Unless you’ve been hiding under a stone, you can’t fail to have seen the headlines – they’re everywhere. According to research (‘google’ it (*other search engines are available), it’s everywhere), a huge proportion of your team members are currently considering resigning from their current roles and going to do something else, for someone else or for themselves.

Now, you could be thinking I’ll just ignore it, let them go and we’ll find someone else. After all, there’s an argument that some turnover is good for your organisation. It allows those who stay to develop, to use different skills, perhaps to get promoted. You get the chance to bring in new skills, fresh ideas, maybe balance the diversity of the team. However, in the current market, it’s never been harder to attract talent. Everyone I speak to in either talent acquisition roles or in recruitment are getting less applicants when they’re trying to fill a new role and each applicant will have applied for several jobs at once increasing the competition at the point of offer. Then speaking of offers, there’s definitely been an increase in the dreaded counteroffer meaning that even if you find the person you want, there’s no guarantee they’ll actually start – but more of that later.

All of which brings me to my main point, retention. Unless you’re hiring to fill a new role because you’re growing (in which case welcome to the bear pit and have fun) then your best bet is going all out to keep the people you’ve already got.

Fortunately, there are lots of things you can do to make it more likely people will want to stay. Here are the five things you should prioritise now to improve the retention of your teams:

  1. Develop your managers. It’s a rare person that instinctively knows how to get the best out of the people around them. Such people do exist, but it’s not something to be left to chance. A Gallup poll of more than 1 million workers found that 75% of those who voluntarily left their jobs did so because of their managers. Training your managers in the fundamentals of good management is highly likely to impact your retention. Ideally, you’d start this before they become managers, but it’s never too late to start and even (or even especially) experienced managers benefit from development in this area. Make sure you include sessions on motivation, setting objectives, delegation, team building and performance management as a starting point.
  2. As the MD/CEO don’t forget to develop yourself too. In a smaller organisation, it’s possible you’re the only manager and most, if not all your staff report directly to you. In a larger one you may only directly manage your SMT, but when was the last time you focussed on updating and improving your leadership and management skills. There are some great programmes out there that you can put yourself on, where you can network with other business leaders, or of course, there’s always the option of engaging a leadership or business coach. When you do take the time to develop yourself, make a song and dance about it, you’re setting an amazing example to the rest of the team.
  3. Keep an eye on market salaries. The son of a friend recently left his job. He was being paid £23k and had been happy in his job for about two years. A very quick look online and he spotted a job he was qualified for at £30k now he had two years experience. He applied, interviewed, was offered and got the job. Of course, his employer counter offered (I said I’d come back to counteroffers) after they looked online and recognised he was being chronically underpaid, but it was too late. Speak to any recruiter and they’ll tell you that the merry go round of offer and counteroffer is on the increase so there’s a quick win in checking that you’re not chronically underpaying anyone. Of course, increasing salaries is increasing your costs, but if my friend’s son had been paid fairly in the first place they’d have avoided the time and effort of having to recruit and train a replacement, and the disruption of the inevitable gap between the outgoing and incoming person.
  4. Check-in with your team regularly. This is particularly true if you’ve got people who are working remotely. I’ve verified horror stories of people who’ve been hired over zoom during the lockdown last year, onboarded remotely, and unbelievably they’ve still not met their manager face to face. I’m a huge promoter of remote and flexible working, but nothing beats making the effort to travel to meet someone face to face to build and strengthen the relationship. Perhaps you could cover the next point 5. during the meeting, but even if it’s just for a coffee and a catch up, it will have been time well spent.
  5. Focus on their development. No one looking to hire at the moment can rely on purely active candidates, those candidates who apply for the jobs that we post. More and more recruiters and talent acquisition specialists are actively going out and headhunting passive candidates. When they approach your team members (and they will!) you can bet they’ll be “selling them the dream”, so a key strategy should be for you to be selling them the dream first. Make sure you (and/or their manager) understands each persons career objectives and has a plan in place for how they’re going to meet their next career goal. Update it regularly, and put it in writing. If they need to be developed, make sure each person understands how the organisation is going to support their development. That way they have no need to leave to achieve their goals.

So as I said at the beginning, it’s not rocket science. These are five practical things you can do NOW and they will make a difference. I promise you, doing nothing is not an option right now.

By Heather Salway FCIPD, FREC

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