macdougall musings

Employee Engagement and Retention

By now, we have all heard about, and likely been impacted by, “The Great Resignation.” In August, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that 4.3 million Americans, or 2.9% of the entire workforce, quit jobs — a trend that is not tied to industries or tenures. Experts continue to debate the reasons behind the resignations, but pandemic burnout, stagnant wages and a wealth of open positions are likely forces. However, on one thing, all experts agree — the level of turnover companies are experiencing is unmatched.

Management literature has long touted the importance of employee retention for bolstering the bottom line, with the corporate cost of replacing an employee estimated to range from 50% to 200% of their salary. Troublingly, replacing lost employees is currently more difficult than ever, with U.S. talent shortages reaching a 10 year high.

At MacDougall, many of our clients are advancing science that can’t be slowed by vacant positions or unexpected departures. A robust employee recruitment, engagement and retention plan is key to tackling turnover and accelerating hiring. However, simply sharing jobs on social media channels and offering free snacks is no longer enough to stand out amongst competitors.

“Creative communication methods that have improved retention and recruitment are all centered around talent branding and storytelling,” said Lindsey Summers, a leading biopharma recruiter and Director, Pharmaceutical Consulting Division of Green Key Resources. “You’ll also see many of their talent team on social platforms highlighting personal and company wins, giving back to the community and giving kudos and providing useful and thoughtful comments to others. Some companies have specialists that manage the entire employee experience and are being creative by sending out branded onesies to parents of newborns or anniversary gifts and recognition internally and on social pages.”

To recruit and retain top talent, you must build your employer brand authentically.

Capitalize on Company Culture

Millennials and Gen Z consider “company culture and the perks” as a top priority in evaluating prospective employers. In our post-COVID world, perks have grown beyond free bagel Fridays. Flexible work agreements, childcare support, remote team building and more have emerged as the new norm.

So how does a company differentiate their culture when our workspaces are frequently bedrooms and not boardrooms and Slack has replaced the impromptu brainstorm in a communal kitchen?

Company culture is defined by more than a “beer fridge” or PTO package. At its heart, your culture is defined by the shared beliefs, values and priorities set forth by the company and reinforced and communicated through all company engagements and channels. A strong corporate culture gives employees something with which to identify and feel connected and can aid in decision making and strategic goal setting. Conversely, toxic cultures can erode confidence in leadership and undercut success. Even if a company doesn’t set out to create a distinct corporate culture, one will inevitably emerge, so proactively setting goals for your culture is critical.

When it comes to communicating your culture, always remember its core to your value prop. If your organization lacks hierarchy, consider showcasing team members on social media for a “day in the life” series. If scientific achievement is essential to your employee brand, give your scientists a voice in external forums and use their expertise and insights to inform your recruitment strategies. Prominently display your organization’s vision, mission and values statements on your website and careers pages.

Your culture defines who you are, but it should also motivate people to join you (and stay)!

Bring Meaning to Mondays

One simple way to boost recruitment, engagement and retention is to bring meaning and purpose to employees’ work. Luckily, for companies in the healthcare and life science industries, there is typically tremendous meaning in the work — creating life changing interventions for patients.

While many employees are initially attracted to a company because of the potential to impact patients, the need for connection and engagement remains critical long after onboarding has ended. Infusing meaning and purpose into the day-to-day work is essential to ensure enduring employee engagement.

All jobs have frustrations, and our workforce is more burnt out than ever, so how do you keep the patient present when deadlines are looming and employees are exhausted? Creating formal processes to help employees understand how their actions affect customers is vital. Invite patient advocates to town halls and company meetings, showcase patient stories on your website and social channels, and continually reinforce the significance of each company development for your customer community.

Summers also notes that DEI and social impacts are increasingly becoming a focus for companies and can prove meaningful for employees, “Companies with a mission and impact … and those that are inclusive of Women, Black, Brown and LGBTQI, neurodiverse workers and employees that require accommodations and work authorization will win in our inclusive future. People want to feel like what they are doing every day is more than a person behind a screen or selling a product or service, but is really making an impact to humanity in some way, that what they show up for everyday means something.”

By keeping your communications centered on the potential patient impact, your team will always remember why the work they do matters and why they come to work each day.

Give Employees a Voice

Highly effective companies are 10 times more likely to give employees the opportunity to provide input and twice as likely to ask employees for ideas on how to accomplish their work. When it comes to recruitment and retention, your employees should be your biggest advocates and advisors.

Employees know firsthand the pros and cons of the workplace. Ask for feedback on your recruitment materials— who knows, you might be missing some of an employee’s favorite perks! Conduct an informal focus group to see if the messages in your advertisements and postings present a clear differentiation from competitors. Ask members of your team to create blog posts or social media content sharing what they love about their job. Most importantly, quickly act on the feedback received — for employees to feel authentically engaged, their feedback and opinions need to count. As the Great Resignation continues, companies that employ creative, authentic and engaging recruitment and retention campaigns will undoubtedly weather the changes with more longevity amongst their ranks.

If you are interested in accelerating your employee recruitment and retention efforts with a robust communication plan, MacDougall is here to help.

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