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Considerations for Improving Retention in Human Services Organizations

By Bettina Lipphardt, on February 23rd, 2024

Every day we are bombarded with news reports about the global shortage of workers, help-wanted signs, and online ads for companies looking for new employees. Many companies have resorted to enhancing wages to fill vacant positions. Additionally, there is a loss of population in New York, especially in Upstate. All these factors create a competition for employees that has never been fiercer.

We have all heard the saying “it costs three times as much to hire a new employee than to retain those we have.” That cost has only increased over the past few years, making it crucial to retain current employees. For human services organizations, which commonly operate on limited resources already, this is a significant challenge. Below are five key areas human services organizations can focus on to help navigate this hurdle:


An organization’s culture sets the beliefs and behaviors that influence how employees and management interact. It also determines how business transactions occur. Culture is strongly impacted by employee relationships and connections. Here are a few things organizations can do to improve culture:

  • Encourage strong coworker relationships — Face-to-face interactions are by far the most important way to maintain employee relationships. Unfortunately, these types of interactions have been limited as a result of the pandemic and our overall shift to a more digital world. We have come to realize virtual interactions are just not as impactful as face-to-face. Encouraging employees to come back together is imperative to restoring company culture.
  • Be transparent and open with your employees — Share the challenges and successes of the organization. Human services organizations should consider regularly communicating with employees throughout the year whether it be via newsletters, emails, formal in-person meetings, or virtual meetings. The key is to have communication — the communication form doesn’t matter as much.
  • Promote a team atmosphere — Bring teams together for a happy hour, lunch, or a team event. Consider friendly team competitions.
  • Constantly share your mission and vision statements — People want to know their work is meaningful, what they do has purpose, and that they are part of something bigger. This is a significant advantage for human services organizations that is easy to capitalize on. Your mission and vision statements establish the long-term direction and goals that guide your daily operations. Make sure all your employees are aware of your mission and vision by continually exemplifying it.
  • Inspire employee autonomy — No one likes to be micromanaged. Trust your employees to do the work they were hired to do.


Millennials are currently projected to make up the largest generation in the workforce, replacing Baby Boomers and reducing the representation of Gen Xers. It is important to keep in mind that Millennials want different things in the workplace than the Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, one of which being mentoring. Human services organizations should consider implementing a formal mentoring program.

Formal mentoring programs strengthen employee/leadership relationships, enhance employee development and succession planning. Mentoring provides a sense of accomplishment for both mentor and mentee. Mentoring also provides a stronger sense of loyalty to the organization. Additional benefits include growth, consumer satisfaction, employee engagement, increased job satisfaction, and improved morale and pride. The time spent in mentoring will be worth it in the long-term as an investment in the future.


Recognition shows your employees that their contributions lead to success within the organization, and that they are valued. Recognition is a powerful motivator and leads to improved performance. Human services organizations have the unique opportunity to show their employees how they are changing the lives of the people they serve. Celebrate the accomplishments of your employees and broadcast them for all to see. Human services organizations could create an appreciation program that recognizes their employees and highlights the social impact of their work.

Work-Life Balance

Noel Gallagher said, “I don’t live to work; I work to live.” As people reevaluate their priorities in this post-pandemic era we currently reside in, this has never been truer. Employees are placing more emphasis on work-life balance and as a result, providing work-life balance for your employees is imperative. It is difficult to manage work-life balance in our current environment, and especially in many human services organizations given the nature of the work, but if we don’t, it will only get worse.

Human services organizations can improve their employee’s work-life balance by regularly reviewing workloads, requiring employees to take breaks, focusing on productivity, leading by example, and reviewing perks that are offered.

People want different things now. Providing an improved work-life balance will lead to increased productivity and happier employees.


Now more than ever, human services organizations must be flexible. Employees need to have the flexibility to attend to personal matters as they arise. For this to occur, the organization should quickly adapt to new circumstances as they arise. To become more flexible, an organization must keep an open mind and respond appropriately to ever-changing circumstances. Keep your core values in mind when determining the extent of flexibility. As always, planning will help when unexpected situations arise.

Whether it be with flexible work hours or work arrangements, being accommodating increases retention, employee loyalty, and engagement. Overall, flexibility helps organizations through the tough times we are currently facing.

Human services organizations are facing several challenges, and retention ranks at the top of the list. Retaining employees is essential to success. Keeping the items above front and center will help with that goal in mind. Working on our culture, mentoring, and recognizing our employees, and providing work-life balance and flexibility will help your organizations stand out as the employer of choice.

If you need further guidance or have any questions on this topic, we are here to help. Please do not hesitate to reach outto discuss your specific situation.

This material has been prepared for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal or accounting advice. Should you require any such advice, please contact us directly. The information contained herein does not create, and your review or use of the information does not constitute, an accountant-client relationship.

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