Build a Powerful Employee Retention Strategy in 3 Steps


It doesn’t matter whether you’re in Sales, Revenue, Marketing, or any other field in the business world – if you’re a leader who recently took the reins of a new team, there’s a good chance you could benefit from a stronger employee retention strategy. 

We can’t count how many times leaders have reached out to Afterburner looking for help with some version of the following problem:

I started a new Director of Sales role six months ago, and in that time I’ve lost a quarter of my team.

There are plenty of factors that potentially cause, or contribute to, employee attrition under new team leadership. Whatever the cause, the good news is that it’s not an unsolvable problem.

If you’re a new leader facing hiring and employee retention issues, you’re not doomed to watch your team dwindle. With a smart, focused approach and 360-degree situational awareness, you have the power to align and excite your team and stop turnover – or even reverse it. That means creating an employee retention strategy that:

  • Fosters solidarity 
  • Invests in your employees
  • Gets your team pumped up to execute.

Get more insights for new team leaders.


Why are employee retention strategies so important right now?

Fortune Magazine reports that 41% of Americans over age 50 have worked for the same company for 20 years or more, but that younger generations are less likely to have that kind of tenure. As older workers retire and Millennials and Gen Z make up more of the workforce, more frequent job changes may become the overwhelming norm.

Recent events show evidence that this trend is accelerating. That Fortune article? It came out in 2016, years before the pandemic and the “Great Resignation” made many workers even more flighty. Reports from 2022 indicate that U.S. workers stay with a single employer for an average of just 4 years – a far cry from the multiple decades common in older generations.

It’s no secret that employee turnover can undermine team morale and solidarity – the exact qualities you need if you want your team to execute with military precision. And for new leaders, who haven’t yet built a rapport with their new team or familiarized themselves with the landscape, fostering these qualities is even harder. 

For all of these reasons, if you recently took on a new leadership position, one of your first goals should be to build a solid staff retention plan.


Elements of an employee retention strategy that drives solidarity and execution

Here are three steps to building an employee retention strategy that will keep attrition down, and excitement high, across your team.

Step 1: Determine the cause of attrition

Any winning employee retention strategy starts with diagnosing the root cause of turnover. We’ve found that, when new leaders see their team size decrease, they can typically attribute it to one of two factors:

  • Market forces
    It often doesn’t take much to prompt someone to seek a new opportunity. During the Great Resignation, market forces made it easier than ever for workers to leave their jobs, either to trade up for something better or to go out on their own. When a new leader joins a team, with a new strategy in tow, members of that team can get spooked – and sometimes that’s all it takes to prompt them to move on.
  • Cultural forces
    The introduction of a new leader and strategy can be jarring for the front-line members of the team. It takes work to build a rapport from scratch and get the team bought into a new strategy, and if it takes too long to clear these hurdles, distrust and indifference can set into your team culture. When that happens, attrition often isn’t far behind.

Step 2: Invest in employee training and development

The best employee retention strategies are more proactive than reactive. They make employees happy where they are, so you don’t have to worry about scrambling for a counteroffer when someone says they got a new job. 

In many cases, that means strong, robust training and development for new hires. If employees feel empowered and equipped with the resources they need to execute on their goals effectively, they’re much more likely to stay with the team. If they feel they have strong, actionable opportunities for professional development, even better. Studies have found that solid training and development can go a long way toward stemming attrition.

If employees feel empowered and equipped with the resources they need to execute on their goals effectively, they’re much more likely to stay with the team. If they feel they have strong, actionable opportunities for professional development, even better.

But what if you’re a new leader? What if most of your team was trained by your predecessor, and you therefore had no control over what that training looked like? In this case, look at your arrival as an opportunity for a new round of training for your new team – this time, focused not only on refreshing the basic skills necessary for their jobs, but also on your vision as a new leader, and what the team will need to do to execute on that vision.

Step 3: Paint a clear picture of your vision and strategy

When flying high-stakes missions, fighter pilots aren’t just aware of their own individual tasks. Each pilot is also acutely aware of how their own actions impact the broader team and the success of their mission. They each know that, without any one of them, the success of their mission would be out of reach.

It’s this knowledge that gives fighter pilots their sense of solidarity, purpose, and passion for their mission objective, enabling them to transcend individual execution and embrace a common mental model based on teamwork and mutual support.

When you transcend individual metrics and commissions and get team members bought into your strategy at an emotional level, you can stop employee attrition in its tracks.

Successful new leaders build this same ethos into their employee retention strategy. Each member of your team needs to understand how their role and their contributions support not just their own individual success, but the success of the team.

You won’t get to this point simply by doling out daily tasks or quarterly goals at the individual level and leaving it at that. Instead, it’s up to you as the team’s new leader to get everyone bought into your strategy at an emotional level. Create a compelling vision of your team’s success – and make everyone feel they’re a part of that vision.

What are your thoughts on these employee retention ideas? What challenges have you faced in this critical area? Get in touch to tell us all about it.