Retention in the workplace

Hakan Enver 16.02.2018

In a highly competitive market for talent, retention of employees is critical to the overall success of a business.

First impressions are vital to retention

Retention starts from the moment a prospective employee is invited in for an interview. For both parties, it is of paramount importance that the interviewer recognises the skills and behaviours of the applicant, as well as the candidate having an appreciation of the culture and strategy of their future employer. Even at this early stage, ensuring a good match is the first step to retaining long term.

Once a new hire has joined, efforts to keep them engaged must continue. This includes having structured training programmes in place in order to ensure skills are constantly developing, and regular performance reviews - even if these are yearly, bi annually or more frequent. There must exist a forum for staff to hear feedback on their performance and have goals set for the following period. This offers clarity around career progression and if appropriate, an opportunity to review salary. A lack of this type of forum or general visibility to either an employee’s career path or earnings will often drive individuals to other companies with more defined frameworks in place.

Recognise the varied motivations of employees

Everyone has different motivations for working. A business that can understand this and avoid treating everyone in the same fashion will on average have higher tenures than others. Reward and recognition are two key aspects for creating a high performing culture, as are allowing a work life balance and attractive benefits packages, therefore encompassing those motivated by different factors. Underlying this should be a culture of openness where feedback is commonplace. Whilst many can find the process of feedback unnatural, by creating an environment where this becomes the norm, it allows employees and employers to constantly seek self-improvement.

Desires of the millennial workforce

To date, there has been a lot of research into the millennial social group, with many studies showing how this particular generation’s attitude and behaviours to work differ from generations preceding them. By 2020, it is predicted that 50% of the global workforce will consist of millennials. Therefore, it is imperative that those hiring talent are able to adapt to this evolving mind-set to the workplace. Generally speaking, millennials want a flexible approach to work and expect regular feedback and recognition. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognised. A lot of emphasis is placed on employer brand, and the ethics by which a business operates. Millennials need to believe that the company believes in the vision and values it portrays to its customer base.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), whilst considered a broad term, is a company’s way of describing how they can contribute to improving society in a particular way. This can be financially orientated, by simply donating money, or implementing ethical initiatives and practices to enhance the lives of those less fortunate in some way.

Give them incentives to stay

Alternative proposals that play a significant part in retaining individuals include mentoring, flexible working conditions, structured plans for mothers returning to work and stringent performance management frameworks.

Whether this is being mentored or coached by a colleague across an office or geographical location, or even someone externally, this allows an employee to enhance their skills and creativity but having a soundboard to someone not directly linked to their current position. A flexible working environment promotes a sense of responsibility and maturity where employees can hold themselves accountable for their own performance.

Flexibility can also be tied into the benefits packages offered by an organisation. Where staff have an option, this can cater for those looking to contribute more to their pension plan, or alternatively, working parents looking for further child support or additional holidays. For women who have recently been on maternity leave, and out of the business for a period of time, it can often be a daunting experience to come back into the office. Therefore, it is important that an organisation can adopt a policy of allowing mothers to stagger their return – this will benefit both parties such that an employer is able to update with any changes that may have taken place, as well as easing the mother back into some form of routine.

Attrition is costly

Each establishment has to be aware of its own cost of employee turnover. With that level of visibility, management can appreciate the importance of minimising attrition. Often it is more costly having to advertise, interview, and then hire someone to replace. It’s not only the financial cost, but also the physical aspect too.

But it is worth reminding yourself that good employees do leave. As do employees that simply do not have the will or skill to fulfil their job. By having a fair and structured performance management framework in place, businesses can offer the additional support and training needed to upskill, with the aim of changing behaviours or increasing overall levels of output. This doesn’t always work however, and there will be instances where staff will have to be dismissed.

Identify areas for improvement

However, when employees choose to leave on their own accord, and they subsequently leave on good terms, it is worth remembering that you have still done a good job. With so many public feedback forums available, you must understand the reputational risk of bad publicity. Therefore, an employer must never take a departure personally. Exit interviews offer opportunities to understand why people are leaving in order to improve moving forward and avoid others following. Having the right mechanism in place is critical to this, enabling those departing to communicate their reasons for leaving. Typically, an HR representative would facilitate this, and not a direct manager or owner of a business.

In summary, the art of retention is the successful amalgamation of processes and beliefs that will allow businesses to create a culture that staff enjoy and want to be part of. Not all of the above may be relevant to every business, but by building a place where employees are respected and feel as though they operate in a transparent environment, are some basic ways of achieving long term commitment.

Hakan Enver's picture
Managing Director
henver@morganmckinley.com