How to retain not just your best staff

David Leen discusses how some staff retention strategies kick in at the 11th hour, following the hint of losing a talented member of staff. However, the best retention strategies are those that are woven into the fabric of how you operate as a firm.

business people putting their hands on top of each overs in a circleStaff Retention Strategies generally kick in at the 11th hour, actually that isn’t true, it’s normally 5 minutes to midnight.

I have worked for a number of firms that when someone they don’t want to lose resigns or hints they might be unsettled, suddenly goes into overdrive. I have experienced this myself. I resigned from a firm where I felt it was the right time to move on, this was a decision I had mulled over for some time. That said, this clearly was not a view shared by others. Suddenly I was whisked in front of the CEO, told how I was a valued member of the management team and offered a huge pay rise, flexible working conditions to aid my travel (I hadn’t ever thought this had been an issue) and directors from all corners of the firm wanted to lunch with me. But as a seasoned recruiter I knew this was a thinly-veiled buy-back and of course I wasn’t going to succumb to their advances. But to my total chagrin, I capitulated and stayed, so my long-term thinking had been torpedoed by the instant gratification of a thorough ego-massage, and to prove a point that I tell others, I did finally leave just a few months later once the euphoria had died down and I had gone back to BAU.

So…… retention needs to be woven into the fabric of how you operate as a firm. I don’t think it is really about retention as about the value and relationship your company has with its staff. People generally don’t think about leaving if they feel valued, successful, are learning and have good internal relationships particularly with their managers and leadership. I have written here before about the mistakes that organisations make focusing on pay and remuneration. I think if you are down at this level, it’s a hard battle and one that ultimately you won’t win. I’ve read consistently that people don’t leave for money but leave because of broken relationships, mainly with their manager.

Here are my top ten things for you to reflect on around retention; it won’t work for all firms but I think you can take a few ideas from this;

1. Great mentoring programmes are a wonderful thing, poor to average have a negative effect on the mentee (and probably mentor). I have been both and believe me, there is nothing worse than a mis-aligned relationship. They can also be quite elitest so think long and hard about how you do it. Mentoring from external sources can work well as it gets above the politics of a firm

2. Flexible working is a wonderful thing so deploy it properly, does someone work 4 days a week but you email them on their Friday off or respond to an email they send on their day off? Do you send or make calls 24/7. Respecting people have clocked off is a very cheap way of retaining people

3. We are just implementing a flexible benefits plan, so people can pick and choose what they want to take. This is a wonderful way of tailoring benefits for individuals on a self-service basis

4. Special Projects used to be the precursor to a P45 but not these days, are there short-to-medium projects that individuals will be motivated to take on, won’t impact their working day but will develop them as an employee whilst delivering something meaningful to your company

5. Qualifications/Accreditations/Industry Bodies – can you develop people through professional qualifications, speaking engagements, or attending industry gatherings as your firm’s face to the world? A lot of firm’s turn this kind of stuff down as having “no business benefit” Really?!??

6. Extra-Curricular Activities – everyone has heard about the special days at Google where people work on their own projects. Apparently Google Glass came via this route, so maybe not the best example, but you get what I’m saying. Can you start small with a community project day once a year and build from there?

7. I know I said about not mentioning money but rather than pay inflation, bonuses are a great way to reward without creating pay inflation. We have a project where we provide retention bonuses which are linked to both productivity and quality outputs, paid quarterly

8. Company events, we have just had the Grovelands Summer Games which follows our company-wide annual review, with a BBQ and ‘It’s a Knockout’ style events. It works well for team building, and creates a positive long tail of goodwill

9. Look at the management culture; is it fair, honest, straight-forward? Do the management team have favourites? Is there an ‘inner circle’ that will always be divisive? Review whether you would want to be on the receiving end of your leadership team

10. Lastly, as they say on X-Factor, it’s been a journey. Don’t stop innovating on retention and don’t blame others if people leave, look at yourself first. If someone leaves don’t run them down or belittle their reasons for moving on, look at adding them to the alumni formal or otherwise. You never know where people pop up and people develop at different rates.

Best of luck !

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