5 ways to value employees and boost retention

Focusing on team morale and engagement can help you emerge as a winner in the global talent wars.

The Great Resignation in the wake of COVID-19 has left many businesses without sufficient staff to grow and thrive as the economy improves. A report released in February 2022 by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO noted that 40% of businesses in the UK were struggling to find workers with the right skills, and almost a third of companies expressed concern about a shortage of overseas workers. The report is based on findings from BDO's bimonthly survey of 500 leaders of medium-size businesses.

And in the US, 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in March 2022, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The month ended with 11.5 million job openings, the highest level in the history of the current tracking series, which began in December 2000, the bureau reported.

As competition for top talent continues to heat up around the globe, it is imperative that managers focus on employee recruitment and maintaining a work environment designed to retain employees, said David Biggs, ACMA, CGMA, the CFO at Legatics in London.

He said one way to improve retention is to show employees that management appreciates them and their contributions.

"When employees are happy and believe they are valued, they are more productive and inspired to do their best work," Biggs said.

In addition, managers who demonstrate gratitude and recognise the important roles their employees play in their company are rewarded with a strong workplace culture and an organisation where people want to belong. After all, we spend most of our waking hours on the job, Biggs said.

Matt Miller, FCMA, CGMA, the CFO at the UK's National Nuclear Laboratory, agreed. "We come to work not only to earn money to pay the bills, but we also seek personal gratification and a sense of accomplishment," he said.

Expressing appreciation doesn't have to be extravagant or complicated. There are many simple ways to show employees how much you value them. Biggs and Miller shared a few ideas that have proved to be successful.

Schedule quality time. Scheduling regular one-on-one meetings with employees outside their normal work responsibilities helps them feel valued and rewarded, Biggs said. He recommended getting to know your staff, learning about their hobbies, interests, and personal accomplishments as well as names of family members and pets.

"Personally, I want people to be interested in me and my life," Biggs said. "Connecting on a human level makes us feel valued as both people and employees."

Engage the team. When employees understand their organisation's goals and objectives, they are more engaged and enjoy feeling a part of the team, especially when their managers add a layer of creativity to routine educational sessions. Miller described an interactive meeting during which employees were tasked with acting out corporate objectives in a variety of entertaining scenarios. They broke into three teams. One group performed the objectives in song. Another explained the objectives as if in a soap opera, and the third acted them out as if they were in an action movie. "It was a different way of getting people to interact, learn about our organisation, and break down barriers whilst having fun together," Miller said.

Celebrate successes. Offering a high five or thanks for a job well done can go a long way towards helping employees feel valued and appreciated, Biggs said. For remote office environments, he pointed to instant messaging apps on social media and platforms such as Slack or Microsoft Teams.

"If I want to recognise an employee, I can post a message in a general online forum where everyone on the team can see that one of their colleagues did a great job on a project or an account and offer congratulations or comment on it," he said.

Biggs added that public recognition must be timely and sincere, and it should be done regularly. "In some cases, I find that people don't celebrate successes often enough," he said.

Consider personality types. Popular public recognition programmes, team activities, and group discussions are often a great way to make employees feel important, and extroverts thrive in those scenarios. Effective managers will find ways to make the more introverted employees feel valued, too.

"Extroverts are more willing to jump up, grab a microphone, and get on a problem straightaway," Miller said. "But the introverts can be just as powerful if they have time and space for reflection, because quite often, they will have the nugget of information that leads to a solution."

Miller urges discretion when inviting introverted employees into a group discussion, where they may feel uncomfortable with unwanted attention, he said. He favours using a circular discussion format designed to give everyone a chance to speak. One by one, each team member takes a turn speaking and inviting feedback from their colleagues. In this environment, the extroverts are less likely to dominate the conversation. "This arrangement gives everyone equal time to have input, and everyone feels they bring value to the conversation," he said.

Practise empowerment. Empowering employees to make meaningful contributions to the success of your organisation will contribute to their long-term engagement, Miller said.

Sometimes managers view employees through the filter of their own experiences, which can set off a chain reaction, starting with micromanagement and leading to employee low self-esteem, and finally, resulting in negative outcomes.

"Rather than micromanaging your team, it's better to focus on results and empower your employees to deliver on them," Miller said.

He suggested rather than stating a problem and dictating the solution, ask the team to suggest ways to tackle it, even if you've actually worked out the answer yourself.

"Good managers will steer their employees in the right direction and do it in a way that solutions to problems become their ideas," he said. "It's a morale booster for your staff to be part of the solution to a problem. After all, they are the ones tasked with implementing it."

Teri Saylor is a freelance writer based in the US. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Oliver Rowe at