The top 5 ways to improve staff retention

The top 5 ways to improve staff retention

As a business owner, do you or your managers spend a lot of time recruiting, conducting exit interviews, and onboarding new staff?

When the ‘revolving door’ in and out of your business doesn’t stop revolving, it can impact so many parts of the business that it soon becomes a priority to address the problem.

A high staff turnover rate doesn’t just impact those doing the hiring. It is damaging for general motivation, performance and productivity; it may lead to negativity in the workplace culture; the cost of hiring eats into profits; training and development costs go through the roof; and, worst of all, the chaos that can result from a constant flow of new faces in the business flows outwards to customers – and may cause them to look elsewhere.

So what can you do about this? How can you improve your staff retention?

Well, say you want to improve performance in the workplace. It makes sense to understand the main reasons why employees are unmotivated and underperforming.

Similarly, if we want to improve staff retention, it makes sense to examine the reasons why people leave their jobs.

In recent years Gallup polls have found the same reasons for leaving have tended to come up again and again.

While there may be some unique circumstances in your own business that contribute to the problem, focusing on the following five steps will help address the main concerns…

Read more: How to prevent employee theft

Provide strong and inspiring leadership

Poor leadership consistently tops the list contributing to poor staff retention. There seems to be a lot of truth in the saying that people don’t leave jobs — they leave their bosses.

We’ve all had the experience: you’re feeling a bit under the weather, the alarm rings, and you’re faced with a choice: struggle out of bed and make it into work against your best judgment — or stay put.

Your choice is often determined by your boss. You’re much more likely to stay in bed if you don’t give two hoots about him or her.

So, unless you’re able to position inspiring leaders at the heads of your teams, this mentality spreads across the entire organisation. Are your leaders providing the support, guidance, and mentoring that employees look for?

Do they have the emotional intelligence and people management skills to really lead people – or are they in a leadership position based purely on technical skills and experience?

It’s worth noting that it’s the perception of your employees that counts here. You may think you have great leaders in place but if people are heading out the door in droves, it could be the first place to look.

Pay strict attention to employee needs

Unless you have a system of gathering employee feedback, you probably don’t understand the needs of your employees. You may think you do but in reality it’s just guesswork.

An annual performance review is not going to cut it. Face-to-face meetings between leaders and employees need to be frequent, forward-looking, and based on constructive ideas for development; rather than infrequent, based on past performance, and only considering KPIs.

Unless there is an effective feedback system in place, you may never know when problems are brewing before it’s too late – and people start heading for the doors. In short, get closer to your employees to improve staff retention.

Develop career paths and opportunities for growth

Unless you offer your employees a realistic opportunity of advancement, they will quickly try to find an organisation that does.

A perceived ‘dead end’ job with lack of opportunities for development is highly de-motivational and generally gets people looking around, sooner or later.

People want to grow and develop themselves — this is natural within all of us.

Once you understand your employees’ goals, it’s important as leaders to help develop people and set them on the right path to achieve these goals. In professional terms, this means some sort of career path.

It’s considered unfashionable in some quarters to stay with a company for an entire career nowadays — and it’s true that ‘job hopping’ is much easier than it used to be. But many companies seem to encourage talent drain by not providing a compelling enough reason for employees to stay.

People require direction, hope for the future, meaning in their work, recognition, opportunity, and challenge — these are all strong motivators.

Provide more flexibility in the work environment

People are more aware than ever about the importance of their own wellbeing.

They realise that sedentary lifestyles and stress contribute to a range of other factors in leading to poor health.

Many employees are looking for more flexible work environments that allow them to strike a better work-life balance; everyone is familiar with the available mobile technology, which means they don’t necessarily have to be in the office to be at work.

When they are in the workplace they want it to be more inspiring and conducive to a healthy lifestyle: standing desks, places to workout, and so on.

Rather than asking your employees to sacrifice personal needs to fulfil the requirements of the job, design the job around changing lifestyles that are more mobile, flexible and geared towards healthy living.

Focus on improving your workplace culture

Do you promote a culture of recognition, accountability, engagement, transparency, reward, positivity, and success — or do your people cast envious glances towards the competition?

In some workplace cultures, the opposite dominates: silos develop and conflict, secrecy, fear, threat, and negativity all lead to de-motivation, which in turn leads to a decline in both performance and the employee experience of actually coming to work.

Your top employees naturally gravitate towards positivity and harmony and are unlikely to hang around in an environment they perceive as toxic or harmful to their growth.

Build teams that cultivate a positive culture through connectivity, empowerment, engagement, and a sense of fun.

Final thoughts on staff retention

There will always be a turnover of staff in a business. But surprisingly perhaps, money is not usually the main reason for leaving.

It’s obvious that you should be paying employees well for the work they do; and you can’t do much about employees leaving to go travelling, fulfilling a long-held ambition, starting a family or moving to the other side of the country.

However, many of the main reasons for employees leaving can be addressed at the source by every employer.

Resist the temptation to think that high staff turnover is simply a sign of the times; with the immediate and temporary nature of social media, some business owners accept poor staff retention as the ‘new norm’. They believe that people are simply ‘job hoppers’ nowadays.

However, as a leader you can take action to improve staff retention: by focusing on the above five actions, you will start to close the gap between where you want to be and where you actually are now.


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