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14 effective ways to improve staff retention and slash your recruitment budget

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Staff retention is, undeniably, a vital element of any successful business.

The stats show that employee turnover is a giant financial burden to the nation’s employers.

The cost of voluntary turnover in the UK [1]:

  • Replacing a skilled employee costs
  • £20,000 to £30,000
  • Lost productivity of turnover costs
  • £16,000 to £39,000
  • Finding and training new staff costs
  • £3,000 to £6,500
  • Training a new employee takes
  • 12 to 18 months
  • In 2013 alone, turnover in the UK cost
  • Over £1 billion

Those figures show an unacceptable burden to UK business. And employees are still as prone to leave as ever – in 2016 alone, one in seven UK employees resigned from a position.

If you look around your office, could you honestly say you could afford to lose one in seven staff? For the sake of your company, we hope the answer is a resounding “no.”

The good news is many problems that cause high turnover are avoidable. With a bit of intent, investment and time, you could address staff retention in a quarter.

Start with the ideas we lay out here.

14 effective ways to improve your staff retention

Click below to jump to a section:

11. Flexibility
12. Benefits
13. Work environment
14. Exit interviews

 

1. Advocate your values

If your business doesn’t have values, it’s time to think of investing in some. We choose the word investment on purpose.

Values are a significant boost to a company that lives and dies by upholding them. However, like any investment they need attention, maintenance and care to be valuable.

Modern staff increasingly indicate they want to work for ethical companies. The world is more aware than ever of the effects of our lives, personal and professional, on the wider world.

As a result, there’s some existential and internal pressure to behave in an ethical manner. Those needs dovetail neatly with what employees want from their employers.

Upholding some coherent, ethical values will help you with staff retention. [2]

2. Establish a purpose and talk about it

connecting employees with values helps improve employee retentionConnect the work your employees do to something more interesting than bars on a chart. Then make that your purpose, and find a way to talk about it.

Graphs and bar charts are too boring. They need context to get an emotional response from staff. They don’t seem as tangible as real-life outcomes.

Too many companies set out with a purpose, but it ends up as flimsy PR, internally and externally.

Employees stay with employers that make a real difference to the wider world. Connecting employees with a professional raison d’être gives them more than just figures and graphs to look to when it comes to what they take satisfaction in with their work. [3]

3. Recognise staff

Recognise your employees for anything that brings sincere value to your workplace. Not just for hitting targets, but for improving your workplace overall.

Recognition isn’t just another form of reward, it’s a way of building a relationship among a group.

From both managers and colleagues, it’s important for human beings to feel like a valued member of a team. It’s vital to our emotional comfort and personal and professional safety.

Recognition improves areas like motivation, productivity, engagement and satisfaction. It extends to retention, too: 55% of employees state that they would leave their current job for a company that embraces recognition. [4]

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4. Empower staff and listen to them

Having a voice in decision-making gives staff a sense of buy-in over their work and what they’re being asked to do.

The only thing worse than not listening to staff, is listening to staff and ignoring what they say.

When your staff believe in a project that requires their expertise, they will be more invested in the project’s success.

Long-term, this helps build your employees’ engagement with their work and your company. [5]

Engaged employees are much more likely to stick with a company than disengaged employees.

That’s because having power and a voice is a big part of feeling close to an employer’s values and purpose.

5. Pay fair and competitive salaries

Your business isn’t “getting away” with anything by underpaying staff. You’re only going to guarantee they will leave.

A job can only ever look like a stepping stone an extremely underpaid employee.

Poor pay remains one of the top reasons an employee leaves a job. Considering the enormous cost of replacing talent we outlined earlier in this article, paying staff badly is at best an own-goal.

The short-term gains don’t make up for having to reinvest in new staff. [6]

6. Talk about the future

Not only the future of the business, but the future of the employee. It’s important for two major reasons.

First, job security. Being acknowledged as a part of the plans for the future makes it clear they have a place in the company.

That security lets staff stop fretting about the safety of their job, and focus on their work. [7]

Second, it gives staff the security that your company is the place to achieve their career goals.

You’ll struggle to retain staff in the long term if they aren’t sure what their role long-term role is. They need to know if that matches up their ambitions.

7. Reward excellence

Issue rewards for the best and brightest. As we’ve pointed out before, rewards for excellence become trophies.

Trophies become reminders of personal excellence, and they generate passive motivation.

Feeling valued, and having a token of that value, makes staff likely to seek another reward in the future. They’ll do that by striving for more achievement.

In that same article, we also discussed how ineffective cash is as a reward. It doesn’t create an effective association between achievement and the sensation of reward.

When giving rewards, prioritise non-cash rewards unless you absolutely have to use cash.

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8. Invest in employee skills

You don’t want an immobile, low-skilled workforce. You’ll hobble your company’s growth. The problem is, it’s so easy to create one through underinvestement in skills.

Staff retention means putting resources into your people.

It will also stifle your ability to grow and change over time to meet the changing needs of the world around you.

Diversify and invest in your staff’s skills. Or the ones who can grow and change will end up walking away to companies offering to nurture them. [11]

9. Seek feedback and act on it

Receive feedback, and make sure to move on it. Asking for advice and input but ignoring replies actually makes the problem worse.

It’s a two-faced approach, paying lip-service to an obligation, but not truly believing in what you’re doing.

Ignoring feedback, especially when it was sought, will drive employee morale straight off a cliff. Low morale is a direct line to struggling with staff retention. [12]

10. Take an honest look at your management

It only takes one bad manager to undo a great deal of careful planning.

At its worst, half of employees choosing to go left directly because of management.

When a business makes significant cultural, or organisational, shifts it’s vital that every manager understands and embraces them. [10]

This blog has already covered how only measuring KPIs undermines your company’s values. We’ve also covered how toxic management can appear deceptively successful.

Toxic management will unpick every good intention you set out with in your business. And only measuring the success of KPIs and metrics encourages that toxic behaviour.

11. Open up flexible working

Flexibility matters to workers. Employees consistently demand flexibility from their employers.

Technology has allowed work to infiltrate the home lives of workers through computers.

As a result, the lines between the personal and professional are irreparably blurred.

Many staff see a fair but neccessary transaction here. In exchange for more work out of office hours, employers have less say over where that work takes place.

You might have some hard red lines, depending on your industry. You can’t fly in the face of regulations, legal constraints or even the need to staff your call centre. But flexibility will be a prized workplace benefit for the foreseeable future.

And employees will leave for employers with more flexible approaches to work. That’s a direct threat to staff retention.[8] [9]

12. Offer robust employee benefits

Employee benefits are not optional. They’re vital for attracting and keeping quality people.

Even just finding a way to alleviate the financial burden on your staff could be monumental.

Every day, a huge swathe of British workers struggle to prevent endless financial struggle from affecting their work. [13]

Employee benefits that improve quality of life increase employee attachment to employers.

Competitive employee benefits packages reduce personal issues that make employees think about leaving.

They also help you attract new employees at the same time. Combined it’s great for acquisition and staff retention.

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13. Address your work environment

Does your workplace work for your workforce? As companies grow, workplaces themselves can become a millstone around the neck.

They can stop teams from reaching their potential and frustrate your employees. Frustrated employees are poor for staff retention.

Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple invest collective billions into their work environments. Because they know employees need appropriate surroundings to excel.

Some factors that make a workplace a better environment for your employees include:

  • The ability for employees to communicate properly.
  • Some degree of privacy, or space for quiet work.
  • Access to the technology they need to do their work, like wireless internet or video conferencing equipment.
  • A location that’s desirable without being inaccessible for staff.
  • Access to food and health services.
  • Safety of workers during their working day.

14. Embrace the exit interview

If an employee leaving your business is a cloud, then the exit interview needs to be the silver lining.

You can’t claw back an employee already walking out the door, but you can learn from what set them on that path.

Then you can apply that knowledge to the rest of the your staff. Especially the ones who might have one foot out the proverbial door.

Put employees at ease by holding the interview after they’ve secured a reference. That way there’s no fear that they’ll put their next role in jeopardy.

Ask open-ended questions that address their employee experience without being too negative. For instance, asking what an employee would like change about the company is more constructive than just asking what they didn’t like about working for your company.

Be positive, honest and above all else, keep their answers as confidential as possible.

Getting staff retention strategies off the ground

Ultimately, your company needs to believe in the change, and believe in the need for the change to take place. Not just individually, but as an organisation.

Making any kind of substantial change to how your business operates will tend to seem like a big deal. That means it’s important to have the will to overcome any hurdles.

Your senior leadership needs belief in the change to drive it home. In the long run, it will be worth it. Employees that stay longer bring immense value and understanding to your company.

Their contributions eclipse the price of making sure they stay in the fold in the first place. Once your senior leadership understand the need for change, it’s much easier to drive positive changes across a whole business.

References:

1.Oxford Economics, Brain Drain, 2014
2.https://www.forbes.com/sites/forrester/2018/05/23/millennials-call-for-values-driven-companies-but-theyre-not-the-only-ones-interested/
3.https://www.prweek.com/article/1463132/employees-engaged-purpose-led-companies-survey-says
4.2015 SHRM/Globoforce survey
5.https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/focus/human-capital-trends/2016/employee-engagement-and-retention.html#endnote-sup-3
6.https://www.hrdive.com/news/employees-most-likely-to-quit-for-a-higher-salary-elsewhere/527382/
7.https://hbr.org/2017/03/why-do-employees-stay-a-clear-career-path-and-good-pay-for-starters
8.https://www.ft.com/content/1c3e8d8a-6a70-11e8-aee1-39f3459514fd
9.https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/new-polls-confirm-desire-for-flexible-working-as-9-to-5-declines/
10.https://www.gallup.com/workplace/232955/no-employee-benefit-no-one-talking.aspx
11.https://www.forbes.com/sites/meghanbiro/2018/07/23/developing-your-employees-is-the-key-to-retention-here-are-4-smart-ways-to-start/#4b0155643734
12.https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/22753/youve-gotten-employee-feedback-now-what.aspx
13.https://www.employeebenefits.co.uk/two-fifths-work-financial-worries/