Three Ways to Engage and Retain Employees

— By George Lessmeister —


We all know the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It can readily be applied to the current job market. Employers are desperate to find new team members and having a hard time staffing. Has your leadership team stopped to ask to refocus and find ways to retain current staff?

George Lessmeister, LGC Hospitality

Our staffing team works with business owners in the hospitality, franchisee, retail and warehousing markets in over 40 cities across the country. Staff have heard story after story from clients about how hard it is to find good hires. They’ve been asked for counsel how to find reliable employees. Before figuring out how to add new employees, take a step back to figure out how to keep top performing team members on the job.

The obvious answer is, always pay employees what they’re worth. But given today’s economic climate with job seekers in the driver’s seat, there’s so much more to know and understand.

First let’s look at the costs involved in hiring new employees. According to Zippia, which published an aggregate of hiring information in September 2021:

  • The average cost per hire is $4,425. This amount includes advertising, background checks, drug screenings, pre-employment tests and other recruitment tasks.
  • It takes 36 to 42 days to fill an average position in the United States.
  • 15% of Human Resources expenses are allocated towards recruitment efforts.
  • And it takes, on average, 12 weeks for a new hire to become fully productive.

That’s both a capital and time investment business owners don’t want to see become a sunk cost. So now ask the question, what are company leaders doing to retain and engage employees? Study after study answers this question. Employees want to do a good job and feel like the work they do fits into the company’s strategy. They want balance, flexibility, recognition and to be heard. And they want to see opportunities for growth and challenge.

Some employers do the annual employee opinion survey. Yet for some reason, year after year feedback gets attention for the short term. Leadership moves on to the next project and nothing changes. Employees feel like their input was disregarded. This costs a company when leaders watch good employees leave to find a new and better place to work. Here are three areas of recommended focus in 2022.

1. Act on what employees say they want.

By sitting down with your team members and asking them for their input and ideas, it helps them to feel heard, especially when company leaders take action to make employee-suggested improvements. Here’s the trick. Don’t just ask — create an action plan, communicate it and do it to drive employee satisfaction and engagement. Yes, there are going to be requests that cannot be fulfilled, and you’ll need to explain why. Good companies are already doing this and calling it “stay” interviews (instead of “exit” interviews). By the time the exit interview happens, the sunk cost is already hitting the balance sheet.

2. Upskill staff.

People generally do not want to do the same job for their entire career. They want to learn more, do more and be challenged. The cost to invest in employees versus hires new people (at nearly $4,500) is nominal. According to a data visualization published by Investopedia:

  • Small businesses, or companies with 100 to 999 employees, spend more than $1,000 per employee on training each year.
  • Midsize companies, with 1,000 to 9,999 employees, spent about $545.
  • Large companies with 10,000 employees or more spent about $447 per employee each year.

All training costs were calculated by taking both structured training costs and the time managers and employees spend training new hires into account.

3. Communicate with staff.

Going into 2022, companies have a variety of work structures in place (on-site, remote and hybrid). Regardless of how you work, communicating consistently with team members has proven time and time again to impact engagement and productivity. Communications contributes to a positive culture, something employees say they want.

The pandemic has positively impacted internal communications. Many leaders and C-suite executives learned how important great communication is. In fact, according to the Gallagher State of the Sector 2021 — which surveyed 800-plus internal communications professionals — 66% of respondents said their level of influence on senior leaders has increased due to the pandemic.

Still 51% of professionals responding to the survey say their internal communications goals are not defined by leaders in writing and shared with all stakeholders for implementation and engagement. Having one staff meeting, one employee celebration and sending out one employee memo is not enough. Having a well-designed communications plan with goals makes an impact in the areas of engagement and culture.

It may sound crazy to read about employee engagement and retention from the CEO of a staffing company. After all, we make our money by helping companies find employees. The reality is, if your workplace isn’t solid from an engagement and culture perspective, our team members, who we put into your workplace, probably won’t be happy. That reflects on both our company and yours. Instead of doing the same thing in 2022 and expecting a different result, let’s work together to make positive change that drives workplace satisfaction.




— George Lessmeister is CEO and founder of LGC Hospitality, a national staffing firm headquartered in Indianapolis. LGC has offices in nearly 40 U.S. cities. Team members work with hotel and restaurant leadership to place executives and temporary workers.




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