What is most important to consider when it comes to employee retention? According to recent research by IBM, “workers placed work-life balance (51 percent) and career advancement opportunities (43 percent) at the top of their list of priorities. Compensation and benefits (41 percent) and employer ethics and values (41 percent) follow close behind. More than a third of employees named continuous learning opportunities (36 percent) and organizational stability (34 percent) as key engagement factors.”

In our (almost) post-pandemic world, many employers are having a hard time finding qualified employees. This means that employee retention should be top of mind for everyone.

Be flexible

2020 taught all of us how to adapt quickly. We expected a great deal from our employees and often were unable to give much in return. But flexibility was one gift we did grant. Mostly because we had no other choice. As we all juggled work duties, family responsibilities, and other pandemic-related challenges, we learned we could work productively while remote.

Who can blame some employees for not wanting to go back to an office? Citrix’s Talent Accelerator reports that, when looking for a new job, 88 percent of knowledge workers will seek employment that offers complete flexibility in their hours and location. Furthermore, the majority of your employees are more likely to prioritize lifestyle choices, including family and personal interests, over job proximity. Finding remote work options that work for your staff, and maintain equity is an important goal.

Last year people realized what matters most. This year they are committed to finding and keeping jobs that provide them autonomy to choose when and how they work, coupled with the flexibility to nurture their personal lives, interests, and well-being.

Build career pathways

Unsatisfactory compensation is rarely the main driver of employee attrition. Instead, according to the Work Institute’s 2021 Retention Report, a lack of opportunity for career growth is the number one reason for employees’ premature work departure. One in five employees leave an organization for greener growth pastures.

If you are not already talking to your employees about what is next for them at your organization, now is the time to start. Use performance conversations to uncover their career aspirations and professional development goals. Prepare managers at all levels of your agency to coach and provide feedback on not only current job outcomes, but future career goals. Partner with employees to map out their career journeys and be clear and consistent about how the work they are doing today contributes to their future outlook.

Invest in learning

Last year many organizations cut or maintained investment in learning and development, yet the need for reskilling and upskilling in the midst of disruption skyrocketed. Employees who felt unsupported began to train themselves. And as learning continues to become more accessible through on-demand, low-cost, and self-directed programs such as MasterClass, people are satisfying their quench for personal development on their own terms.

Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker survey found that 25 percent of respondents plan to look for a new job when they feel the threat of the pandemic has subsided. But employers who elevate learning will be in a good position to combat this trend. Harvard Business Review’s “What Your Future Employees Want Most” reports that 82 percent of workers believe they will need to upskill or reskill at least once a year in order to maintain competitive advantage in a global job market.

Providing opportunities for your employees to sharpen skills for their current roles or develop new skills for emerging ones benefits both your employees and your organization as you continue to evolve to meet new market demands.

Employee retention is a goal of every organization. But your employees are not yours to keep. It is not your responsibility to hold too tightly to your top performers.  You can’t perfectly plan every piece of the succession planning puzzle. Instead, focus on developing employees with the intent to release them into bigger and better things. Whether their next step up is with you, or elsewhere, is not your decision to make.