The Great Resignation, coupled with the Great Talent Shortage, have made employee retention a top priority for senior executives. In fact, three-quarters of CHROs now say that talent retention and attraction are their top priorities, according to an Executive Networks study.
While keeping your best employees motivated and fulfilled requires plenty of human touch, HR technologies also play an increasingly integral role in employee retention strategies. For example, today's workforce platforms and apps can supply HR and line managers with real-time, actionable data that allows them to intervene with new policies, strategies or tactics before pivotal talent can walk out the door.
These increasingly sophisticated technologies not only have the ability to gauge employee sentiment, but they now include next-generation software tools and platforms that help evaluate and improve pay equity, foster employees' career development, support well-being and help managers recognize employees for their good work.
Driven by CHROs' heightened focus on talent retention and attraction, industry vendors have been innovating and upgrading their technology platforms to include new capabilities to focus on employee retention.
SHRMLabs, the technology innovation lab and venture capital arm of SHRM, recently gathered leading HR technology analysts and HR executives to identify technologies that are proving most effective in supporting employee retention strategies. In its new report, Employee Retention Technologies, SHRMLabs highlights six emerging technology tools that can help keep your employees engaged and committed.
1. Voice of Employee Platforms
Once used only to conduct annual employee surveys, these technologies have evolved to allow a continual listening approach for employers to gauge employee concerns and insights. HR and line managers use these platforms to stay on top of shifting employee sentiment and analyze real-time data to improve engagement and retention.
HR leaders use voice of employee platforms to send weekly, monthly or quarterly pulse surveys to employees to measure engagement levels and gather valuable worker insights on major initiatives. These survey tools also can identify hidden or emerging issues that impact employee satisfaction and attrition.
A study from Lighthouse, an HR research firm in Huntsville, Ala., found that organizations that regularly give employees a chance to share their feedback through such surveys are twice as likely to retain workers as organizations that don't.
Experts say using such feedback platforms is increasingly important given the fewer touch points HR has to gauge employee sentiment amid the rise of hybrid and remote work.
Next-generation voice of employee platforms use AI-driven sentiment analysis tools that can automatically comb through survey responses and identify themes and trends that require immediate leadership attention or triage.
"These real-time analytics mean you don't have to wait for a human analyst to examine survey data," says Josh Bersin, a noted HR technology analyst and CEO of the Josh Bersin Co. in Oakland, Calif. "The use of AI in these platforms helps provide almost instant results that managers can use to make changes that help boost engagement and retention on their teams."
Some of these platforms have added features designed to help stem voluntary turnover. One such tool allows you to have a confidential, one-on-one conversation with employees who leave comments or questions on surveys to gather more detail or to clarify concerns (while ensuring they stay anonymous).
Some technologies in this category also specialize in passive employee listening approaches, with an ability to analyze email messages, calendar software and communication on collaboration networks, such as Microsoft Teams and Slack, to give leaders insight on policies or behaviors that may contribute to low engagement or voluntary turnover. These tools typically operate on an opt-in basis, allowing managers and employees to capture data from their own digital communication channels that provides actionable insights.
"These solutions can show managers trends like whether they're communicating more frequently with some team members than others or recognizing some people more than others for their good work," Bersin says.
2. Internal Talent Marketplaces
One of the biggest drivers of employee retention is the belief by workers that they'll have opportunities to grow, develop and be promoted within an organization. One form of technology that addresses this issue is the increasingly popular internal talent marketplaces.
These platforms promote career development and internal mobility by advertising open jobs, side gigs or projects, available mentors, and on-the-job learning opportunities that allow employees to spread their career wings and employers to keep high-potential employees in-house, rather than seeing them flee to other companies for new opportunities.
A study from LinkedIn found that organizations that offer employees growth opportunities through internal mobility retain workers nearly twice as long as companies that don't.
Internal talent marketplaces use artificial intelligence to match open roles with employees, based on the skills, education and experience workers list in their personal profiles. The platforms also create personalized career pathways that allow employees to learn what it's like to work in other departments. For example, employees can swap jobs one day a week for a set period with colleagues or work on temporary projects in other functions.
"Companies that have adopted internal talent marketplaces have found they're one of the most powerful engagement tools they've ever used," Bersin says.
Experts say these marketplaces can unlock hidden workforce productivity by allowing employees to pursue opportunities internally, rather than seeking fulfillment by leaving the company.
"Some people are motivated to work on things outside of their core job descriptions and the confines of their current job," says David Johnson[CG1] , a principal analyst with research firm Forrester. "That may worry anxious managers, but it's a good thing for employees and a good thing for the organization because you're not only keeping that person in-house, you're capitalizing on their intrinsic motivation to learn and grow in new areas."
An internal talent marketplace also can discourage managers from "talent hoarding," or keeping their top performers from pursuing internal transfers or promotions within the organization.
3. Pay Equity and Compensation Benchmarking Software
A recent survey by SHRM Research found that inadequate total compensation is the No. 1 driver of voluntary turnover among employees. Plus, more states are enacting pay transparency laws mandating that compensation be disclosed on job postings, making pay even more of a competitive lever in attracting and retaining employees.
Pay equity and compensation benchmarking software can help HR and reward leaders set pay at optimal levels for keeping top performers while ensuring that women and workers from underrepresented groups are paid fairly. The top providers of compensation benchmarking data provide HR leaders with current and accurate market pay data for a wide variety of jobs, titles, industries and geographies.
Pay equity software measures compensation disparities based on workers' protected identities, including gender, race, age, ethnicity and disability. Analytics in the best of these types of software generate actionable insights that help assess root causes of inequities and suggest remediation plans, comparing pay across internal cohorts in addition to external market benchmarks.
"Pay equity software has become increasingly sophisticated and can show you if someone is underpaid or overpaid compared to peers in similar roles internally or externally," Bersin says.
4. Predictive Analytics Tools
Predictive analytics tools help HR and line managers assess the flight risk of employees by tracking and measuring factors that commonly drive voluntary turnover. Often embedded as part of human capital management technology suites, flight risk indicators assess factors such as job tenure, pay levels, performance ratings and engagement scores to predict the probability of employees leaving an organization.
Red-flag indicators including time in role without a promotion, compensation below market averages, growing absenteeism, disinterest in development opportunities and long commuting distances all play a role in determining flight risk. Predictive analytics tools use algorithms that correlate the pattern of employees who voluntarily leave organizations with those of existing workers who stay to evaluate the odds of turnover.
While such data can be helpful in alerting managers to the potential flight risk of top performers, there are risks. Predictive analytics can sometimes produce false positives and may also influence managers' attitudes about employees once flight risk information is known. A leader might, for example, be less likely to give developmental opportunities or pay increases to workers they suspect may soon be leaving the company.
One way around potential pitfalls is to use aggregated rather than individual flight risk data to craft strategies that can improve employee retention as a whole, rather than targeting specific individuals who are projected to leave.
5. Digital Wellness Platforms and Apps
Stress among employees around the world reached an all-time high last year, according to a Gallup survey. HR leaders are responding by investing in digital wellness platforms and apps that help employees cope with rising stress, burnout and mental health issues. These tools allow workers to access support anytime, anywhere and offer new options for those intimidated by the still-real stigma of publicly seeking assistance for emotional or psychological issues.
These solutions include:
- Meditation apps and videos that help employees cope with work-induced stress, sleeplessness or poor nutrition.
- Financial wellness platforms.
- Wearables that can track heart rates or allow employees to self-report moods.
- Online fitness or yoga classes.
- Apps that alert employees when they need to take time away to recharge or to avoid technology fatigue.
- Virtual sessions with licensed therapists.
Many of these digital tools can be integrated with existing benefits technology platforms and wellness programs.
Studies show HR leaders continue to invest in digital wellness tools with the belief that they may not translate directly to lower health insurance premiums, but can still help boost productivity, reduce health risks and improve employee retention.
While employer spending on well-being programs is on the rise, digital wellness tools continue to have an awareness problem. According to a study by the Business Group on Health, only 15 percent of U.S. employees reported being aware of their employer-sponsored stress management programs, signaling a need for improved promotion and communication about these resources.
6. Employee Recognition Software Platforms
Studies show that employees who regularly receive meaningful recognition for their good work tend to stay longer with their organizations. Recognition software platforms help HR professionals deliver that recognition, not only for quality work but to acknowledge life events such as service anniversaries, weddings, babies and birthdays—or even for completing onboarding.
These software portals manage recognition messages and the delivery of rewards including gift cards, certificates, points and digital badges. Most platforms are now easily integrated with everyday communication networks such as Slack and Microsoft Teams, email systems, and web browsers to make recognizing peers easy and efficient.
These technologies have the ability to amplify recognition moments for employees—both peer-to-peer as well as top-down recognition—through the use of features such as social walls, where an online thank-you can receive likes and comments from colleagues throughout the company.
Many platforms also have tools that guide users in how to provide recognition to others in meaningful (rather than perfunctory) ways, as well as an ability to send automatic nudges to remind busy managers to take time out to recognize direct reports for their good work.
This article was adapted from the Employee Retention Technologies report from SHRMLabs, the innovation lab and venture capital arm of SHRM. The mission of SHRMLabs is to inspire innovation to create better workplace technologies that solve today's most pressing workplace challenges.