The big picture behind employee retention

As we move closer to mid-2022, it is evident that competition in all industries is getting increasingly intense.

Businesses are trying to recover from the COVID-19 crisis and as such are looking for ways to retain momentum by looking for dedicated and talented employees that in turn have access to a wider range of opportunities that comes with this increased labour demand.  

So why is employee retention important? 

Apart from the obvious risk of losing top talent, it is also very costly in terms of lost time from the point when the right candidate is selected through to the candidate being fully trained and efficient. Therefore, devising effective employee retention strategies requires companies to understand both why employees leave and why they stay. 

Why employees leave

Studies have shown that employees typically follow four primary paths to turnover:

• Employee dissatisfaction – due to low pay, poor management, lack of work-life balance;

• Better alternatives – a job advancement opportunity;

• A planned change – starts a family or wants to study full-time;

• A negative experience – passed over a promotion or experiencing difficulties with a supervisor.

Additional reasons for turnover include:

• Role clarity – knowing what is expected of them, having clear personal objectives and team goals;

• Job design – lack of skill variety, autonomy and challenges;

• Workgroup cohesion – when someone resigns, the workload for the rest of the team tends to increase, often leading to low morale and performance.

Why employees stay

Employees stay for various reasons. It may be because they feel respected and recognised or simply because they are being paid well. The following retention strategies can help companies improve overall employee engagement.

Recruitment: A realistic job preview should be given at the interview stage and expectations should be clarified. Management should not only assess whether candidates are a good fit in terms of skill set and experience, but they should also consider personality, values and whether these align with the culture of the firm.

Fair compensation: Apart from having a clear and transparent pay structure, companies need to reassess their employee wages based on industry standards and offer competitive pay and substantial yearly increments based on good performance. If employees are putting in their full effort but feel like their pay is lacking, they are likely to burn out and look for opportunities elsewhere.

Good benefits and incentives: Examples include an employee assistance programme, corporate health insurance, reimbursement costs for childcare and home internet or a yearly fitness allowance. Such benefits are more likely to make employees feel supported, cared for and less likely to look elsewhere.

Flexibility: Nowadays people look for opportunities where remote working is part of the norm. Also micromanaging should be avoided and trust should be the default. Successful companies with low staff turnover are those that give their employees a strong sense of autonomy. This is especially true when employees consistently perform – they should be given the freedom to decide how they get their work done when possible. Giving extra time off is also another way to maximise employees’ satisfaction and commitment.

Communication: Apart from providing updates about the business (financial performance, new clients or services), management should regularly check with their teams to gauge their workload and overall happiness. Designing team-based projects can also help people get to know each other and foster team cohesiveness.

Recognition: Communication includes being thankful and praising good performance. Employees want to be recognised for their achievements and like to feel appreciated for their efforts. Diversity and inclusion: Businesses should think of ways to make the workplace more inclusive by eliminating bias and barriers to diversity. Leaders should view employees on an individual level and create a work environment that supports everyone’s unique needs.

Opportunities for growth: Ambitious employees may feel stagnant and dissatisfied in their roles. Allow employees to move around within a company, whether to new jobs in different departments or by promotions. Have regular conversations to outline a clear path to advancement.

Training and development: In today’s competitive job market and advancements in technology, investing in employees by keeping their skills sharp is crucial. This can be achieved by having a training plan in place, offering financial support surrounding their education and providing mentorship programmes.  

Fairness and transparency: This includes having respectful treatment from all employees at all levels and ensuring there is trust between employees and senior management. Encourage heart-led management tactics – empower those leaders that show vulnerability, humility and empathy.

Many options can be explored when it comes to retaining employee happiness. All the above incentives are beneficial but ultimately what we want to achieve is one thing – we want our employees to feel valued. Only then can we expect to have a happier and healthier workplace.

Dorianne Campell is head of HR at KSi Malta.

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