Retention top tips

Recruiting staff can be a time-consuming and expensive process, especially for a small business. Simon Jones shares several ways you can help to retain new employees and reduce staff turnover as a result.

People leave jobs for a variety of reasons, some of which are beyond your control. It’s been estimated the average length of time in a job is 4-4.5 years. And while there are no magic solutions to retaining staff, there are things you can do to make sure people are happy to continue working for you.

Firstly, its important new staff members feel supported and part of the team. Remember that for the first few months they won’t know all the ‘ins and outs’ of your company’s culture and operations, no matter how skilled they are at their particular job tasks. 

“Induction Crisis” – where individuals who have been with you for 3-6 months think they have made a mistake joining your company – is a well-recognised phenomenon. Some research suggests that around 40% of new starters start job hunting again at this point. 

To alleviate this problem, make sure that you have regular conversations to check in with a new starter and see how they’re getting on. Try to reassure them that they aren’t expected to know everything in their first few months, and finally, if they make a mistake due to ignorance of a company procedure, then ensure they’re not held accountable. 

When they’re reaching the end of their probation period, consider asking yourself the following questions to avoid staff getting itchy feet.

Is the work challenging enough? 

Even the most committed member of staff can get bored with the same role after a long period of time. Consider the ways you can develop their skills and better align the work with their interests. For example:

  • Involve them in a new project
  • Give them more responsibility so they have greater ownership and independence
  • Move them to a different department or team if they’re better suited elsewhere in business

Address any skill gaps and provide appropriate training where it’s needed. It’s important they feel supported when any transition or change takes place. Remember: it’s an investment for your business as much as it is for them.

Do you offer flexible working?

Employees who seek a better work-life balance will inevitably look for flexible working opportunities. Similarly, those with childcare responsibilities are more likely to apply for a role – and stay there long-term – if flexible working is offered. The cost of accommodating a skilled and experienced staff member is far less than losing them and having to recruit – particularly for many businesses where qualified staff are in short supply.

Are you fair, open and consistent? 

Seeing some colleagues get preferential treatment, or others treated poorly, is exactly the sort of thing that makes people decide your business is not for them. If people do have concerns, listen to them and try to resolve them, don’t brush them under the carpet.

And finally…

You’ll notice that pay hasn’t been mentioned so far. Obviously if staff can get more for a very similar job and there are no other benefits to working for you then they may well leave. So, you should always keep an eye on what the ‘market rate’ is for the types of jobs you have. But if someone is dissatisfied with other aspects of working for you, simply increasing pay won’t make the problems go away. And an arbitrary pay increase for some members of staff is likely to upset others, as noted above. Pay on its own is rarely a reason for staff leaving – so fixing the other areas is a more effective and less costly way to retain staff.

Author: Simon Jones is the Director of Ariadne Associates and is a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD

Explore related resources

These areas of the People Skills Hub will help you to address some of the issues covered in this blog:

  • Flexible working: Find out what you need to know about employee’s rights to request flexible working and how to handle these requests
  • Team building: Gain an understanding of how to effectively build and develop your team to ensure ongoing high performance
  • Learning and development: Find out how to plan learning and development opportunities to improve your employees' capabilities, skills and competencies