This is how Zety retains 86% of its employees

8 mins, 23 secs read time

When a new employee joins Zety – they tend to stay. We have an employee retention rate of 86%, and we have only laid off two employees. What’s our secret? How do we manage to keep such a high percentage of our people on board?

In essence, it all boils down to hiring promising people. Those who want to join us for the right reasons, not the paycheck.

In today’s article, I will describe Zety’s high-retention culture and how you can build yours from scratch. You will learn about tactics HR specialists can use before the interviewing part to boost the company’s retention rate and a heck of a lot more.

Understanding employee retention

Employee retention has become a major issue for companies in the tight job market.
Consider the following figures:

Translating all of the above, I think it’s safe to argue that if a staff member earns $60,000 per year, the company is likely to spend $45,000 to replace them.

Keeping employees from jumping ship

Those are some staggering stats, huh? That is why an increasing number of companies are eager to skyrocket their retention rates. Here’s how Zety does it.

Recruit well to retain well

Now, you know how important it is to have a high-retention environment. The question is, how can you build one? It all starts the moment you consider filling the role. That is when you need to max out the odds of hiring the right people who will stay for the long haul with your company.

But what makes people “right”? Is it their work experience and skill set that play the pivotal role? Well, not exactly. You can always coach a person to do their job, but it is a lot more challenging to make them align with your vision and your core values.

That’s why you should look to hire people for cultural fit. You want to hire smart, motivated people who could one day become torch carriers in your organization as opposed to seasoned performers.

Need proof? Take SurveyMonkey, a SaaS company that makes more than $100 million in profit. This company does not prioritize hiring experienced people. Instead, they focus on targeting those who would make a great cultural fit, coaching and mentoring them. Ultimately, these people are the ones who become the “homegrown” talent.

So how do you start attracting people who are likely to fit your company culture?

Manage your online presence

Before you head out to hunt for the right talent, you want to ensure that your site clearly articulates your mission, your core values. Managing your online presence also means looking beyond your company site to review other publicly available resources.

Here’s an example:

We are on Trustpilot, and sometimes the reviews we get about our product are negative. We do everything it takes to respond to negative reviews within 24 hours, and job seekers (who take the time to research us) are impressed that we care enough to do so.

That’s why you want to own your digital presence and manage your messaging and whatever else pops up.In the end, articulating who you are as a company both externally and internally is a crucial aspect of attracting the right people.

Make your job descriptions unique to your company

Most of our job postings have an About Us section, which clearly communicates that we are looking for people who take the initiative. We know what we do and what we do not stand for. We would never say something like We have a great environment for everyone who is willing to learn.

Because we don't have such an environment. Our job posts never communicate things that are not true. You don’t want to have people disappointed when reality does not match the expectations set up by the job offer. We are also upfront about what people can expect from our hard culture.

For example, we always say, “We are on the lookout for people with personality and ownership. If you are not good with concrete culture, this might not be a good place for you.”

In the end, by attracting the right people, you will have a team of people ready to help your company reach its true north.

Do not hold on to low performers

Here is something to consider: Regardless of what employee retention strategies you leverage, 100% employee retention rate is not something to aim for. Why? Because not all employees can or, more importantly, should be retained.

As Yale professor Sigal Barsade argues, underperforming employees tend to create a ripple effect in the workplace, spreading apprehension among healthy workers.

Ultimately, that can lead to your best people looking for better employment prospects, decreasing your retention rate dramatically. Besides, retaining poor performers is a time suck for line managers as well as a profit-killer for organizations. But what defines poor employee performance?

Here are three key characteristics to look out for:

  • Low quality of tasks/projects delivered
  • Negligent workplace attitude
  • Inability to gel and work efficiently with team members

So does that mean you should fire your B players? Not exactly. You can always take a more efficient route by aligning your goals and expectations. When it comes to the performance management process, 50% of employees are unaware of management’s expectations of them. That means your B players might need some guidance for their performance to spike.

The best way to go about it is to set up a performance improvement meeting with the underperforming employee and come up with a roadmap for the upcoming three months. How should you tackle this?

  • Give the employee your feedback, backed up with specific examples regarding their performance (numbers, facts).
  • Collaborate with the employee on setting up goals, tying them to the organizational goals.
  • Make sure the employee’s goals are attainable, and be there to help them achieve their goals.
  • Schedule a follow-up meeting to check in and make sure you are both on track.

Give the poorly performing employee lots of feedback, coach them, set standards for them and, if they can’t meet those standards, be prepared to let them go.

Empower your team in the decision-making process

There is a link between employee involvement in decision making and their job satisfaction.

Alas, a great majority of line managers tend to second guess and micromanage the directs with control over the outcome of projects. This cultivates an environment where employees feel disengaged – after all, their opinions don’t matter. And that manifests in attrition. Equipping your people with the confidence to make decisions and act decisively is therefore crucial if you want to lower your turnover rates.

Here is how Zety does it:

Our line managers always push people, not to present their opinions, but to look for a solution instead. We want our employees to come saying: "This is what needs to be done and this is how I am going to do it. What do you think?"

Whenever you can, make sure that your people find the solution on their own:

  • Ask your workers for their input on important matters related to their department during dailies
  • Encourage employees to partake in setting up their own daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly goals
  • Encourage your workers to optimize and improve upon their day-to-day processes
  • Recognize the effort (both verbally and with performance bonuses, etc.) if you want to encourage the person to repeat the behavior and encourage others to follow.

It might often be much easier to make a call yourself, but you should resist the urge. Do not impose a solution – if you empower your employees to act like owners, they will never want to quit.

Train your line managers

Line managers play a pivotal role when it comes to improving employee retention. According to a study conducted among 1,000 employees, the inability of line managers to develop a trusting relationship is one of the top three reasons employees leave the company.

That’s because managers have a great deal of control and supervision over the employee experience, from onboarding to receiving feedback.

Half of the success belongs to HR and half belongs to the line manager.
– Piotrek Sosnowski, a Co-founder and VP of Zety

Now, what are the signs of bad line management? There are quite a few of them, actually:

  • Giving “the silent treatment” to directs
  • Failing to give credit to team members when due
  • Making negative comments about an employee to other staff members
  • Blaming others to cover up personal missteps and minimize embarrassment.

So how can HR and line managers rally around to keep valued employees onboard?

  • Make employee retention a KPI for manager evaluations
  • Educate managers who oversee staff members on the culture of communication, giving feedback and goal setting (e.g., consider running a topic-specific workshop every once in a while).
  • Put a focus on learning opportunities, growth goals and future trajectory in the organization (e.g., during one-on-ones).

At Zety, when people join the company, we closely monitor how the newcomer is performing and how they are gelling with their team members.

One month in, we arrange an informal lunch for the line manager and the new person. This allows for an honest talk, one on one. Our line managers ask the newbie what they like and dislike about their work, what they want to be doing three to six months from now, etc.

Weekly, we measure how satisfied our employees are via Officevibe and whether their team leaders are doing everything they can to keep our people happy.

We believe that it is crucial for companies to build a data-driven process that would indicate when people are unmotivated, stressed out or just feeling swamped.

That way, it is possible to eradicate dissent before it manifests itself in turnover.

Learn about more employee experience essentials that can help boost retention.

See the blog post