How to retain staff

Trying to retain talented and dedicated staff can be difficult at the best of times. This task is made even more difficult against a backdrop of falling unemployment and eye-catching recruitment inducements.

Retaining good staff isn’t easy

For more than a year, the number of people unemployed in the UK has been steadily falling. Several factors have contributed to the labour shortage. Two of the main ones; BREXIT and COVID have taken a heavy toll on the hospitality, agriculture and haulage industries. The latter has attracted much media coverage. Headlines have focused on the acute shortage of HGV drivers with John Lewis, M&S and Tesco being just a few of the household names to offer signing on bonuses to qualified drivers.

The government has also had to intervene. Prior to Christmas, the government relaxed visa requirements to help the poultry industry. The trucking and plucking labour force just isn’t available.

UK Unemployment rate

Quarter Unemployment rate (aged 16 and over, seasonally adjusted)
2020 Oct-Dec 5.2
2020 Nov-Jan 5.1
2020 Dec-Feb 5.0
2021 Jan-Mar 4.9
2021 Feb-Apr 4.8
2021 Mar-May 4.8
2021 Apr-Jun 4.7
2021 May-Jul 4.6
2021 Jun-Aug 4.5
2021 Jul-Sep 4.3
2021 Aug-Oct 4.2
2021 Sep-Nov 4.1
2021 Oct-Dec 4.1

Source: O.N.S

The Great Resignation

Staff shortages now extend across many industries. In a recent survey by Edenred, almost a fifth of the 2,000 people interviewed had chosen to leave their job in the past 12 months. A quarter admitted that COVID had made them stay at their current company longer than they wished.

There is no doubt that the pandemic has given many people the time to reflect on their current job. The cost and time of the commute and the challenge of getting the right work/life balance have come sharply into focus for a large swath of the working population.

How to retain staff  in the workplace

A great deal of time and effort is required to bring a new member of staff up to speed on the service or products that a business has to offer. Even a new recruit from the same industry background needs time to find their feet.

So, how do you retain your best staff?

  1. Say, ‘Thank you’

First, you don’t necessarily need to throw money at the problem. One of the major gripes of staff is a perceived lack of recognition. A simple ‘thank you’ from a line manager for a job well done can make a huge difference and stop an employee from feeling undervalued. It’s vital. The importance of recognition was recently borne out in the results of a study in America by the OC Tanner Institute. They found that almost 80% of people who leave their jobs voluntarily cite a lack of appreciation as an important factor.

  1. Official recognition

While an employee recognition programme can certainly be very useful, (I have help to set up many) it shouldn’t solely focus on the very top achievers. Where would most businesses be without a steady pair of hands? The often unsung hero who rarely takes a day off sick and does their job quietly and efficiently without making a fuss. These employees are vital and need to be recognised.

  1. Communicate

If your company has a formal appraisal process in place that’s great. (If you need to set one up I can help.) But don’t leave it too long to say, ‘Well done’. Most appraisals only take place once a year. A business should ensure that communication channels are constantly open. The idiom, ‘my door is always open’ takes on a new meaning with remote workers. Staff may benefit from a regular catch up meeting (remote or in person). It provides an opportunity to air minor issues before they become major grievances.

How to retain staff

  1. Be flexible

Many home workers love the flexibility and freedom that this affords. The flexibility to work from home (even for part of the week) could be the difference between retaining or losing a staff member. The Edenred survey recorded that 9 in 10 feel work/life balance is important to their happiness in a job, yet less than 50% believe that their current company understands the importance of this. Does yours?

  1. Training & Development

In my experience, the vast majority of employees wish to better themselves. This could involve enrolment in a course to learn new skills or having the opportunity to try a different position within the same organisation. Be proactive. Ask staff about future goals and ambitions. By investing time, effort and money in an employee you are showing that they are valued. Anyone can get stale doing the same task day after day. Think about the ways to keep an employee engaged.

  1. Mentoring

Mentoring programmes can be great for new and existing employees. The mentor, mentee and the business can really benefit from a well organised mentoring programme. Experienced staff can pass on their knowledge while a new employee may have a fresh take on a particular problem.

  1. Think outside the box

Perhaps it’s also time for senior staff and line managers to think more imaginatively. What are the challenges facing their employees at the moment? It isn’t just commuting costs which are continuing to rise. Heating a home and the cost of buying basic food staples are putting a real strain on family finances. Is there a way for an employer to help?

I have a friend who remembers Lloyds Bank in London offering Luncheon Vouchers as a major perk in the 1980s. He eventually left that role to upgrade to a free staff canteen at HSBC. A simple gesture such as bringing in some sweet treats (or healthy vegan snacks…) can help to bring a team together.

Free 30 minute consultation

If you would like further advice on retaining staff, please get in touch. I offer a free, no obligation 30 minute consultation. There’s no hard sell. Just sensible advice.