Ten top tips for staff retention

Posted 11 December 2014 by
Julia Nickless - Key Account Manager at OPP
Bowl of fruit

Several clients are telling me that as many as 40% of their new employees are leaving within one month of starting their new job. Some environments are feeling the effects of this job market wanderlust more than others: call centres are practically haemorrhaging staff in both customer service and sales roles.

This trend was reflected in a survey carried out by IIP (Investors in people) earlier this year, in which 47% of UK employees said they were planning to find a new way of keeping the wolf from the door.

With all these restless souls roaming the job market, there has been hot competition to get the best of the bunch on board. But wooing the stars into accepting a job offer is only half the story. Once on board, an organisation needs effective ways of keeping them on board. It also needs the will to keep them engaged.

I recently met the Finance Director of an insurance sales contact centre, and his initial attitude about investing in improving his selection process by using psychometric assessments was lukewarm to say the least. His attitude was: “It’ll always be a high turnover area, so why should we pay more during selection if they’re only going to leave anyway?”

The contact centre’s HR manager then pointed out that the cost of each short hire was at least £20K. So, even if employees in this area are retained for just 18 months rather than six months, better selection, that finds the people who will stay in role, represents a major cost saving, not to mention the positive knock-on effect on staff morale and client experience. 

Consequently, HR professionals need to find more effective ways to retain staff by examining their selection processes, onboarding processes and line manager skills. All this leads to better staff engagement, motivation and retention.

These are some of the ways the issue can be addressed.

  1. Give yourself the best possible chance of taking on staff who want to stay! The fallout from a bad selection decision can take a long time to put right. This is why it’s vital to base recruitment or promotion decisions on realistic and objective data. Modern tools such as Sirius or the 16PF Competency Selector are essential aids on the road to good selection, isolating the core competencies essential for a role.
  2. Keep the working atmosphere and environment motivational. This is about making the workplace somewhere that people want to return to every day – even on a Monday morning! Two household-name clients I've been working with recently have addressed the ‘feel good factor’ by such simple means as providing free fruit, offering flexible working hours, and encouraging a healthy degree of competition in the office.
  3. Recognise your genuine stars. Some employees are great at their job, but that doesn’t mean they’re irreplaceable. There might be a long queue of potential candidates equally able to be great at that particular job. The ones you can’t afford to lose are the ones who would leave a big, hard to fill gap.
  4. Communicate. Find out what motivates people – why they joined the company, and what they enjoy (and dislike) about their job. Facilitate communication in groups, forums and one-to-ones. When you know what the motivations are, you can give people more of what they want.
  5. Let employees spend a day taking a “now for something completely different” approach. Give employees 24 hours to map out or work on a project that, although relevant to the business, is not a normal part of their day to day jobs.
  6. Liven it up! ‘Fun’ isn’t a negative word, and needn’t detract from getting the job done. Making the work space colourful, taking informal group lunches to let off steam, allowing people to personalise their work space – small things can make a big difference to office morale. Each organisation will have limits to what levels of ‘fun’ are acceptable – just make sure you take it to that limit!
  7. If you’ve got rising stars, let them know how good they are – give them responsibility, encourage them to hook up with other high performers, and reward their successes.
  8. Show potential high-flyers the way to the top – underline opportunities for advancement, and give them the clear vision to make a career plan in your organisation. 
  9. Encourage mentoring – inspire people with inspirational people! A mentor’s good example on the path to success will set the tone for the mentee.
  10. Don’t blame people for leaving your organisation. Do some navel-gazing – is your corporate strategy inspiring? Are you as good as you say you are in your job descriptions; and if not, what are you going to do about it?

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