What Retention Problem?

“We have a great culture, our employees are very happy”.

Then why are they leaving?

In truth, there is a myriad of reasons why employees leave a workplace.

Most employers believe that the main reason people leave a job is to do with their pay. However, studies show that over 80% of employees leave their job for reasons other than their pay packet. This demonstrates, if nothing else, a huge deficit in understanding and communication between employers and their employees.

In actual fact, there are a number of reasons why employees leave their job, which have nothing to do with money. These include:

  • A mismatch between the position and the person in it
  • The employee feels that the job is not what they expected
  • The employee feels overworked and/or has no work/life balance
  • There are not enough opportunities for promotion or growth in the role
  • There is insufficient coaching and feedback provided
  • The employee does not feel their work is recognised
  • The employee has a lack of trust and/or confidence in management

We all know and are aware that high turnover is costly for business. Re-recruiting, re-training and backfilling positions all cost time and money of which most businesses have almost none to spare. High turnover is also stressful not only for employers trying to refill positions, but also to other employees. An unstable workplace is never a happy one.

Attracting the right person to the right job and ensuring their skills andtheir personality fit the workplace is certainly the first step. But, an important consideration is understanding that what attracts a candidate to a particular job is often different to what keeps them there.

While salary considerations are of course important, pay alone won’t hold them – it is more than numbers that will keep your employees with you.

A melting pot of the list above, with different portions for different employees, is what is going to keep employees with you – a reasonable salary package, a clear or achievable career path, good company culture, diverse duties and responsibilities, and some degree of work/life balance.

As an employer and/or business owner with a raft of conflicting duties and responsibilities, how do you make this happen, particularly if you are directly managing the majority of your workforce?

Prioritising employees and establishing methods to maintain contentment among your employees is a must. All of these involve one key factor – time.

While as an owner or manager you may be time poor, it’s about weighing up where your time is used most valuably – retaining and working with your current employees, or re-recruiting and re-training new ones.

Here’s three ways to best utilise this time:

Make your employees feel valued

People in all situations (not just a work environment) will be motivated to do more when they feel valued and recognised. You don’t need a PhD in Psychology to know that people perform in a more positive way when they feel valued and acknowledged. While this is simple in theory, it’s not always easy to do, particularly if your time is stretched. While monetary bonuses and the like are useful, studies show that the most effective recognition for employees is a personal ‘thank you’ and pat on the back, even in today’s money driven society.

Taking the time to simply look your employee in the eye, even taking them out for a coffee or lunch, and providing them with positive feedback and a thank you will cost you next to nothing, but in reality, will be more effective than giving them for example a gift voucher or cash bonus.

As Chester Elton, an American expert in organisational culture, employee engagement and leadership, says ‘the key to a successful team is having each other’s backs, and that means acknowledging each other’s work’.

This sounds so simple, right?

But, it is certainly a step often overlooked by managers. It costs nothing, other than a few moments of your time to recognise an employee’s work and build that relationship of trust and confidence. This cannot be underestimated as a tool for improving engagement.

Making an employee feel valued by listening to them and taking the time to provide them with feedback is one of the most effective ways to keep staff engaged and therefore decrease the likelihood of them seeking greener pastures.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

Effective communication will tick a number of above boxes – it increases your credibility as a manager/owner, ensures feedback (both positive and constructive) is being delivered, establishes a positive working culture, and ensures that employees feel valued and heard.

However, the catch to truly having effective communication is that it has to work both ways. Simply telling an employee what you want them to do and how to do it does not equate to effective communication. The key here is to establishing a culture and environment where employees feel that they are being heard as well, providing feedback up to their managers as well as having it come down to them. This is a fine balance, and particularly if you are time poor, can be a difficult one to achieve.

Again, taking small amounts of time to simply walk around the workplace and casually speak to employees enquiring how they are going on a regular basis can go a huge way to ensuring a culture of positivity and effective communication. It doesn’t have to involve closed door, hour long ‘feedback’ sessions (although there may be a time and place for such discussions, particularly if an employee is underperforming). Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of simply ‘touching base’.

Think outside the square

The days of a traditional nine to five work day are over, thanks in a large part to massive developments in technology. While it can sometimes be a hinderance rather than a help to always ‘be connected’, it opens to the door to flexible work arrangements for employees. While of course there are certain roles that require physical attendance for the majority of the time, sometimes allowing employees who have demonstrated that they can be trusted a level of autonomy in how and where they undertake their work can go a long way in terms of engagement.

If it’s working, this should cost you no time, and improve productivity if employees are able to undertake at least some of their work without being in the office 100 per cent of the time. While initially there may be some time and effort in setting up systems and procedures to facilitate this, getting a creative and flexible in the long term may be a significant gain for the business as a whole. Just opening your mind up to different possibilities can take you a long way.

The flow on effect from achieving effective communication, a positive culture and ensuring your employees feel valued in their roles will be of course, not overworking your employees, providing them with opportunities for growth and advancement, giving them coaching and feedback, and establishing trust and confidence of your abilities as a leader.

Easy right?

As the old saying goes, if it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

So many things can get in the way of you prioritising the time to make this happen. But, if you are committed and can set aside even just ten or 15 minutes a few times a week to make this a priority, you will go further to ensuring your good employees are happy, satisfied and more likely to stay with you than anything else.