Anecdotally, internal communicators often recognize how their work helps employees connect with the organization, and research backs this up. One study found that communication significantly predicts both work engagement and organizational commitment. Another study found that internal communication enhances the extent to which employees identify with the organization.
With current employee turnover historically high, and costly to the organization, understanding employee attrition and retention goes beyond HR. What role does internal communications (IC) play?
Employee retention trends
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Quits are generally voluntary separations initiated by the employee. Therefore, the quits rate can serve as a measure of workers’ willingness or ability to leave jobs.” In April 2022, the quit rate was 2.9%, much higher than pre-pandemic rates of 2.3% (April 2019).
Gartner reports that the two main causes of employee turnover right now are misalignment with leadership and employees’ desire to achieve a certain level of flexibility. Similarly, FastCompany reports that 42% of people quit in 2021 for reasons related to how they felt about their bosses and organizational culture.
This data reveals precisely where communications teams can contribute most:
- Executive and Manager outreach to employees
- Culture-building internal communications
How communicators can affect employee retention
Gallup’s Q12 engagement survey prioritizes employee well-being questions. Participants are asked to respond to prompts like, “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person,” and “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”
The survey responses signal how communicators can play an important role in retention, specifically by helping executives and managers individually connect with their staff and employees. Internal comms can enable manager-level recognition programs and help connect roles with missions that managers and employees can relate to — reminding employees that their work is important and they are valued contributors.
Culturally, IC also plays an important role. The first step is understanding the current company culture, the desired company culture, and the gap in between. If your organization wants to develop a stronger culture of wellbeing at work, IC can provide more information and connect employees with available resources — like mental health resources, coaching opportunities, and financial counseling services.
According to BetterUp research, “Employees who understand that well-being underpins peak performance and believe their manager is invested in their mental fitness are more likely to take steps to improve their own well-being. This makes them happier, more creative, less prone to burnout, and more engaged at work” — all of which tie back to employee retention.
Through strategic messaging programs, communicators can steer the conversation around wellbeing and mental health, while connecting employees with helpful resources. Through effective storytelling, communicators can reveal shared struggles and remind folks that they matter to the company.
Communications role in employee retention
Employee turnover and retention are nuanced and complex, yet we know even small decisions or a misguided mandate can make a big difference.
Helping executives and managers consistently and authentically communicate with employees will foster better relationships. And strategic messaging programs will shape conversations around vulnerable topics like wellbeing, mental health, and burnout. With employee turnover historically high, now is the time for corporate communications teams to step up and play a central role in improving the employee experience and minimizing turnover.