Whilst staying at a company for five, 10 or 20 years used to be perfectly normal protocol, since 2021 The Great Resignation has highlighted what has quietly been happening for the last decade; valuable employees are dictating what will keep them in their role because they are astutely aware of their own value and employers are struggling to keep hold of the best talent and recruit the top candidates.
Research* (Nov 2021) from recruitment firm Randstad found that almost a quarter (24%) of employees in the UK say they plan to move jobs within the next three to six months. In the US the figure is double that.
Thom Dennis, CEO at Serenity in Leadership argues the cost of loss of talent is often overlooked before it is too late. “When an employee hands in their notice, it often costs a business more than that employee’s salary to recruit because of the expense of finding and training a replacement. Add to that figure the loss in productivity, the effect on team morale, the need to train someone up or delegate to other colleagues and it is obvious why it is paramount that leaders find ways to prevent valued employees from seeking pastures new. If employees are offered long term development opportunities, are paid well and enjoy working with their colleagues, then their employers are about halfway there, but there is a lot more needed to retain the best talent.”
Thom Dennis explains the best ways businesses can improve their employee retention.
1. Pay competitively. A decade ago securing a higher salary was the most alluring factor when it came to changing your job and that is still the case, but it is not just disposable income coming into play, salaries are increasingly a mark of how valued employees feel for the work they do.
2. Discretionary powers to offer flexibility. Whilst location used to be important when choosing a job, flexible working hours and a hybrid working model as a result of the pandemic mean location is of less importance depending on how often employees are expected to come to work. Middle managers need to be empowered with discretionary powers to fulfil new demands for better working hours and greater flexibility.
3. Company values. Keep values and objectives of employees and the business aligned. Poor levels of trust lead to fear and uncertainty, two powerful catalysts for employees to seek work elsewhere.
4. Create clear progression paths. Some employees thrive on a vertical career ladder, but our needs and priorities evolve in different directions over time, so managers need to develop clear plans for an individual’s growth. Don’t wait for annual review dates if your employee is already beating your expectations and deserves a career advancement opportunity. Show you value their contributions in a timely fashion. Don’t wait for them to have packed their bags. Stay aligned and up to date with employees’ needs and wants long term. Nail the onboarding process and meet with new starters frequently so you are aware of their concerns and can act on them quickly, especially if they are working from home.
5. ED&I. We know that psychological and physical safety, feeling comfortable and being able to be authentically yourself within the workplace are incredibly important. In addition, strong policies against harassment, disrespect or bullying, lead to heightened productivity, and greater loyalty and employee retention. Employees want a culture that offers them respect, value, purpose, a real equity in both recruitment and also promotion and a sense of belonging.
6. Inspirational leaders. Strong, inspirational management and mentoring are paramount in maintaining focus, productivity, motivation and happiness amongst employees. Poor management results in employee exodus.
7. Prioritise training and team building. Independent and collaborative learning are both essential for career progression and to strengthen working relationships. The common practice of cutting training when budgets are tight leads to disaffection and a reason to leave and go somewhere where employees feel valued; it’s often a false economy. Celebrating wins together, building team dynamics and even hot-desking can be good for team building. Covid allowing, take time out as a team.
8. Work/life balance. A culture that allows burnout and overworking will never retain employees. Ensure workloads and demands are not too restricting for a healthy work-life balance. If employees feel too much pressure or their mental health suffers, they will likely become ill and therefore less productive, and they will search for less stressful alternatives.
9. Reward longevity at work. Letting employees choose a gift from a catalogue after five years work hardly spells “we value you”. On the other hand offering higher pension contributions, shares, flexibility, more holidays and an increased salary for longer standing employees speaks volumes.
10. Ask for honest feedback from those leaving to find out what they appreciated and where there is room for improvement. Evaluate all answers and see if there are any running themes and set targets to improve these. There could be a pattern linking to workload, lack of inclusion, limited career growth or poor management. Respect poor reviews on Glassdoor because even if you don’t believe them, prospective employees may. It is important to ask for feedback from all leavers so the business can learn and if there are negative feelings it might help defuse the situation.