Retaining the best staff

Retaining the best staff

For most employers, the true cost of a new employee is not the agency fee or the advertising, but the training and “ramp up” to full productivity that every employee requires. In some cases this can take years.

Retention of key staff should be a key issue for any employer at the moment. We are in a candidate short market the likes of which we haven’t seen before, even in the late 80s, so retaining the good people you have is almost more important than getting them into the organisation.

Basically, retention revolves around people’s “hot buttons” and there are a lot of lurks and perks that are offered to try and keep employees happy, from share options to gym memberships and nights out to overseas trips. Some employers even offer golden handshakes in the way of Retention Bonuses if employees agree to stay on certain terms.

The key here is for each employer to really understand what makes the good people tick in the organisation. In order to really succeed, a different strategy is needed for each individual as a “one size fits all” approach will not work. We also need to look beyond the so-called high performers as they are only a part of any successful team – the back up and support teams are just as worthwhile keeping and as hard to replace.

Retention is generally focused on two critical areas – Career advancement or development and Reward and Recognition.

Obviously every company has different parameters within which they must work – be it finances, structure or resources but keep these issues in mind when thinking about retention strategies. Career development does not necessarily mean promotion – although it certainly can - it is as much about the job itself and the employee’s ability to see a clear path of progress (if they are ambitious) and know exactly what they need to do to achieve it. For less ambitious staff, it may be relevant that they are given an opportunity to work more flexible hours for studying or be given the encouragement to take on more or different responsibilities.

Reward and recognition is another individual issue, most of us would like more money but in the studies that I have seen and in my own experience in training budding managers, the satisfaction gained from the job is a greater motivator than purely money. Recognition can be as simple as the title given to an employee, or perhaps the ability to run meetings, make significant decisions or take management responsibility for other staff.

Making these issues relevant to each individual is the key, so a keen ear during performance appraisals and all conversations will ensure you know which buttons to push for your employees.

Another area to consider is the culture of a company. People not only like to feel valued, they also like to feel they belong. Corporate culture is about aligning personal values with that of a company – this is essentially what makes a “culture Fit” for an employer or employee. This “fit” is largely responsible for allowing an employee to fulfil their true potential, comfortable in the knowledge that they fully understand what is expected of them. If an organisation is losing people that are of value, it may be that the culture you have created does not make the people you want to keep feel as though they belong.

In summary, the key points for an effective retention strategy are:

  • Listen, listen, listen – every dialogue with an employee will give you clues as to what makes them tick
  • Try and avoid salary wars – you won’t win. This is evident time and again by failed counter offers
  • Talk to people joining and leaving – what are their reasons?
  • Be prepared to be creative in meeting different needs for each individual
  • Try to consider every employee’s “retention value” – not just the ones that shout the loudest or make the most noise about their ambitions.
  • Be aware of the culture of the organisation – what sort of employee feels that they belong – is that the sort of employee you want to keep?

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