How to Keep Your Best People

keeping your best peopleWhilst the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will not be known for a while, one thing a number of organisations are concerned with right now is being able to recruit the right people to ensure continued business growth and success. However, another important consideration for managers to tackle today is preventing unnecessary and expensive churn in their workforce.

Research has shown that there are seven common reasons why employees leave a company, and these were reported in the book by Leigh Branham called “The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave”.

The first reason is that the job or workplace was not as the employee expected. This so called “induction crisis” results in newly recruited employees leaving soon after starting the new job. The employee realises that their original expectations of the job, or of the business, will not be met.

To minimise this effect organisations need to provide all job applicants with a true and accurate insight into their business and its culture. The requirements of the job should also be accurately described and not "over-sold". It is also a good idea to encourage job applicants to tell you about their expectations and needs openly in the interview, as this allows any unrealistic expectations to be identified and so reduces misunderstandings.

Another useful method is to set up the interview process so that the job applicant spends time with their potential future colleagues. This can give them a good feel for what the work is actually like and you can get feedback from your team on how the applicant might fit in to the team.

At their induction all new employees should also be given detailed information on what to expect, how their performance will be managed, and what the organisation’s approach to learning and development is.

Some organisations survey their new recruits in order to learn what could cause post-recruitment surprises and use these results to continuously improve their recruitment and induction processes.

The second reason employees leave is a mismatch between the person and the job they are doing.

Where employees are unable to use their skills or they feel that their talents are being ignored then frustration will quickly set in. Un-challenging jobs, or tasks which overstretch the employee and are not appropriately supported by training, both lead to the employee feeling frustrated and possibly looking for another job.

To minimise this reason you should always carefully evaluate the role, identifying the competencies required to fill it successfully before you actually recruit someone. This then allows you to ensure that there is a good fit between a particular job applicant’s skills and the job requirements. Of course this assumes that you already conduct rigorous, competency-based selection interviews and look both inside and outside the organisation for exactly the right person.

Engagement can also be improved by having processes in place that both identify and then nurture raw talent. Managers who have good coaching skills are an essential part of this nurturing, particularly when it is coupled with increased employee autonomy in order to create new challenges and enhance jobs.

The third reason employees leave is that they do not receive feedback
Improving the quality of feedback provided by line managers to their team members can have a positive impact on engagement and retention rates.

Your aim here is to create a culture of continuous improvement by providing regular coaching and feedback to all employees, but particularly to new ones. Managers must be held accountable for giving regular feedback to their staff. You may need to train your managers on how to give effective feedback and deliver effective performance reviews.

Managers also need to be able and prepared to deal quickly with persistent poor performance. And in situations where feedback and coaching efforts have failed to result in improvement then the manager should consider moving the individual into a role which better suits their skills.

The next reason employees leave is that they feel there are too few growth and advancement opportunities. In organisations where:

  • Insufficient training is provided
  • Internal talent is ignored in favour of externally recruited individuals
  • There is obvious favouritism in evidence

Employees often feel that their only choice if they want to advance and grow is to leave.

To eliminate this reason, managers need to understand that they have a key responsibility for developing all of their employees. Managers need to demonstrate a strong commitment to employee learning and development which will not only improve productivity of the teams they manage but will also improve retention rates. Managers should regularly review and evaluate the training and development needs of their team.

Traditional career development paths should not be seen as the only route to advancement for talented employees. Think and develop alternatives. These alternatives could be, for example, shadowing someone in a different area of the organisation or a temporary secondment to another area of the business.

The next reason employees leave is because they feel devalued and unrecognised. A lack of appreciation, formal recognition (such as being paid less than the market rate), or being passed over for interesting jobs or promotion are just some of the ways employees can be made to feel devalued by their manager.

Managers can show appreciation in many small ways, verbal or written thanks, arranging social activities or team events are just a few ideas.

Benefits offered by the company can also help to keep people, provided they are something the employee wants and values. The company could introduce flexible benefits which can be tailored to suit particular employee preferences, these would typically be a mixture of financial and non-financial options. However, rather than assuming that you know what your employees want in a reward system, ask them to identify the rewards that mean the most to them, and then seek to offer these accordingly.

Employee suggestion schemes where ideas are implemented (and the idea originator rewarded) also work well.

Most important is to keep your employees regularly informed about organisational changes and developments, the organisation's objective and its financial position. Such information creates feelings of belonging, ownership and commitment. Some organisations go further by giving their employees a financial stake in the business via company shares or options.

The next reason employees leave is due to stress from overwork and a work-life imbalance.

Work-related stress is a fact of life for many employees. Sources of stress include too much work, conflict in the workplace and a poor work-life balance leading to problems at home. These issues not only affect productivity and lower morale they also cause employees to seek work elsewhere where the stress will be less.

In organisations who demonstrate genuine care for their employees and where a culture of ‘giving before getting’ is encouraged churn levels are known to be lower. Genuine care can be shown through ensuring there is a work-life balance (something the manager can do), and by providing health care and other benefits (something the company can do).

Encouraging cross-functional teamwork, by getting different parts of the organisation together, builds social connectedness between employees and helps them develop positive relationships which, in turn, reduces stress and increases commitment to the organisation.

Stress can also be combated by encouraging fun in the workplace. And if stress is present you should tackle its root causes – such as addressing issues with difficult managers, hiring more staff to cope with the increased workloads and introducing flexible working patterns.

The final reason for employees leaving is a loss of trust and confidence in the senior leaders of the business.

Senior managers can often appear unapproachable and employees may feel that their senior management team is isolated from the rest of the organisation. Where senior managers make poor decisions or don’t manage change effectively, employees quickly lose confidence in the leadership.

The senior management team can inspire confidence by having a clear, achievable vision for the future and a well communicated strategy for how the organisation will achieve its aims. Most important in building trust is a management team who through their every action shows integrity by doing what they say they will do. This point applies to managers at every level, not just the senior team.

In conclusion, your employees, and the organisational knowledge they possess, are a key source of your business' competitive advantage. Understanding the 7 root causes of employee disengagement is, therefore, critical to tackling unwanted churn in your team. By developing a proactive and strategic approach to the retention of your employees you can help to minimise the chance that your best people will leave and take their talent elsewhere.