Retaining Good Employees

The days in which people had a job for life have gone. People may change job or career several times during their working lives.

This is why it may be difficult for organisations to retain good staff. However, there are many benefits to retaining good employees. Recruitment can be costly and time-consuming, and it may take a while for new members of staff to integrate into existing teams, perhaps causing some disruption.

It’s important, therefore, to understand why people might leave a job and what can be done to foster a culture which encourages them to stay in a role.

Common reasons why people leave organisations include:

  • Poor relationships with managers
  • Lack of a ‘cultural fit’ between the employee and the employer
  • Lack of job security and organisational uncertainty
  • Lack of variety and flexibility in the role
  • Poor work-life balance
  • Poor remuneration
  • Better opportunities elsewhere

If a member of staff is determined to leave, there is little you can do to stop them. Sometimes, their reasons for doing so will be beyond your control so you must let them follow their own path. Remember to let them leave on good terms by respecting their decision and wishing them well.

Nevertheless, there are ways in which you can boost staff retention rates, including:

  • paying a competitive salary (if budgets allow);
  • providing staff benefits, where possible (this can include bonus schemes or additional holiday entitlement); or
  • giving a better job title. It may sound superficial, but some people may be more inclined to stay if they are a more impressive sounding job title.

However, money and status are not the only factors in retaining employees. Each individual member of your team has their own needs and reasons to stay. Communication is key. As a manager, you should make the effort to get to know the members of your team and understand what motivates them. You should listen to any concerns and act on them where appropriate. Regular one-to-one meetings or appraisals should encourage open dialogue.

People need to be reminded of how they make a difference, whether this is to the organisation or the team. If people can see how their role contributes to the delivery of the organisation’s vision, it will be easier for them to feel included and valued.

Employees should be encouraged to set short and long-term goals that relate to the organisational vision and the individual’s own aspirations. If the goals of the organisation and the employee are aligned, motivation can be retained, with mutual benefit.

Employees do not wish to feel that they are in a dead-end job. Training opportunities should be provided and, wherever possible, there should be career paths available, giving employees something to aim for. Where appropriate, consider promoting internally rather than recruiting externally, as this can show trust in the existing ability within the team.

Targets that are realistic, achievable, but challenging, may also retain an employee’s interest and motivate them. Conversely, having unreasonable expectations of an employee is likely to make them feel disillusioned. A little bit of pressure can be good but if too much is expected of people, they can become stressed, more likely to make mistakes and more inclined to want to leave.

Staff may value additional responsibilities or some variation in their work schedule. If employees become bored, their motivation diminishes. You want people to be focused on their targets and the task at hand – not watching the clock, counting down the minutes until home time.

Staff should be free to communicate with each other, with discussion and interaction encouraged. Otherwise colleagues may become distant or standoffish. Loyalty and camaraderie are good for teams. It helps build important relationships and develop support networks. When the bonds between a team are strong and meaningful, it makes it harder emotionally for people to leave.

When the team achieves something, it should be celebrated. This can recognise people’s talent and help build self-esteem and confidence. Appreciation and gratitude go a long way. You should make sure that when someone is working hard they are thanked for their contribution. Whilst this could take the form of a monetary reward like a bonus, it could also be as simple as saying ‘thank you’ or ‘well done’.

If there is a high turnover of staff, ask yourself why. Exit-interviews should take place with departing employees to find out why they are leaving. Similarly, staff-satisfaction surveys can help identify any trends or problems, indicating to managers what may need to change.

By considering the above, you may be better placed to retain good employees.

About the author

Nathan joined RWA in 2016 on successfully completing his PhD. He previously worked in the private, public and charitable sectors. Nathan leads the content and professional standards team at RWA and is responsible for managing and curating technical content on the Aviva Development Zone and the award-winning My Development Zone e-learning platforms.

Since joining RWA, Nathan has written hundreds of business skills e-learning modules and assessments on a variety of subjects, including leadership and management, communication skills, human resources, employability, regeneration, citizenship and equalities.

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