that team.

This way, you give new employees a good idea of possible landing spots in the future. While you do so, it is essential to explain that this is a company that encourages growth and that acquiring these positions is possible if they fit the requirements.

During orientation, you should take each new associate aside and ask them about their career goals. Once you understand what they are striving for, you need to lay out a roadmap for how they can get from here to there. So, if they want to manage a team someday, explain how that starts with learning their role, then moving to team lead, then taking the required seminars, and then finally applying for the manager role when the time is right.

And speaking of time, you want to be very clear about how long it will take to move to a new position. For instance, if your company requires the employee to be with the organization one year before they can advance, then let them know. If you promise that they will be promoted within a certain time, you will need to stand by that. The last thing you want is for an employee to feel like they had a carrot hung in front of their face, only to not get what they were promised.

Relevant: Your guide to employee onboarding

Provide resources

When it comes time for your employee to move through the ranks, your company should provide the resources to do so. For starters, create a job portal where all open job listings throughout your company are displayed along with the requirements, who to contact, and any other required information. Make sure that this portal is always updated and encourage employees to look through it once they are permitted to change jobs.

A good time to talk with your employees about their goals is during their annual review. During this time, have a candid conversation about their strengths and areas of improvement that they need to work on before they can advance to their desired position. Even if they are not yet ready to move on, positive feedback during these reviews will give them encouragement and show that the company sees them as a valued member of the organization.

Relevant: How to conduct an employee evaluation

Before they make the move, find a mentor who is well-versed in the new position, someone the employee can shadow so they can see how the position flows and what a typical day looks like. It is essential that you choose a mentor who is fluent in the desired position.

Before talking with the new employee, the mentor should think about the challenges they face on a daily basis, important considerations for succeeding in the role, and the skills they need and use every day. Basically, they should be ready to explain the process thoroughly and answer any questions the interested candidate may ask.

If the employee looks like a good fit for the new position, then you should also give them the opportunity to improve their skills so they are ready when they move on. Provide time for them to attend seminars and participate in virtual learning events through which they can formulate the strong skills that they’ll need for this and other potential positions.

Other retention considerations

It is important to keep in mind that the opportunity to advance is only one component of a successful retention strategy. There are many other aspects that your business needs to implement, including a strong set of company values.

This means appreciating every worker and practicing diversity in your recruiting, which will improve your company in the end. For instance, women are often underrepresented in top roles, especially in the trades. You can improve diversity and bring very talented tradeswomen into your organization by appealing specifically to women with experience in your industry through job fairs and community outreach events. Then, implement a professional development program that ensures that they are given the skills they need to succeed.

Another core element of a positive work environment is promoting the idea of a work-life balance that will enable employees to complete their work without causing burnout or emotional exhaustion. Though it can be caused by many negative aspects of life, exhaustion is often the result of feeling overworked or overwhelmed. During 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be that the employee is trying to juggle working at home while also watching and homeschooling their children.


The symptoms of emotional exhaustion can be very damaging and range from fatigue and irritability all the way to feelings of hopelessness and a desire to give up. If you are working your staff too hard, these negative feelings can become a reality, so allow a work-life balance that includes setting manageable work hours and permitting time off if an employee needs to watch their child for an afternoon or go to the doctor.

If their job still gets done even with a modified schedule, then it is a win-win for all involved. Also, HR should have an open-door policy in the case that employees experience these negative feelings.

Career development must be an active part of any company's retention strategy. Promote the fact that your company wants to see your staff succeed, and you will have a dedicated workforce for years to come.

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