Often the biggest operating cost for any business is its employees. Getting the right team of skilled, hard working staff in place will ensure that you’re getting value for money from your workforce and will provide the right platform to drive your business forward. But inevitably people choose to move on, which can lead to a drop in overall productivity, not to mention the use of management time and the cost money in of replacing them, hopefully with someone as good as the last. But how many of us stop to ask why the relationship ended? Was it me? Was it them? Could I have stopped them playing the field in the first place? What was their motivation (or lack of) that prompted the decision?
Back in the old days (or at least pre-global recession), year on year pay rises and impressive bonuses were often enough to retain your key personnel. However, despite a more promising economic outlook, these financial rewards are not, in the main, an option for many small and medium size employers and play a much smaller part in employment related decisions than they once did. In fact, if you were to ask a recently departed employee what it was that made them move on, the chances are they would cite half a dozen additional factors as reasons to leave, rather than just the monetary option. They might include:
- Lack of engagement with the business as a whole
- Unpleasant working environment
- No clearly defined career progression
- Lack of support
- Lack of opportunity for Training and and Development
- Poor management
- Poor communication
Although there is no “one size fits all” approach to addressing the issue of staff retention, you should ideally get your HR manager to help you devise a strategy that focuses on the most likely areas of concern that may arise within your workforce. Employee engagement surveys are a great starting point for identifying what your employees do, or indeed don’t, like about their workplace and to identify levels of engagement. But, as well as taking into account what might have been highlighted in a survey, you should try to put yourself one step ahead of the game. Open and honest communication to with the staff as a whole and on an individual basis is the solid foundation on which to start. A clear track to promotion, regular feedback, having the right managers, promoting opportunities for further training and development and offering flexible working are some of the cornerstones which can then help to build a loyal and productive team.
When you recruited your team in the first place, the chances are you did a good job of selling yourself, and your business, to them. As the company grows, strategies inevitably change and the whole business model can receive a radical makeover. If you don’t resell your corporate vision to the staff, you might find they lose sight of what it is you’re all out to achieve. Even if things haven’t changed that much, remind them of what it is they bought into in the beginning.
Of course, it would be remiss not to at least mention money. Whilst it isn’t always the biggest driving factor, making sure your employees are adequately remunerated (compared, for example, to your competitors) should be a fundamental part of your retention strategy. Performance related incentives can be a real motivator, whether it’s financial bonuses, vouchers, or some other company scheme. Not only could it help retain your staff, an added benefit is the potential to see them striving to exceed even your own expectations.
Of course, there’ll undoubtedly be someone who was just never going to work out anyway, but for those who do, at least try to hang on to the good ones. If budgets are tight, consider low cost or no cost ways to motivate staff without, look out for training courses offered to provide guidance on this subject:, Motivating without Money. And, whilst a counteroffer (with an element of hindsight) for a departing employee may be a last ditch attempt to keep them on board, once he or she has made the decision to move on, they’ve almost certainly lost their commitment to the cause. It’s probably best to let them go.
You don’t have to have made the Sunday Times’ list of Best 100 Companies to work for in order to make your employees want to stick around. But you might consider what it was that made those companies get there in the first place.