May 31, 2022

What Can You Do to Address Record Inflation? Part Two

We are very happy employees

By Paul Noland

Last week, in Part One of this article, we highlighted the current 40-year high U.S. inflation rate and how leaders can address the economic shift in your organization without negatively impacting the guest, associate, or animal welfare functions. We focused on the first two opportunities of increasing your prices and decreasing your costs. If you didn’t yet have a chance to read that article, click here to access it. In Part Two, we focus on the third actionable opportuniy: Retaining Your Employees.

The pandemic has caused a seismic shift in how people think about their jobs and careers. “The great resignation” means employee churn is up significantly versus prior years. Even with that, unemployment levels are at historic lows again. Both factors will negatively impact employee retention.

Improving employee retention will positively impact both an organization’s top and bottom line. A valued and tenured staff will drive guest satisfaction, which will in turn drive revenue through repeat visitation. Higher staff retention will drive cost savings in recruitment, onboarding, training, and overall labor efficiency.

Perhaps more than the other sections in this article, there generally are no “silver bullets” here. Any steps taken will have impacts and many have costs of their own. But that doesn’t lessen the importance (or the potential positive impact) that improving employee retention can have on an organization.  

There’s a tendency to think that the only solution to improving employee retention is more pay and benefits, and certainly that’s an important consideration. However, studies show that employees who know they’re contributing and feel valued tend to have the highest retention rates. Simply put, it’s hard to leave a job where they really like you.

With that in mind, here are some steps to consider:

  • Conduct a review of your organization’s culture. Review past employee satisfaction surveys if you have them. Conduct one-on-one and/or small employee focus groups. Get answers to questions such as:
    • What makes this organization unique?
    • What works and doesn’t work on our “employee journey” (recruitment, onboarding, training, scheduling, evaluations, and feedback, etc.)?
    • What’s the number one reason long-term employees stay?
    • What’s the number one reason employees leave?
  • Benchmark other organizations. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when you can learn from others. Partner with other organizations and mutually share current practices. Whatever your challenges, it’s likely you’re not alone in facing them.
  • Focus on “internal PR”. You probably put considerable resources into external public relations. You want your community to know about the good work you do in conservation, and you make sure that story gets told. Remember to include your staff in your list of stakeholders. Celebrate with them when you accomplish a milestone or win an award. It’s one of the great things about being a mission-driven organization—you have an impactful, emotional story to tell, and it reinforces to staff why they work for your organization.

There are no easy answers to inflationary problems. One thing’s for sure—it’s unlikely that any one move will be the answer. Rather, it will be a series of tactical changes towards driving revenue, managing costs, and improving staff retention that will result in a real impact. Some initiatives may fail but keep at it. Your hard work will be worth it in the long run.

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