Retaining Employees in Today’s Workforce: What You Need to Change

Written by Emily Ritchie

Read time: 3 minutes

Does your company have high employee turnover? Are you struggling to keep your employees at your company? You’re not the only one. On average, people change jobs 11.7 times in their lifetime. To break that down, let’s say the average person gets a job right out of college and works until they are 65. That means they change jobs every 3.8 years. In the past it was far more common to stay at a company for the majority of your career. So, why are people jumping job to job and what can you do to retain your employees?

A Closer Look

From layoffs, insignificant raises, and mismanagement, employees feel that employers are no longer loyal to them. This is causing a disruption in the system. Now, your employees might take that new job offer with a pay increase over staying at their current position that only offers them a slight wage increase and no job security.

However, research claims that there is no singular reason people are leaving their jobs. Only one in three people surveyed mentioned their salary as a reason to leave their current job. There are typical reasons like, clashing with managers and seeking new opportunities, but an article from The Harvard Business Review states that in almost every field the top two reasons for leaving were boredom and inflexible hours.

Of course, there are outliers like Lexi Reese. Reese has a wide range of careers. She began her career making documentary films. Then she transitioned to working in the sex-crimes unit in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office and then secured a management position at Google. What drew her to these varying positions? What she looked for in a job is fulfillment. She asked herself if the company had a need for her and her skillset. Following that, employees must be looking for that same feeling of fulfillment, right?

If your employees do not feel valuable, then they will not stay. Knowing that leads us to the next question: how do you make your employees feel valued and excel?


Giving feedback to employees


“The Feedback Fallacy”

How do you let someone know how you feel? You tell them! How do you give feedback to your employees? You tell them… right? Well, an inspiring article by Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall titled “The Feedback Fallacy” details new insights on the best way to communicate feedback to your employees.

The current trend is giving aggressive, blunt feedback to your colleagues or employees. This philosophy assumes that all feedback is always useful, but as Goodall and Buckingham claim that this is not true. This leads us to an entirely different way to direct your employees.

The Three Theories: How We Grow so We Can Excel

First, what even works? Let’s lay some groundwork. There are three common theories for how we learn: the theories of the source of truth, learning, and excellence. These three theories all have one thing in common, they depend on others’ feedback about our performance and this is a giant flaw.

1. The Theory of the Source of Truth

The theory of the source of truth states that other people are more aware of our weaknesses and should tell us, so we can improve ourselves. This theory fails to recognize the phenomenon of unconscious bias. Everyone holds an unconscious bias – therefore, what someone says you should improve on may reflect more of their own shortcomings than yours. This is the idiosyncratic rater effect.

To put it simply, people are terrible at evaluating others. The source of truth is NOT found in someone’s rating of you. It is impossible to rate anyone without bias. When giving feedback to employees, you need to recognize this and change your behavior to help your staff thrive.

2. The Theory of Learning

By reinforcing someone’s strengths, you can give them the chance to excel where they naturally have a talent.

Theory of learning claims that learning is like filling up an empty vessel, HBR says, “Learning is less a function of adding something that isn’t there than it is of recognizing, reinforcing, and refining what already is.”

Research shows that by looking at how our brains work, we learn more in areas we already excel in as opposed to our weaker, less familiar areas. The brain has neurons and synaptic connections that grow when we are learning new information. Studies find our brain grows more neurons and synaptic connections in areas we already excel in. As Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University, memorably described it, “Added connections are therefore more like new buds on a branch rather than new branches.”

Research also finds that giving attention to our weaknesses overwhelms our growth, whereas attention to our strengths can amplify our growth. Why? When giving attention to weaknesses, your brain fires into the “fight or flight” zone. In this state of mind, the only thing your brain can focus on is to survive – not on improving your weaker skills.

3. The Theory of Excellence

Theory of excellence believes there is a standard model for excellence and you must follow it. How is excellence derived/achieved? People who demonstrate excellence tend to have a natural talent for whatever it may be. Not everyone can be a great singer, you may inherently have a knack for music and therefore are able to master that field.  As HBR said, “Which means that, for each of us, excellence is easy, in that it is a natural, fluid, and intelligent expression of our best extremes. It can be cultivated, but it’s unforced.”

Think of excellence in a new way, as an outcome. When a positive outcome arrives, be sure to encourage it. If your employee handles a difficult situation well, pause and pull their attention to what they did that worked. People must recognize where they have excellence and you need to guide them! Pausing a situation to insert praise will lead to unstructured evaluations, which is key to employee happiness.

How to Implement

Change your language to rephrase common phrases into positive ways of navigating the conversation. This chart below gives great advice on how to rephrase your language to your colleagues.


This new theory of giving feedback is revolutionary and could change the way you communicate with your colleagues. By focusing on the positive rather than the negative you can help those around you excel and flourish. More importantly, your colleagues will be lifted from this positivity and more willing to happily stay at your company.